Alessandro Volta: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Google Doodle Alessandro Volta

The Google Doodle for February 18 celebrates the life of the Italian inventor of the battery Alessandro Volta. The doodle comes on what would have been his 270th birthday. The doodle appears on the homepage of Google. When the user swipe across the doodle the battery in the picture lights up as if it were charging.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. Volta Got His Idea for the Battery While He Was Dissecting a Frog

Alessandro Volta Google Doodle

Alessandro Volta meeting Napoleon in 1801. (Wikipedia)

His full name was Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta. He was born in the Italian town of Como, by the famous lake, located north of Milan. During his early life, he rose to become the professor of physics at the Roaly School in his hometown. During his time at the school, he popularized the use of the electrophorus, a machine used to generate static electricity. His use of the device was so famous, Volta was often incorrectly named as the inventor of it. His idea for the battery began by accident when he was dissecting a frog with a friend and the frog’s leg twitched following an electrical discharge. This led Volta to conclude that two different metals touching together had created the current. His friend, Luigi Galvani, though, though that there was something more sinister at work, and his theory became the basis for Frankenstein.


2. He Was Greatly Influenced by Benjamin Franklin

Following on from a paper written by American founding father Benjamin Franklin. After reading the paper, sometime between 1776 and 1778, Volta became the first person to isolate methane gas. In doing so, Volta was able to discover that methane mixed with air could explode.


3. The ‘Volt’ Is of Course Named After Volta

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There is no greater tribute to Volta than the unit of electrical potential, which of course is referred to as a “volt.” In addition to this, prior to the Euro coming into circulation in 2002, Volta was featured on the Italian 10,000 Lire note. Following his death in March 1827, a museum was erected in Como to celebrate his life’s works. Also standing on Volta’s shoulders were Danish scholar Hans Christian Oersted who used the Italian’s work to discover a link between electricity and magnetism. English physicists William Nicholson and Anthony Carlisle used Volta’s research to turn water into oxygen and hydrogen. His birthday is also celebrated via National Battery Day.


4. He Spoke 5 Languages Fluently

(Getty)

(Getty)

Aside from his outstanding work in the electrical field, Volta known as a student of languages, he spoke English, German, Latin and French fluently. During 1777, he taught in Switzerland. Then, in 1779, he moved back to Italy to become a professor of experimental physics at the University of Pavia. In his personal life, Volta was married in 1794 to an aristocrat named Teresa Peregrini. The couple had three sons together, Giovanni, Flaminio and Zanino.


5. The Doodle’s Arist’s Original Plan Was to Show All of the Devices That Are Powered by Batteries

(Getty)

(Getty)

Mark Holmes, the artist behind the doodle, said Volta was his second doodle. He described Volta as an “electrical pioneer.” He adds that “didn’t want to just settle on using Volta’s portrait for the doodle.” Holmes’ early idea had been to show a number of devices that a powered by batteries in the doodle but the artist felt that was “too busy.” Holmes, in his on words, concluded:

I settled on a simpler layout featuring the battery dead center where it would simply light up the letters in Google. One key idea I wanted to communicate was how the voltage of the battery increased as the stack grew. I added electrical gauges, or voltmeters, which would animate with the stack. In keeping with the spirit of my reference, I added Volta’s name and the year he invented the battery as typographic elements.