Alessandro Volta

The Italian physicist Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta, b. Feb. 18, 1745, d. Mar. 5, 1827, was the inventor of the voltaic pile, the first electric battery. In 1775 he invented the 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 gas. When Luigi Galvani's experiments with "animal electricity" were published (1791), Volta began experiments that led him to theorize that animal tissue was not necessary for conduction of electricity. Proof of this theory was the battery, which Volta invented in 1800. Volta taught at Como Gymnasium (1775-78) and at Pavia University (1778-1815). Napoleon made him a count in 1801. The unit of electric potential, the volt, is named in his honor.


Bibliography: Dibner, Bern, Alessandro Volta and the Electric Battery (1964); Pera, M., The Ambiguous Prog, trans. by J. Mandelbaum (1992).

Last modified on: Monday, October 20, 1997.