Traveling with the Atom

Allegheny College

Compiled by Glen E. Rodgers
Andrea Price




"Battery of Volta", the First  Non-Electrostatic Electric Generator (Photo source:
Alessandro Volta
Italian Physicist and Inventor
Volta is honored by Italy with his portrait appearing on the 10,000 lire note shown in the upper right portion of the photo (Photo source: Volta Gallery)

Contribution to the Development of the Atomic Concept
Count Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta was born in Como Italy where he attended a public grammar school.  After grammar school, he quit formal studies.  At age 14, he independently became interested in electricity, and at that time, he decided that he wanted to become a physicist.  He began to teach physics at the Royal School in Como in 1774.  His greatest contributions to the chemical and physical world were instruments that he invented while studying electricity.  In 1775, Volta developed an instrument called the "perpetual electrophorus" that could produce and store an electrostatic charge without a constant source of electrostatic energy, as other apparatuses needed at that time.  In 1778, Volta was appointed chair of the experimental physics department of th University of Pavia, a position for approximately 40 years.  In 1800, Volta developed his most momentous invention, what is now known as the voltaic cell, the first source of continous current and the forerunner of the common battery.   He found that a current was conducted when a wire connected the two ends of a series of alternating copper and zinc disks separated with a cloth soaked in an electrolyte such as brine. This ingenuity led to the development of the an entirely new field of study, now called electrochemistry. 

Web Sources of Biographical Information
Biography of Alessandro Volta from the following site:  "Biographies of Famous Electrochemists and Physicists Contributed to Understanding of Electricity" compiled by Dr. Eugenii Katz
Bicentennial of the Invention of the Pile website: English Version 
Volta Photo Gallery

Some Web Sources on the History of Atomic Scientists:
The History of Chemistry 1992 Woodrow Wilson Summer Institute
Selected Classic Papers from the History of Chemistry
Classic Papers from the History of Chemistry (and Some Physics too)
Classic Chemistry compiled by Carmen Giunta
History of Science website by Charlesworth
Center for the History of Physics
Echo Exploring & Collecting History Online
Atom: The Incredible World: The History of Atomistics
Nobel Prize WebPage
Biographies of Famous Chemists, University of Liverpool
University of Pennsylvania Biographies
Chemistry: A History
Famous Scientists greatly who contributed to "electro" science: electricity, electromagnetism,
electrical technology, electronics, electrical telegraphy, radio, electrochemistry, electromedicine, etc.
Elements and Atoms: Case Studies in the Development of Chemistry

Selected Biographical Books, Sections of Books, and Articles
Sacks, Oliver.  Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. Knopf, New York: 2001. pp. 119, 160,163,194
Asimov, Isaac.   Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology.  Doubleday, Garden City: 1982 pp. 228-229
Dibner, Bern.  Alessandro Volta and the Electric Battery.  Franklin Watts, New York: 1964.  Pera, Marcello.  The Ambiguous Frog: The Galvani-Volta Controversy on Animal Electricity.  Princeton, 1992. (Out of print) home page
Barnes and Noble home page

Some Scientific/Historical Traveling Sites
Birthplace of Volta Website about Como, Italy, the birthplace of Volta:
Inside View of the Voltian Temple Use arrow keys or mouse to view the temple from different perspectives: Tempio Voltiano
Physics Department of the University of Pavia, where Volta was chair for 40 years  Alessandro Volta Department of Physics hompage:

Map of Pavia

* see following Rodgers link to scientific/historical sites for further information.
(1) Taken from The Scientific Traveler, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1992).
(2) Taken from A Travel Guide to Scientific Sites of the British Isles, Charles Tanford and Jacqueline Reynolds, John Wiley & Sons, NY (1995).
(3) Taken from Guide of Eurpoean Museums with collections on History of Chemistry, compiled by Jan W. van Spronsen, Federation of European Societies, Antwerp (1996)

Links to Dr. Rodgers' Scientific/Historical Sites will be available here.

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