A-G-AA VoltaAlessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (1745 – 1827) is most famous for his invention of the electrical battery in 1800 or so, the Voltaic pile, but this was not his main feat. It is also not the reason why the SI unit of electric potential is volts. Some people believe that the AA and AAA cells are named after him, but this is not true either.
Volta did not invent the ElectrophorusBorn in Italy in 1745, Volta grows up to become Professor of Physics at the Royal School of Como where he experiments with the Electrophorus, an instrument that produces static electricity and that he improves a lot. Contrary to popular belief, Volta was not the inventer of this device.
He discovered methane insteadHe goes on to study the chemistry of gases and is credited with the discovery of methane. How he came to it is not precisely known (maybe due to the large bowl of chili con carne the evening before?).
Volta worked on bombsInspired by the flammable nature of methane, Volta starts experimenting with methane in hermetically sealed containers that he tries to ignite with sparks produced by electricity. Although not officially credited for it, Volta may have laid the foundations of modern bombs.
Volta invented the electrical batteryInspired, but not convinced by Luigi “Frog Leg” Galvani, Volta starts experimenting with bits of
brine-soaked paper between electrodes made of different metals, which eventually led to Volta’s
Law of the Electrochemical Series. In an attempt to shut Luigi’s big mouth once and for all, Volta
invents the electrical battery (instead of placing a horse's head on Luigi’s pillow).
Volts are volts because of capacitanceVolta also studies electrical capacitance. It was his discovery of the proportional relationship for a
given object between electric potential and charge — known today as Volta’s Law of Capacitance
— that got him on the SI shortlist. Although Volta fully deserves his SI unit, it is a shame that the ‘a’ was dropped for some reason; it would have given a slight Mediterranean touch to electronics.