Born in Como, Italy, into a noble family, Count Volta was a physicist and pioneer in the study of electricity. “Volt,” named after Count Volta, is a measurement of electricity. Count Volta also made discoveries in electrostatics, meteorology and pneumatics. His most famous invention, however, is the first battery.
The idea came from Luigi Galvani, an anatomist. Galvani was dissecting a frog when the frog’s leg began to twitch. Galvani thought was because of some type of electrical action in the vicinity, such as lightening. Volta tried to duplicate the experiment, and he did on a clear day when there was no lightening.
Through experimentation, Volta realized that the two different metal objects holding the frog leg might be the source of the action. Over a period of several years he worked out that the wet muscle tissue conducted a current between the two different type of metals. Volta modified this effect to produce the first continuous flow of electric current. Around 1800, he invented a wet battery called a Voltaic Pile.
The Voltaic Pile consisted of discs of copper and zinc separated by discs of paper or cardboard (soaked in salt water). Attached to the top and bottom of this “Pile” was a copper wire. When Volta closed the circuit, electricity flowed through the pile.
Volta’s battery was later refined by other scientists, and the French emperor, Napoleon, made Volta a “Count” for his discovery.