Volta’s Inventions and Achievements
All of us know how important the small thing called ‘battery’ is. Be it our cellphone,
remote control of TV, digital camera, laptop – everything needs to be have the ‘charged
It is interesting to note that the earliest battery came into existence long back
in the mid-18th century. However, it was only in the later years that it evolved
for practical use. In 1800, Alessandro Volta of Italy built the voltaic pile and
discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. He also made discoveries
in electrostatics, meteorology and pneumatics. His most famous invention, however,
is the battery. You can get more about his invention and
achievements in Biography of Alessandro Volta.
Alessandro Volta was born in Como, Italy in 1745 and taught in the public schools
there. His parents sent him to a Jesuit school with the intention that he would
become a jurist but he chose the sciences instead. In 1774, he became a professor
of physics at the Royal School in Como. In 1775, Volta’s invention of electrophorus
– a device that once electrically charged by having been rubbed, could transfer
charge to other objects. Between 1776 and 1778, Volta discovered and isolated methane
In 1779, he accepted the chair of physics at the University of Pavia, where he conducted
his breakthrough research on electricity. In 1780, Volta’s friend Luigi Galvani
found that contact of two different metals, copper and iron, with the muscle of
a frog resulted in the generation of an electric current. Volta was interested in
discovering the source of the electricity and began experimenting with metals alone
and found that animal tissue was not needed to produce a current.
He discovered that he could produce electric current by placing different metals
in contact with one another and this arrangement generated electricity. This finding
provoked much controversy among the animal-electricity adherents and the metallic-electricity
advocates. But with his demonstration of the first electric battery, the voltaic
pile, in 1800, victory was assured for Volta.
Voltaic pile was made up of alternating disks of silver and zinc separated by brine-soaked
cardboard. The voltaic pile successfully generated electric current.
In 1801, he gave a demonstration of his battery generating electric current before
Napoleon in Paris, who made Volta a count and senator of the kingdom of Lombardy.
Napoleon also awarded Volta the medal of the Legion of Honour.
The emperor of Austria made him director of the philosophical faculty at the University
of Padua in 1815. Volta received many honors for his work, including the Royal Society
of London’s Copley Medal. He died in Como, Italy, on March 5, 1827. The volt, a
unit of the electromotive force that drives current, was named in his honour in
Volta retired in 1819 in his estate in Camnago, now called Camnago Volta after him,
where he died on March 5, 1827.
Volta's legacy is celebrated by a temple located in the public gardens by the lake.
It is also a museum which has been built in his honor and exhibits some of the original
equipment he used to conduct experiments; not far away stands the Villa Olmo, which
houses the Voltian Foundation, an organization promoting scientific activities.