You are here: Technology > Famous inventors > Alessandro Volta

Alessandro Volta

Alessandro Volta Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) was an Italian scientist, best known for inventing the battery, the first practical method of creating electricity. As a pioneer of electrical science, he also made a number of important advances in the field, including, in 1775, the construction of a device called an "electrophorus", which generated static electricity. But, unbeknown to Volta, it had already been invented in 1762 by the Swedish physicist Johann Wilcke (1732–96). In the following year, 1776, Volta discovered the gas methane, and worked out a way to isolate it from other substances. He devised experiments on the gas, such as the ignition of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel.



Galvani's experiment with frog's legs

Galvani's experiments

In 1771 another Italian scientist Luigi Galvani (1737–98) began a series of experiments in which he caused muscular contractions in the legs of a dead frog by touching its nerves with a metal scalpel charged with static electricity. Galvani concluded that animal tissue itself must contain a vital force which he termed "animal electricity". He believed it to be a new form of electricity, one that flowed through the body's nerves as an "electrical fluid" to the muscles, causing movement in them.

Galvani was incorrect to claim he had discovered a "new form" of electricity, but his experiments were valid. Volta showed that electricity flows between two metals connected by something moist. The moist connection, known as an electrolyte, can be an animal, but it does not have to be—a cup of dilute acid works just as well.

Q-files now has new sections specially written for younger readers. They are: Living world, Earth, Science, Human body, Prehistoric life, Space, History, Geography and Technology.


Find the answer