Count Alessandro Volta Biography

(Physicist, Chemist)

Birthday: February 18, 1745 (Aquarius)

Born In: Como, Duchy of Milan, Italy

Known for his extraordinary work in the field of electricity, Volta invented the voltaic pile, which became the world’s first electric battery; this invention of his ushered in the age of electricity. He made several discoveries in meteorology, pneumatics and electrostatics that earned him recognition and fame throughout the world. The unit of electromotive force called as a ‘volt’, has been named in his honor. His research in varied fields of science paved the way and inspired numerous future innovators, who based on this principals developed new path breaking technologies. Volta’s career as physicist is studded with several achievements, such as the discovery of methane gas, as a result of his chemistry experiments. He did not stop here but also developed a special glass container, which could contain explosion of several gases. Most scholars believe that after Galileo, who preceded Volta by around century and a half, he brought about the next big scientific revival in Italy. As a society, today we owe a great debt of gratitude towards Volta, as his invention “battery” has and still is playing a significant role in modernizing our world.

Quick Facts

Italian Celebrities Born In February

Also Known As: Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta

Died At Age: 82


Spouse/Ex-: Teresa Peregrini

children: Flaminio, Giovanni, Zanino

Born Country: Italy

Inventors Physicists

Died on: March 5, 1827

place of death: Como, Lombardy-Venetia, Italy

discoveries/inventions: Battery, Methane, Voltaic Pile, Volta's Law Of The Electrochemical Series

Childhood & Early Life
Volta was born in Como; his parents, Filippo Volta and Maria Maddalena Inzaghi, belonged to middleclass background.
As a child, he did not display much intelligence and did not start speaking until he was 4 years old. By the time he turned seven, he not only reached at par with other children but also overtook them in astuteness.
He received his early education at the Royal Seminary in Como. His parents wanted him to take up law or priesthood as a career but he had already made up his mind to pursue chemistry and physics.
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Volta began his career in the field of physics, in 1774 by teaching the subject, at the Royal School of Como. During the year, he studied atmospheric electricity and conducted experiments in fields of electrochemistry, electromagnetism and electrophysiology.
He pioneered the electrophorus in 1775, a device that produced static electric charge. This was a device that could be charged with electricity only by rubbing and this charge could be transferred to other objects.
Between 1776 and 1778, Volta worked in the realm of gases and discovered methane gas in natural environment, which he was able to isolate by the end of this period.
In 1800, he invented voltaic pile—the first electric battery. This battery was actually a pile of alternating discs of copper and zinc, separated by pieces of cardboard soaked in brine that had the ability to maintain steady electric current.
He also developed the ‘Law of Capacitance’ and theorized the ‘law of bimetallic contact’.
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Major Works
One of the major published works of this ingenious scientist was ‘De vi attractiva ignis electrici’ (1769); it was based on his extensive research on attractive force present in the electric fire.
Awards & Achievements
Volta was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1791, for his ground breaking work in physics, especially development of electroscope.
In 1794, he was awarded the Copley Medal, by the Royal Society of London, for development of Volta's Law of the electrochemical series.
In 1801, he was honored with the title of ‘Count’ by Napoleon Bonaparte after he demonstrated the functionality of his battery to him.
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Personal Life & Legacy
He married Teresa Peregrini, the daughter of Count Ludovico Peregrini, in 1794 and the couple had three sons.
He passed away on his estate in Camnago, Italy at the age of 82. His remains were interred there and to honor this genius, the place was renamed as “Camnago Volta”.
As a tribute to Count Alessandro Volta, the Volta Prize is awarded to anyone with scientific achievement in electricity.
He worked with many great personalities during his lifetime, including well-known French physicist, Abbe Antoine Nollet and Italian experimenter, Giovanni Battista.
Based on his life and observations Bern, Dibner wrote ‘Alessandro Volta and the Electric Battery’, which was published in 1964.
Another book called ‘Volta: Science and Culture in the Age of Enlightenment’ was written by Giuliano Pancaldi and published in 2005.
His image was imprinted on the Italian 10,000 lira note, accompanied by a sketch of his famous invention, the voltaic pile.
He is also regarded as the father of the electric automobile.
In order to honor this extraordinary personality, in 2003, Toyota named a hybrid electric engine as Toyota Volta and later in 2011, Chevrolet also honored this prodigious scientist.
His fellow scientists named the unit of electromotive force in his honor.
The bevatron is a particular type of atom-smasher, the “v” in the term stands for this personality’s name.
Photovoltaic system that converts light energy into electricity is named after this Italian scientist.
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