Alessandro Volta (1745-1827)

Alessandro Volta

1745 He was born on the 18th of February in Como, Italy. He was an Italian physicist known for the invention of the voltaic pile and discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. Count Volta also made discoveries in electrostatics, meteorology and pneumatics.[2]

1763 Being 18 years old, he had correspondence with great scientists in Physics and Chemistry, like: Laplace, Nollet and Lavoisier.

1769 A first attempt regarding theorization of phenomena that take place into Leyden jar failed.

1771 But two years later he published a memoir related to electrical phenomena production by rubbing, compression, tapping, trying in the same time to explain the electricity nature for each case. This work was appreciated by officials, fact that resulted in providing the junior professorships for Royal School in Como. Here he intensified his researches, making a lot o devices and discoveries. So, it can be remarked: electrophoresis invention, the use of which is so convenient for all electrostatic phenomena researches; plan capacitor, through which imperceptible amounts of electricity can be accumulated and so easily identified; eudiometer that served so much to chemists.

1779 For his scientific merit, his discoveries and invention, he was given, when he was 34 years old, the Department of Physics created especially for him at University in Padua, where he worked until 1819.

Voltaic battery’s invention has roots in the resumption and deepening of Galvani’s researches which led to the discovery of a new electrical phenomenon – electricity.

It is reported that this discovery was incidentally done by Galvani: the legs of a skinned frog, hung from a brass nail, were contacted when, because of wind, they touched the iron grille of a balcony. He also noticed that the contraction was more violent when a muscle touched a nerve.

Galvani’s explanation was that cold-blooded animals’ (frogs) muscles and nerves are electrically charged with opposite signs and react like two plates of Leiden cylinder, the metal being only excitatory.

After many and varied researches Volta concluded that the action of different nature metals is decisive for electricity production and it is called since that moment “galvanic”. For him, the frog had only the role of a detector as, for example, the electroscope for static electricity.

Volta rightly considered that galvanic electricity was produced because of intimate contact between two metals of different nature.

By the following researches Volta was closer and closer to his pile discovery. He established that between dissimilar contacts in contact there are contact potentials, fact that was congruent with the statements made during Galvani’s researches deepening.

Making two discs, of copper and zinc, provided with insulated handles, he put them in contact and after he separated them he noticed helped by electroscope with capacitors invented by him that the two discs were electrically charged with opposite signs. After a long series of attempts and probably by analogy with the frog’s organs which were wet, Volta got the idea to put between the discs a fizzy water soaked fabric, so obtaining a much higher potential difference.

1800 He had the idea to make cells in “column” of an alternative sequence of copper and zinc discs, then of copper and silver.

Because of his invention – voltaic battery – science progressed more than somebody could have imagined at that time.

1801 Napoleon invited him to Paris and gave him the membership of “Institut de France” and appointed him an Earl.

1810 He was appointed Senator of Lombardy. The highest honour he received was from scientists community that, in his honour, called the measurement unit for electromotive force and electrical potential – “volt”.

1827 On the 5th of March he died at Camnago, near Como, Italy.[1]




    1. Alessandro Volta (1745-1827),
    2. Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), - accessed on 09.21.2013

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