This morning I have been wondering what people attributed static electricity shocks to, before electricity was formally discovered. What would our early ancestors (the Egyptians, the Romans, the Neanderthals etc.) have made of the spark, crack and pain of a static discharge to a fingertip? Dark magic? Some kind of evil power?
But when I thought about it some more I realised that maybe static electricity didn't even exist in those days. The static shocks I get are usually something to do with man-made materials like plastics and artificial fibres; scuffing my shoes along a carpet, taking off my polyester thermal top, rubbing a plastic comb in my hair etc. So has everyday static electricity always existed? Or is it something that suddenly popped into existence with the advent of polymers? If so, it must have been a fair blow to the marketing campaign for nylon.