J-L CHARMET / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY J-L CHARMET / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Italian physicist Count Alessandro Volta (1745- 1827) at work in his laboratory. Volta was the first to show that an electrical current flowed when two dissimilar metals were brought into contact. In 1800 he constructed a device which used this effect to produce a large flow of electricity: the first battery. Bowls of salt solution were connected together by metal strips, each composed of copper at one end & tin or zinc at the other, and a current was produced. A compact version of this, using a stack of discs of copper, zinc & cardboard moistened with salt solution, became known as a "Voltaic pile".
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