Alessandro Volta

Inventor / Physicist

Born: 18 February 1745
Died: 5 March 1827
Birthplace: Como, Italy (then Lombardy)
Best known as:

The Italian who built the first battery

Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta was the Italian physicist who built the first electrochemical battery. He first gained fame across Europe in 1775 with his electrophorus, a charge-generating machine he built while teaching physics in his hometown of Como. He was appointed to the University of Pavia in 1779, where he continued his work with static electricity and built a number of gadgets. Volta's debate with anatomist Luigi Galvani about the nature of electricity in organic tissue (what Galvani called "animal electricity") caused him to experiment with metal plates, and in 1800 he succeeded in creating a sustained flow of electricity with his "voltaic pile," a stack of metal plates in a salt solution. The invention made Volta even more famous and he was called to France by Napoleon in 1801 to receive the first of many honors and decorations. (Napoleon made him Count Volta in 1810.) The unit of measurement of electromotive force is called the volt in his honor and was adopted internationally in 1881.

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