Who2 science editor Paul Hehn adds his thoughts on Alessandro Volta:
“Interesting guy, Mr. Volta. He must have been very good at networking… it would have taken too many words to include in his profile the stuff about Lombardy going from Austria to Napoleon to Austria again, with Volta never losing a step along the way. Everybody’s friend, apparently.
And it was too many words to go into the ‘animal electricity’ thing, but it was interesting. That’s a great period of science history, all those ‘natural philosopher’ types making their way into the hard science that followed.
So Galvani sees that hooking up metal to dead frogs in a lightning storm makes their legs twitch. Then it turns out hooking up metal to the frogs legs makes ’em twitch even when there’s NOT a lightning storm, and they can’t figure this out. Galvani and others argue that there must be electricity in the muscle tissue. Volta and others think it’s in the metal.
THAT’S what led Volta to stack different kinds of metal in a saline solution. To prove Galvani wrong.
As soon as guys like Davy had steady electricity, they were off and running, discovering new elements, etc.
It’s wild to me to think that harnessing electricity is a pretty recent development. Think about it… before the 1800s that stuff was all MAGIC to us.”