Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (2023)

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (1)

He lived from 1745 to 1827.

Alessandro Volta was a physicist, chemist and pioneer of electrical science. He is best known for his invention of the electric battery. In short:

• Invented the first electric battery, then called the 'voltaic battery', in the 1800s. His invention gave scientists the ability to generate a constant flow of electrical current for the first time, sparking a wave of new discoveries and technologies.

• He was the first to isolate methane.

• Naked methane mixed with air can explode with an electrical spark - this is the basis of the internal combustion engine.

• Discovery of “contact electricity” resulting from contact between dissimilar metals.

• He recognized two types of electrical conduction.

• Wrote the first electromotive series. This showed, from highest to lowest, the voltages that different metals can generate in a battery. (Now we're talking about standard electrode potentials, which means roughly the same thing.)

• discovered that the electric potential in a capacitor is directly proportional to the electric charge.

In recognition of Alessandro Volta's contributions to science, the unit of electric potential is namedVolt.

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childhood and upbringing

Alessandro Volta was born on February 18, 1745 in Como, Lombardy, Italy. His family belonged to the nobility, but was not wealthy. He showed no signs of speaking until he was four years old, and his family feared he was not very bright or possibly stupid. Fortunately, her fears were misplaced.

His father died leaving unpaid debts when Alessandro was seven years old. Young Alessandro was raised at home by his uncle until he was twelve years old. He then began his studies in a Jesuit boarding school. The Jesuit College did not charge him for tuition, but instead urged him to become a priest. His family didn't want that and after four years he pulled him out of school. Volta then studied at the Benzi Seminar until he was 18 years old.

Volta's family wanted him to become a lawyer. Volta had his own ideas! He was interested in the world around him; wanted to be a scientist.

Although Volta spoke Italian slowly as a child, he now seems to have a talent for languages. Before leaving school he studied Latin, French, English and German. His linguistic talent helped him later in life when he traveled to discuss his work with scientists at scientific centers in Europe.

At the age of 18, Volta had the audacity to initiate an exchange of letters on electricity with two important physicists: Jean-Antoine Nollet in Paris and Giambatista Beccaria in Turin. Beccaria disliked some of Volta's ideas and encouraged him to learn more through experimentation.

When he wrote his first dissertation, Volta edited it and dedicated it to Beccaria.

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (2)"One must be willing to give up even the most attractive ideas when experience shows them to be wrong."

(Video) Alessandro Volta Biography in English

Alejandro Volta

Volta's life in context

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (3)

Volta's life and the lives of related scientists and mathematicians.

Volta warm-up race timeline

Hobby scientist, inventor, professor and physics teacher

1765 – Volta turns 20. His wealthy friend Giulio Cesare Gattoni had set up a physics laboratory in his home. He kindly allowed Volta to experiment in this laboratory for several years.

1765 - Volta writes his first scientific article, addressed to Giambatista Beccaria, on static electricity generated by the friction of different substances, i. H. triboelectricity.

1769 - Volta publishes a dissertation entitledOn the attraction of electric fire and the phenomena dependent on it, which he sent to Beccaria. He discussed his ideas about the causes of electrical attraction and repulsion and compared them to gravity. He explained his position that static electricity, like gravity, implied action at a distance. The main scientists who influenced his thinking were Isaac Newton, Roger Boscovich, Benjamin Franklin and Giambatista Beccaria himself.

1771 – Volta read Joseph Priestley's 1767 review of scientific research into electricity. He learned that some discoveries he had recently made had already been made by others.

1774 - Volta began work as headmaster in Como, saying that teaching in Como's classrooms needed to be modernised. He wanted the children to spend more time learning science and modern languages.

1775 - Volta began teaching experimental physics at the public elementary school of Como, where he worked until 1778.

1775 - Volta writes a letter to Joseph Priestley. He explained how he invented a device that generated static electricity: the electricity could be transferred to other objects. We call this deviceElektrophor. Volta wanted to know if the device was a new invention. Priestly told him that Johann Wilcke had invented such a device in 1762, but Volta had invented it independently. Priestley encouraged Volta to continue his interesting research.

