Biography of Alessandro Volta, Inventor of the Battery

Volta performing a demonstration, promotional flyer.

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Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) invented the first battery. In 1800, he built the voltaic pile and discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. Count Volta also made discoveries in electrostatics, meteorology, and pneumatics. His most famous invention, however, is the first battery.

Fast Facts

Known For: Inventing the first battery

Born: February 18, 1745, Como, Italy

Died: March 5, 1827, Camnago Volta, Italy

Education: Royal School

Background

Alessandro Volta was born in Como, Italy in 1745. In 1774, he was appointed as professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. While at the Royal School, Alessandro Volta designed his first invention, the electrophorus, in 1774. It was a device that produced static electricity. For years at Como, he studied and experimented with atmospheric electricity by igniting static sparks. In 1779, Alessandro Volta was appointed a professor of physics at the University of Pavia. It was here that he invented his most famous invention, the voltaic pile.

Voltaic Pile

Constructed of alternating discs of zinc and copper with pieces of cardboard soaked in brine between the metals, the voltaic pile produced an electrical current. The metallic conducting arc was used to carry the electricity over a greater distance. Alessandro Volta's voltaic pile was the first battery that produced a reliable, steady current of electricity.

Luigi Galvani

One contemporary of Alessandro Volta was Luigi Galvani. In fact, it was Volta's disagreement with Galvani's theory of galvanic responses (animal tissue contained a form of electricity) that led Volta to build the voltaic pile. He set out to prove that electricity did not come from the animal tissue but was generated by the contact of different metals, brass and iron, in a moist environment. Ironically, both scientists were right.

Named In Honor of Alessandro Volta

  1. Volt: The unit of electromotive force, or difference of potential, which will cause a current of one ampere to flow through a resistance of one ohm. Named for Italian physicist Alessandro Volta.
  2. Photovoltaic: Photovoltaic are systems that convert light energy into electricity. The term "photo" is a stem from the Greek "phos," which means "light." "Volt" is named for Alessandro Volta, a pioneer in the study of electricity.