Count Alessandro Volta (1742-1827)
Count Alessandro Volta was born in 1745 at Como, Italy. He was educated in public schools and in 1774, he became professor of Physics at the Royal School in Como. The following year he devised the electrophorus, an instrument that produced charges of static electricity. In 1776-1777 he applied himself to chemistry, studying atmospheric electricity and devising experiments such as the ignition of gases by an electric spark in a closed vessel. In 1779 he became professor of physics at the University of Pavia, a chair he occupied for 25 years.
In 1800, Volta discovered the battery by studying earlier experiments. He believed that metals that are different could create electricity when in contact with each other. In his experiment, he stacked copper, zinc and cardboard, which was soaked in salt water. When both ends of the stack were touched, electricity flowed. This was the first battery.
There is not a lot of information on Count Alessandro Volta’s life, but there are records of Napoleon giving him the title of Count in 1801 in gratitude for his inventions that have revolutionized the world of today.
The Electric Battery
Electricity has fascinated human kind since our ancestors first witnessed lightning. In ancient Greece, Thales observed that an electric charge could be generated by rubbing amber, for which the Greek word is electron. The German physicist Otto von Guericke experimented with generating electricity in 1650, the English physicist Stephen Gray discovered electrical conductivity in 1729, and the American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin studied the properties of electricity by conducting his famous experiment of flying a kite with a key attached during electrical storms.
However, the first workable device for generating a consistent flow of electricity was invented around 1799 by the Italian inventor Alessandro Volta. Volta’s discovery of a means of converting chemical energy into electrical energy formed the basis for nearly all modern batteries.
Beginning his work in 1793, Volta observed the electrical interaction between two different metals submerged near each other in an acidic solution. Based on this principle, his first battery consisted of a series of alternating copper and zinc rings in an acid solution known as an electrolyte. He called his invention a column battery, although it came to be commonly known as the Volta battery or Voltaic cell. The term volt, a unit for measuring electrical potential difference and electromotive force, is also derived from his name.