Alessandro Volta was an Italian physicist and chemist who is best known for his invention of the electric battery. He was a pioneer in the field of electricity and made significant contributions to the development of electrical theory. In this blog post, we have compiled 21 funny and interesting facts about Alessandro Volta that you may not have known before. Whether you’re a history buff, a science enthusiast or just looking for some fascinating trivia, these facts are sure to entertain and educate you. So sit back, relax and enjoy learning about one of the most influential scientists of all time!
Alessandro Volta Facts
Here are some interesting facts from the life of Alessandro Volta:
- Alessandro Volta (1745–1827) was born in the Duchy of Milan in a town called Como.
- His full name was Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta.
- Although Volta has a noble family, his father was more accomplished in spending the family’s fortune than in making it grow. The result was that when Alessandro was born the family was so poor that Volta, when he later became established and famous, wrote, “My father owned nothing except a small dwelling worth about fourteen thousand lire, and he left behind him seventeen thousand lire of debt; I was actually poorer and poorer.”
- Young Volta showed little promise for the family, for at first, he appeared quite dull and slow-witted. Even at the age of four, he had still not learned to talk. After his fourth year, however, the glimmering of light in his mind seems to have finally caught up with itself in a quick glow of intelligence because, by age seven, he was classed among the brighter pupils of his school.
- With continued assistance from two uncles and other relatives Volta, following the usual courses in classical education, completed his studies at age 16.
- During these years, some members of his family tried to steer young Alessandro into a career of law or the priesthood, but so strong was his attraction to the natural sciences that, having briefly tried the other two callings, he gave them up for a career in physics and chemistry.
- First, he began to work with the chemistry of gases, during which he discovered methane gas. He then studied electrical capacitance, as well as derived new ways of studying both electrical potential and charge.
- Most famously, Volta discovered what he termed a Voltaic pile, which was the first electrical battery that could continuously provide electrical current to a circuit. This invention, announced in 1800, garnered world acclaim. His battery consisted of a pile of copper and zinc disks separated by cardboard disks moistened in the salt solution. Electricity flowed through a wire connecting the top and bottom disks. This battery was the first portable energy source in the story of mankind and without it, many other inventions requiring electricity would not have been possible.
- The French Academy of Sciences invited him to Paris to demonstrate his findings. Napoleon was a patron of the sciences and, in astute recognition of the practical aspects of Volta’s work, awarded him 6,000 lire and an annual stipend of 3,000 lire. Volta enjoyed a certain amount of closeness with the emperor throughout his life and he was conferred numerous honors by him.
- At the International Electrical Congress in Paris in 1881, the term “volt” was advanced as a measure of electrical force, thus formally and eponymically enshrining Volta into perpetuity.
- Apart from occasional travels abroad, Volta lived and works for the remainder of his life in Como and Pavia. He died in his native Como in 1827, where today a museum stands as a monument to him and his life’s work.
- He was raised as a Catholic and remained so throughout his life. In the sixth decade of his life, Volta felt moved to pen an eloquent confession of faith that provided an imposing rebuttal to the notion that one “cannot be a great scientist and firm believer in religion.”
- He was fluent in six languages (Italian, German, Latin, French, Dutch, and English), was a seeker of knowledge, and developed a love of the classics with a particular fondness for poetry. His language talents helped him when he traveled and discussed science with others around the world.
- Like so many other great men of science, he was known to miss meals and even his bedtime when he became engrossed in some absorbing experiment. He was often unaware of the condition of his garments, thinking of them merely as things to be worn rather than as matters of fashion.
- Alessandro Volta has been described as tall and handsome with strong features, a full nose, and the bearing of a noble gentleman. His approach was simple, his general regard for other people was affectionate and he was entirely free of ambition.
- When he was approaching age 50, Volta married the youngest of six daughters of Count Ludovico Peregrini. It was a marriage of great intimacy and charm. Sadly, one of Volta’s sons died at a very young age. In a letter to one of his nephews shortly after, Volta wrote, “This loss strikes me so much to heart that I do not think I shall ever have another happy day.”
- Volta lived a simple and unpretentious life, dedicated to the church and revered by loyal servants and his neighbors for his humanitarian and endearing demeanor. He became known in the community as “Ilmago benefico” (the beneficent magician), a reflection of the love and respect the townspeople had for him.
- Honors awarded to him: Copley Medal (1794), Legion of Honor, Order of the Iron Crown
- He didn’t intend to invent the battery, but to instead perform science experiments to prove another Italian scientist, Luigi Galvani, was incorrect in his scientific ideas. Alessandro set out to prove Galvani’s idea that animal electricity was the same as static electricity was an incorrect theory.
- While Volta hailed from Lake Como and was a trained physicist, many consider him to be the first great electrochemist. As a result of his vast scientific influence, the ECS Europe Section named an award after him and every two years they recognize a scientist with the prestigious Volta Medal. The medal depicts his electric pile, the first notable electrochemical storage device.
- We would do well to remember the words of François Arago, who in his eulogy of Volta, who died at the age of 82, proclaimed the electric battery as “the most marvelous instrument created by the mind of man, not excluding even the telescope or steam engine.”