Count Alessandro Volta, an Italian, was born in Como, Italy, on February 18, 1745. At first, Volta's family believed that he was retarded, as he did not speak until the age of four. No one would ever have guessed how influential Volta would be in the future, especially since Volta's parents could not afford to provide for his education. Fortunately for Volta, his relatives supported him and paid for his education. Even though Volta was born in a noble family, his supposed retardedness along with his initial lack of education and absence in church moved him down the social ladder.
Tragically, Volta's father passed away when Volta was only seven years old. However, by the time his father had died, people had taken note of his surprising intelligence. Their amazement was supplemented by the fact that this extremely intelligent child had originally been thought to be retarded. Volta's uncle took responsibility for his education once Volta's father died. Volta's teacher, Father Gerolamo Bonesi, attempted to persuade Volta to become a priest, while Volta's uncle pressured him to study law.
Soon after he turned 16, Volta dropped out of the formal education system in order to research electrical phenomena, by which he was very intrigued. So fascinated was Volta by electrical phenomena that he wrote a poem regarding electricity in Latin. By the time he was 18, Volta had decided that he wished to become a physicist. He studied piles of books written by leading scientists in the field of electricity. By 1774, Volta had accepted a position as Professor of Physics at Como High School.
In 1775, Volta perfected his electrophorus. An electrophorus allowed a plate to be charged with electricity. The accumulated charge could then be delivered to another object. The invention of the electrophorus was a stepping-stone that allowed Volta to become a prominent, recognized member of the scientific community. Nonetheless, he strayed slightly from the field of electricity when he became the first individual to isolate methane. His recognition gained him an offer to become a professor from the University of Pavia in Italy.
Up until 1800, Volta kept inventing various electrical gadgets. Due to his work, he won the Copley Medal of the Royal Society of London. Little did he know that his greatest invention was yet to come. In 1794, when he was almost 50 years old, Volta married Signorina Teresa Peregrini. Volta had three sons, Giovanni, Flamino, and Luigi. Volta was very close to his sons, and was therefore quite disturbed upon the premature death of Flamino, who died at the age of 18. Regarding Flamino's death, Volta once wrote, "This loss strikes me so much to heart that I do not think I shall ever have another happy day."
In 1800, after expending great efforts and completing much research, Volta managed to create the first electric battery, which was then known as the Voltaic pile, Voltaic cell, or Voltaic stack. The stack utilized a redox reaction, in which the electrons were transferred from one reactant to another. The design of the stack caused the transfer of electrons to occur along an external pathway, the circuit. As electrons flowed along the circuit, they produced electricity. The Voltaic stack energized and sparked the electrical revolution.
Due to this invention, Volta was given the title of Count by Napoleon Bonaparte. However, Volta did not let this new title enflame his head, writing to his wife, "Among the many things which indeed give me great pleasure, I do not delight in believing that I am more than what I am … I prefer the peace and sweetness of domestic life." In 1819, Volta retired to his family estate near his birthplace. On March 5, 1827, Volta succumbed to an unknown illness, dying at the old age of 82.