What was the social impact of the invention of the battery by Alessandro Volta?

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Dec 26, 2015


Not much apart some chemical and electrochemical experiment. But the potential was enormous.


You may be interested in knowing that Volta invented not the battery, but the "pile". Battery is a modern name of a devise that does the same thing as Volta's pile, but with more power and much more efficiently.

Volta's artifice, a pile of small disks of copper and zinc, enveloped in a brine-dampen cloth, produced an eclectic direct current capable at the most of lightening a modern bulb. Not much more.
The importance of his discover was that electricity was a "current". That is an energy going from point "A" to point "B" rather than staying put on one spot as everyone thought.
Electricity in fact had been known for a long long time. Its name came from an old Greek word (ἤλεκτρον) meaning amber.

Everyone knew that by rubbing a bit of amber with a wool cloth one could lift tiny pieces of light materials the same way as one could with a magnet. So what. It was fun. Physicists called the phenomenon "static electricity" and that was it.

Volta, with his experiment, realised that the current moved and, if it moved, it could do more than simply attract things over a short distance. It could carry them as far as it would go.

Unfortunately his pile had no real power, and a lot more had to be discovered prior to obtaining such result (dynamos, alternating current, electromagnetism...); but Volta had established the principle, and his invention was at least paramount for advances in chemistry. The pile could separate water into its two gaseous components, it could isolate some metals, produce an artificial lightning (voltaic arc) between two poles...

Several scientists picked up his concept and started working on it. They had to build river dams, generators, a network of interconnecting wires... But it only took them seventy or eighty years to produce the useful electrical applications that, little by little, changed our life.

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