Invention sparked wave of electrical experiments
|Alessandro Volta as depicted in a painting|
by an unknown artist
His electric battery had provided the first source of continuous current and the volt, a unit of the electromotive force that drives current, was named in his honour in 1881.
Volta was born Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta in 1745 in Como.
He became professor of physics at the Royal School of Como in 1774. His interest in electricity led him to improve the electrophorus, a device that had been created to generate static electricity. He discovered and isolated methane gas in 1776, after finding it at Lake Maggiore and was then appointed to the chair of physics at the University of Pavia.
Volta was a friend of the scientist Luigi Galvani, a professor at Bologna University, whose experiments led him to announce in 1791 that the contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog resulted in the generation of an electric current.
|Italy's 10,000 lire note used to have an image of Volta|
on the front and the Tempio Voltiano on the reverse
Volta felt that the frog merely conducted a current that flowed between the two metals, which he called metallic electricity. He began experimenting in 1792 with metals alone and found that animal tissue was not needed to produce a current.
This provoked much controversy between the animal-electricity adherents and the metallic-electricity advocates, but Volta won the argument when he unveiled the first electric battery in 1800.
Known as the voltaic pile, or the voltaic column, Volta’s invention led to further electrical experiments.
Within six weeks, English scientists William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle used a voltaic pile to decompose water into hydrogen and oxygen, thus discovering electrolysis and creating the field of electrochemistry.
In 1801 in Paris, Volta demonstrated the way his battery generated an electronic current in front of Napoleon, who made Volta a count and a senator of the Kingdom of Lombardy.
|A statue at the University of Pavia|
commemorates Volta's work
Volta retired in 1819 to his estate in Camnago, a frazione of Como, which is now named Camnago Volta in his honour. He died there on 5 March 1827, just after his 82nd birthday, and he was buried in Camnago Volta.
He is commemorated with a statue at the University of Pavia and another in Piazza Volta in Como. A house in the Via Brera in Milan in which he lived in the early part of the 19th century is marked with a plaque.
Como, where Volta was born and died, is a city at the foot of Lake Como. It has become a popular tourist destination because it is close to the lake and has many attractive churches, gardens, museums, theatres, parks and palaces to visit. The Villa Olmo, built in neoclassical style there in 1797 by an aristocratic family, has hosted Napoleon, Ugo Foscolo, Prince Metternich, Archduke Franz Ferdinand I and Giuseppe Garibaldi, to name but a few of the eminent people who have stayed there.
Hotels in Como from Hotels.com
|The Tempio Voltiano by Lake Como houses a museum|
dedicated to the life of Alessandro Volta
The Tempio Voltiano is in a public garden near the side of the lake in Como and houses a museum dedicated to the life and work of Alessandro Volta. The museum has a collection of scientific instruments used by the inventor, including his early voltaic piles, and some of his personal belongings and awards he received. A picture of the temple used to be featured on the back of a 10,000 lire banknote, with Volta’s portrait on the front.
Hotels in Como from Expedia
How Luigi Galvani appeared to give new life to a dead frog
The transatlantic message that marked a breakthrough for Marconi
Paolo Gorini's technique pioneered preservation of corpses
Also on this day:
1696: The birth of Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
(Picture credits: Volta statue by Nemo_bis; Tempio Voltiano by Christophe.Finot; via Wikimedia Commons)