In honor of Alessandro Volta’s 270th birthday, Google is celebrating the man best known for inventing the first battery with today’s Google Doodle.
While Volta was a trained physicist, many consider him to be the first great electrochemist. By inventing the first battery, which he called the electric “pile”, he established the starting point of electrochemical science and technology with the first notable electrochemical storage device.
The turning point for Volta’s development of the battery came in 1780, when his collaborator Luigi Galvani discovered that the contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog leg resulted in the generation of electric current.
Volta respectfully disagreed with Luigi’s theory that animal tissue was essential in the creation of electricity, arguing that the frog legs served only as an electroscope and further suggested that the true source of stimulation was the contact between dissimilar metals. With this theory, he began experimenting with metals alone in 1794.
This from an article in Interface by ECS Executive Director Roque J. Calvo:
Volta realized that the frog’s leg served as both a conductor of electricity and as a detector of electricity. He replaced the frog’s leg with brine-soaked paper, and detected the flow of electricity by other means familiar to him from his previous studies. He discovered the electrochemical series, and the law that the electromotive force of a galvanic cell is the difference between their two electrode potentials.
If it were not for this intellectual disagreement and multifaceted study of science, Volta may have never invented the battery at all.
Philip N. Bartlett has been awarded this year’s Volta Medal and will present his award address at the ECS 227th Meeting in Chicago, IL this May. Take a look at the abstract entitled, “Electrochemical SERS on Nanostructured Surfaces and its Application to DNA Detection and Discrimination.”
Bartlett is highly recognized among the scientific community for his research in bioelectrochemistry, template electrodeposition of nanomaterials, and chemical sensors. His research has garnered him many awards throughout his career, including ECS’s Electrodeposition Division Research Award and the Carl Wagner Memorial Award.
While Volta gave electrochemistry its starting point, it has flourished into something that he could never have imagined—in large part due to his development of the first electrochemical storage device.