Approx read time – 2.5 mins

Following on in the spirit of our ‘Innovators of the past’ campaign we are going to explore the innovators of the past, not only in the construction industry but in other areas of great significance so that we can liken them to our lives today. Have they improved or have we lost something along the way? By taking a step back in time, we can show how perceptions change and how this needs to happen to create a better world.

This series looks to celebrate the life and work of past pioneers who were brave enough to challenge the status quo, question the norm to build a better tomorrow.

In this feature, we are going to be taking a look at a man who realised electric currents and how they work, making way for the first electric battery, changing the way we live our lives today!

Who was Alessandro Volta?

An Italian scientist, professor of Physics and pioneer of electricity, born in 1745. Known as the inventor of the battery and discoverer of Methane. Volta improved and popularised the Electrophorus which is a device used to create static electricity, and also studied the chemistry of gases.

Volta studied the ratio of charge (Q) and potential (V) in an electrical charge and discovered that for a given object, they are proportional. This is called Volta’s Law of Capacitance. Volta’s name as you will recognise as the unit for electrical potential or electromotive force that drives current was named in his honour in 1881… Volt!

How did the generation of electricity come about?

Another Italian physicist and good friend of Volta’s, Luigi Galvani began to observe and experiment with muscular stimulation by electrical means. By touching a frog’s leg with scissors during an electrical storm he observed the leg move and discovered what they called ‘Animal electricity’.

Following this interpretation of ‘Animal electricity’ in 1791, Volta began his own experiments 1792 and soon came to realise that the frog’s leg was merely a conductor of a current the flowed between two metals which Alessandro called ‘metallic electricity’. By 1800, 8 years’ later, Volta made his announcement following much controversy, of the first electric battery.

What did the first battery look like?

A series of alternating silver and zinc discs, separated by cloth, soaked in a form of saltwater brine. This created the basis of the battery we know and love today. A reliable source of electric current.

Following Volta’s announcement, a wave of new electrical experiments were undertaken by many other scientists which created a field of electrochemistry. Just a year later, in 1801, Alessandro demonstrated his battery to Napoléon Bonaparte in Paris who made him a count and senator of the kingdom of Lombardy.

Today, batteries have advanced so much that we now use them every single day without a second thought. From an early cell which was unsafe to handle and not very portable, to batteries which developed the principle so that we can make them in all shapes and sizes for uses from a simple remote control, to a car that can drive hundreds of miles.

How have we leveraged the battery?

At M-AR we have recently invested a lot of money in providing wireless tools to remove the need for leads, reduce noise and vibration levels and also provide our staff with the best tools to produce the highest quality homes and schools.

The innovation of the battery over 200+ years ago has provided us with freedom and opportunity from not only the portable devices and power packs we use every day, but the ability to move away from fuels that harm our environment so we can further innovate to create a better world.

Without the work of Alessandro Volta all those years ago, where would we be today?


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Attributions and references: Image of the first battery from; reference and