1776: At the age of 31, Volta became the first person to isolate methane gas. He discovered that a mixture of methane and air in a closed container can explode with an electrical spark. Such an electrically triggered chemical reaction later forms the basis of the internal combustion engine.

1776 - Volta suggested that the spark apparatus he used to explode methane could also be used to send an electrical signal along a cable from Como to Milan.

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (4)"What can you do well, especially in physics, if you don't reduce things to degrees and measures?"

Alejandro Volta, 1792

1777 - Volta invented a much better eudiometer than all previous ones. A eudiometer tests the amount of oxygen in the air to determine the quality of breathing. Volta's eudiometer was superior to the others because it used hydrogen as the gas that reacted with oxygen and gave a clean and reliable response. The reaction was also started cleanly using an electric spark. The eudiometer worked on the basis that the volume of hydrogen gas decreased after the spark because hydrogen reacted with oxygen gas to produce water. The decrease in volume was proportional to the amount of oxygen present in the air.

1777 - Volta made a scientific trip to Switzerland and France. He met other scientists and showed them his innovations in electrical engineering. He also traveled with the aim of getting his name known outside of Italy.

1778 - Volta was appointed to the Chair of Experimental Physics at the University of Pavia, about 55 miles (85 km) from Como, a position he held for more than 40 years.

1778 - Volta discovers that theelectrical potential(We call that a lot nowvoltage) in a capacitor is directly proportional to the electric charge.

(Video) Alessandro Volta Documentary

1781 to 1782: Volta toured most of the major scientific centers in Europe, including the French Academy in Paris, demonstrating his electrical devices and inventions to eminent figures such as Antoine Lavoisier and Benjamin Franklin. Volta began to make a name for itself outside of Italy.

1782 - Volta wrote about the capacitor he had built (today we would call it a capacitor) to collect and store electrical charge and how he used it to study a variety of electrical phenomena.

In 1788 Volta built increasingly sensitive electroscopes to detect and measure the effects of electrical charges.

1790 - Volta conducted experiments on the behavior of gases. He found an exact value for the increase in air volume with increasing temperature.

1791 - Realizing that he had become one of the leading electrical scientists in Europe, Volta was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London.

1794 – At the age of 50, Volta received the Royal Society's highest award, the Copley Medal, for his contributions to the scientific understanding of electricity.

Invention of the electric battery.

A fight over frog legs led to drums

Volta did not intend to invent the battery. His experiments in this area were actually conducted to prove another scientist's claims wrong. That scientist was another Italian, Luigi Galvani.

jumping frog legs

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (5)

Galvani discovered that contact between the nerves in frogs' legs and various metals caused the legs to move. We now understand that he created an electric cell. The frog legs acted as the electrolyte.

Galvani was a professor of anatomy. In the late 1780s he noticed that a spark of static electricity carried by a metal scalpel touching the nerves of a dead frog while the legs were resting on the metal caused the legs to move.

This was an incredible discovery: the movement of animals was somehow based on electricity.

In 1817 this inspired Mary Shelley to writeFrankenstein. In this novel, Doctor Frankenstein brings to life a creature made from a monstrous conglomeration of dead human body parts by using the electricity of a thunderstorm.

In 1791 Galvani announced his discoveryanimal stream. He believed that animals generated electricity in their bodies and that a fluid in their nerves carried electricity to their muscles, causing movement. He believed that electricity from an external source released a flow of electrical fluid from nerves, causing muscles to jump.

He also believed that animals like electric eels could accumulate extra amounts of this fluid and use it to deliver electric shocks.

Galvani came to the conclusionanimal streamit was similar, but not identical, to static electricity, and was a unique property of living things.

write back

Volta studied the Galvani phenomenon.

In 1792, Volta said that the "animal" part of Galvani's bodyanimal streamIt was not necessary. The animals only responded to normal current. There was no difference betweenanimal streamand electricity

Volta conducted several experiments on frogs' legs. He discovered that the key to setting them in motion was contact with twoandersRails. Contact with pieces of the same metal did nothing.

So, away from frogs' legs, in 1794 Volta conducted experiments to measure the electrical effect when different pairs of metals are brought together. He listed the metals in the order of what he called electromotive force.

