Volta, Alessandro Guiseppe Antonio Anastasio (1745–1827)
One of the few possible fields of study, and which attracted considerable interest at the time, was "animal electricity," the effects of passing electric current through animal tissue – usually frog's legs. Another Italian scientist, Luigi Galvani, had connected a copper rod to the nerve in a frog's leg, and a rod of a different metal, iron, to the muscle. When the ends of the two pieces of metal were placed in contact, the muscle twitched, as it did when an electric current passed through. Galvani thought that electricity had been produced, in some mysterious way, by the twitching of the muscle.
Credit is given to Volta for the invention of the simple cell, but he never found the right explanation for its working. He wrongly ascribed the current to the actual contact of the two metals, whereas it in fact results from chemical action of the electrolyte on the zinc rod.
The discovery was acclaimed immediately, and in 1801 Volta went to Paris to demonstrate his so-called "contact" electricity to the Emperor Napoleon. Later, the unit of electric potential, the volt, was named after him.
Although Volta himself was interested in developing his batteries than applying them, the voltaic cell rapidly became used by scientists everywhere as a powerful tool for research. The currents produced with the aid of voltaic cells led to the discovery of the heating, chemical, and magnetic effects of electricity.
Related entry• history of electricity
Related category• PHYSICISTS
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