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Who Invented the Battery?

Suketu Mehta Oct 12, 2018
Batteries convert chemical energy to electrical, which in turn is used to provide power to various devices. The benefits of a battery reaped by us, today, would not have been possible without efforts of the person who invented it.

Recharge Your Batteries!

Each year February 18, which happens to be Alessandro Volta's birth date, is observed as the National Battery Day to acknowledge and recognize this great invention that is hard to live without these days.
Everybody knows the varied use of batteries these days as they are found in several devices and machines used on a daily basis like cell phones, cars, vehicles, laptops, etc. This list can go on and on. They come in all shapes, sizes, and power capacities. There are batteries for machines as small as watches and hearing aids to as big as cars.
It was the main source of electricity before electrical generators were developed towards the end of the 19th century. In spite of the great benefits that a battery offers, very few of us know about its inventor. It was a milestone in that particular era and has proved to be highly instrumental in the modern batteries that we encounter these days.

The Battery's Inventor

Alessandro Volta

He invented the first battery in 1800 that came to be known as the Voltaic pile. He has also made important discoveries in pneumatics, meteorology, and electrostatics, but his greatest invention for all humankind was the battery.
29 years after being born in Como, Italy, Alessandro Volta got the opportunity to serve as a physics professor at the Royal School in his hometown. In 1774, it was at this place where he contrived his foremost invention―electrophorus, a device which generated static electricity.
Through the process of igniting static sparks, he studied as well as experimented with atmospheric electricity. After five years at the Royal School, he was called to be a Professor at the University of Pavia, in 1779. It was at this place where he invented the voltaic pile, the first practical method of generating electricity.
He constructed the voltaic pile by placing copper and zinc discs alternately, one above the other, with cardboard pieces soaked in brine placed in between them. This voltaic pile generated electric current.
To carry the electricity over a long distance, a metallic arc was used. This was the first ever battery to produce a consistent and reliable current of electricity. It was the world's first "wet cell battery".

Voltaic Pile Reconstruction

Luigi Galvani, a contemporary of Alessandro Volta, had earlier come up with the theory of galvanic responses, which stated that animal tissues had some form of electricity present in them. This happened when he was dissecting a frog that was affixed to hook made of brass.
When he touched the frog's leg with the iron scalpel, the leg started twitching. He believed that the energy that caused this contraction had come from the frog's leg itself. Thus, he called it "animal electricity".
As a protest against this theory, Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile to establish the fact that electricity is produced when different metals like brass and iron come in contact with each other in a moist atmosphere, and not through animal tissues.
To commensurate the work of this genius in the minds of people forever, the unit of electromotive force or difference of potential that causes current to flow through resistance, Volt, was named after Alessandro Volta.

Timeline of the Battery

  • 1748 ― The term 'battery' came into existence after Benjamin Franklin defined it as an arrangement of charged glass plates.
  • 1780―1786 ― The theory of electricity present in animal cells was brought out by Luigi Galvani, which provided the foundation for other scientists for further research.
  • 1800 ― Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile, which was the first ever battery that produced consistent electric current.
  • 1836 ― The Daniel cell was invented by John Daniel, which consisted of a zinc and copper electrolyte. It lasted longer and was considered much safer than the battery invented by Volta.
  • 1839 ― The first fuel cell was invented by William Robert Grove, which generated electric current by uniting oxygen and hydrogen.
  • 1839―1842 ― Numerous scientists and inventors improvised batteries by using liquid electrodes to generate electricity.
  • 1859 ― The rechargeable lead-acid battery, used these days in cars, was invented by a French inventor, Gaston Planté.
  • 1866 ― The carbon-zinc wet cell bettery called the Leclanche cell was patented by another Frenchman named Georges Leclanché.
  • 1881 ― The first battery which had a negative electrode and porous pot kept on a zinc cup was discovered and patented by J.A. Thiebaut.
  • 1881 ― The first ever dry cell battery, which was also a commercial success, was invented by Carl Gassner.
  • 1899 ― The nickel-cadmium battery, which could also be recharged, was invented by Waldemar Jungner.
  • 1901 ― The alkaline storage battery was invented by Thomas Alva Edison.
  • 1949 ― The small alkaline battery was invented by Lewis Urry.
  • 1954 ― The first ever solar battery was invented by Calvin Fuller, Daryl Chapin, and Gerald Pearson.

Alessandro Volta - The True Inventor of Batteries?

On basis of certain archaeological excavations carried out in 1936, few scientists as well as historians believe that the battery was invented about 2,000 years ago in Baghdad. During their excavations, archaeologists found pots made of terracotta filled with copper rods and iron sheets.
Electricity can be produced by adding lime juice and vinegar to this pot. But as there was no strong and confirmed evidence of these pots being used for electricity, this theory was considered unworthy. Thus, as per historical evidences, Alessandro Volta still remains the person who invented the ever-important battery in 1800.