Teylers Museum

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Volta, Alessandro

Italian physicist (1745-1827)

As a professor of physics in Como, Alessandro Volta did experiments with electricity, basing his study on the work done by his friend Luigi Galvani. Galvani had noticed that the muscles in the legs of a dead frog started to vibrate if they came into contact with two different metals. While he thought that this was caused by the presence of ‘animal electricity' in the muscles, Volta believed that the current was generated by the metals, and that this is what caused the vibrations. This is how his discovery of the electrical circuit began.

In 1800, Volta stacked small sheets of silver and zinc on top of each other with intermediate layers of salty water, and showed that electrical current passed through it if the circuit was closed. He hereby created the first battery, which later became known as the Voltaic Pile. His contribution to science is remembered in the name of the unit of electric potential difference, the volt.

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