(Video) Alessandro Volta - Biography, Facts and Pictures

List of Volta drivers, largest electromotive force first

To lead

This was the first time anyone had listed electrode potentials. It was the first electrochemical series.

In modern usage we would say that the further apart the substances on this list are from each other, the higher the voltage they produce when they come into contact with electrical cells and batteries, or when used as electrodes. For example, a zinc-graphite cell produces a higher voltage than a zinc-lead cell.

In 1797 Volta fully demonstrated his "contact theory" of electricity.

I now knew that the key to creating what we now call voltage was two metals connected by something wet like frogs' legs. The wet bond between the metals did NOT have to be an animal. Joining metals by placing them in a beaker of diluted acid was a highly efficient method of generating electricity.

He formally divided electrical conductors into those offirst type: were metals, graphite and pure carbon; and thesecond type: These were substances that we would call electrolytes today, such as salt water or diluted acids. An electric current would be produced when a circuit is made up of two conductors of the first type combined with one of the second type.

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (6)

An illustration from the article circa 1800. Pieces of silver (A) and zinc (Z) joined by strips of metal and placed in beakers of dilute acid produce electricity. This can be tested by placing a finger on either end. You would get electrocuted. Unlike Galvani's version, no animal has to be harmed in this production, except for the human tester, who is slightly electrocuted.

Alternatively, joining the metals with paper soaked in diluted acid or salt water also worked.

Volta said that frog legs had two functions in Galvani's work:

  • They conduct electricitysecond class driver.
  • You acted like a very sensitive person.electroscope. (An electroscope is a device for detecting electricity.)

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (7)

Schematic of the article circa 1800. The writing consists of silver (A) and zinc (Z) discs connected in series with cardboard soaked in salt water. The positive and negative polarities of this battery are as shown. Adding more pairs of discs will increase battery voltage.

Volta discovered that by connecting more and more pairs of connected metals to a wet card, he could generate increasing voltages, resulting in significant electrical currents.

And so the electric battery was born.

Volta used alternating discs of zinc and silver bound with card or cloth soaked in salt water.

In 1800 Volta described his findings in a letter to Joseph Banks of the Royal Society of London.

Banks showed the letter to other scientists and arranged for Volta's description of his discovery to be read at a Society meeting and then published.

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (8)"I keep pairing a silver plate with a zinc plate, always in the same order...and I place a moistened disc between each pair. I continue to form a column. If the pillar contains twenty of these metal pairs, it can emit several small discharges in the fingers.”

Alejandro Volta, 1800

(Video) Alessandro Volta Biography

The Volta battery sparks a wave of new scientific discoveries

The battery invented by Volta gave chemists a very powerful new way of studying substances.

The beauty of his device was that almost anyone could make one: many people had silver and copper coins, as well as other metals like iron, tin and zinc.

A few weeks after Volta's invention of the battery, William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle built and used a battery to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

In just six years, Humphry Davy built a powerful battery. With this he isolated new chemical elements and concluded that chemical bonds are electrical in nature.

Alessandro Volta - Biography, facts and photos (9)

Volta presents his battery to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801. Napoleon was very impressed with Volta's work and gave him the aristocratic title of count.

Davy's discoveries of the new elements barium, calcium, lithium, magnesium, potassium, sodium and strontium were made possible by Volta's invention of the battery.

In 1820, thanks to the Volta batteries, Hans Christian Oersted studied the relationship between electricity and magnetism.

In 1821, Michael Faraday made an electric motor.

Volta's battery produced a constant source of electrical current for the first time. All electrical devices rely on electrical power. Without Volta's invention, there would be no modern technology. The Volta battery was an absolutely crucial invention in the development of our technology-based civilization.

The end

In 1819, at the age of 74, Volta decided it was time to give up his capacitors, voltaic cells, electrophores and university administration. He retired to a country house near his hometown of Como, where he could spend more time with his wife, Maria Teresa. They had three children, Zanino, Faminio and Luigi.

Volta lived in Como until his death at the age of 82 on March 5, 1827.

In 1881 scientists decided that the unit would be called the electric potentialVoltRecognizing Volta's great contributions to electrical science.

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