The origins of cathodic protection date to the days of Sir Humphry Davy with the use of sacrificial anodes on ship hulls. Virtually all of the early efforts in cathodic protection were related to sacrificial anode systems. In one of the first documented attempts to use impressed current, Thomas Edison tried to apply current onto ship hulls in the 1890’s. He had trouble with selection of suitable anode materials and power supplies. It wasn’t until the 1920’s that the commercial use of impressed current systems appears to have begun.
The development and use of impressed anode materials has gone through three general phases. Prior to World War II, the principal anode materials were iron, steel, and carbon. After World War II, graphite and cast iron anodes were developed. The 1960’s brought on the development of dimensionally stable anodes. These anodes include the precious metals and ceramic anode materials. The development of new anode materials continues. Even today however; many of the early anode materials are still in widespread use.