Alessandro Volta

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Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (Como 18 February 1745 – Como 5 March 1827) was an Italian[1][2] physicist known especially for the development of the first electric cell in 1800.


Early life and works

Volta was born in Como, Italy, and taught in the public schools there. In 1774 he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. A year later, he improved and popularized the electrophorus, a device that produces a static electric charge. His promotion of it was so extensive that he is often credited with its invention, even though a machine operating in the same principle was described in 1762 by Swedish professor Johan Wilcke.[3]

In 1776-77 Volta studied the chemistry of gases. And followed by failing the class the same year. He discovered methane by collecting the gas from marshes. He devised experiments such as the ignition of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel. Volta also studied what we now call electrical capacitance, developing separate means to study both electrical potential (V) and charge (Q), and discovering that for a given object they are proportional. This may be called Volta's Law of capacitance, and likely for this work the unit of electrical potential has been named the Volt.

In 1779 he became professor of experimental physics at the University of Pavia, a chair he occupied for almost 25 years. In 1794, Volta married Teresa Peregrini, with whom he raised three sons, Giovanni, Flaminio and Zanino.[4]

Volta and Galvani

The "animal electricity" noted by Luigi Galvani when two different metals were connected in series with the frog's leg and to one another. Volta realized that the frog's leg served as both a conductor of electricity (we would now call it an electrolyte) and as a detector of electricity. He replaced the frog's leg by brine-soaked paper, and detected the flow of electricity by other means familiar to him from his previous studies. In this way he discovered the electrochemical series, and the law that the electromotive force (emf) of a galvanic cell, consisting of a pair of metal electrodes separated by electrolyte, is the difference between their two electrode potentials (thus, two identical electrodes and a common electrolyte give zero net emf). This may be called Volta's Law of the electrochemical series.

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