The first reports on the influence of an electrical charge on a liquid date back to the turn of the 17th century. At the time, scientists followed the Aristotelian approach and musing about phenomena without any real urge to verify. William Gilbert was among a new generation of natural philosophers that rejected this Aristotelian approach and instead performed experiments to test prevailing views.
The concept of a synthetic fiber was first suggested by none other than Robert Hooke, another Englishman of notoriety from the 17th century. Hooke built some of the earliest telescopes to observe the planets, and was among the first to flip the telescopes around and use them as microscopes to study plant and animal cells. In fact, he was the one that coined the term “cell” to describe the basic unit of life. His contribution to the story of electrospinning was in a passing reflection that if “very quick ways of drawing [a synthetic fiber] out into small wires for use could be found,” then artificial silk could be produced.