Alessandro Volta was born in Como on 18 February 1745 from Don Filippo and Donna Maddalena dei Conti Inzaghi. From 1758 to 1760 he followed the School of Rhetoric at the Jesuits. He then began his philosophical studies (Gymnasium) attracting, for his intelligence and versatility in the study, the attention of a Jesuit father who tries to convince him to enter the company. But Uncle Canonico withdraws it from the Jesuit schools and enrolls him in the Benzi Seminary.
After the Gymnasium, he abandoned his studies and continued, by himself, to take an interest in electric phenomena, studying the texts of Musschenbroek, Nollet and Beccaria, the three major scientists of the time in the field of electricity.
In 1769, just twenty-four years old, he published his first work, in Latin, entitled "De vi attractiva ignis electrici ac phaenomenis inde pendentibus", dedicated to his father Beccaria, but he disputed his theory concerning electricity.
In 1774 he was appointed Superintendent and Regent at the Regie Scuole di Como. Deepening the theory, already developed in De vi actractiva, he arrived in 1775 to build a new apparatus able to supply electricity without the need of a continuous rubbing, as in the electrostatic machines in use. This new instrument, called by Volta "perpetual electrophorus", is quickly appreciated and used in all European laboratories.
In October of the same year (1775) Count Firmian assigned him the chair of Experimental Physics at the Regio Ginnasio di Como. During the summer holidays of 1776 on Lake Maggiore, while sailing along the reed beds at Angera, he began to rummage with a stick the muddy bottom of the water and saw to rise afloat, and then vanish into the air, gassose bubbles in large copy . Collected this gas, he discovers its flammable character, indicating it as the native flammable air of the marshes. This is what we today call methane.
The possibility of causing the explosion of a gas mixture by a spark, even in a closed environment, leads him to build an interesting device later called "Volta gun".
Volta notes that his gun can be used to measure the explosion force, which have flammable arias. Used in this way, the gun becomes an eudiometer, that is, an instrument for measuring the amount of oxygen present in the air and therefore its healthiness. It also builds a perpetual lamp with flammable gas.
Also this year is the idea of transmitting from Como to Milan an electrical signal through a long metal wire, kept isolated from the ground by wooden poles. The electric signal generated in Como by the discharge of a bottle of Leyda is received in Milan, through the explosion of the gas pistol. The electric circuit closed through a series of waterways that connected Lake Como with the port on Milan's Naviglio. It is, as it is easy to understand, an idea that is a prelude to the telegraph.
In November 1778, Count Firmian, now convinced of the scientific value of the scientist from Como, appointed him Professor of Particular Physics at the University of Pavia.
Important in these years are the studies on the capacitor that led him to the creation of an extremely sensitive measuring instrument capable of detecting extremely weak electrical states, the condenser electroscope. Moreover, during these searches Volta correctly identifies the quantity of electricity concepts. (Q), capacity (C) and voltage (T), coming to formulate the fundamental relation of the capacitor Q = C * T.
In the years ranging from 1786 to '92 deals with electrical meteorology and studies the physico-chemical properties of the aeriforms, coming to determine, ten years before Gay-Lussac, the law of uniform expansion of the air.
At the end of 1799 Volta took the decisive step: by multiplying the pairs of the two metals and interposing between them a conductor of the second class, he obtains to multiply the tension and realizes the pile. This apparatus is able to provide continuous shocks, if touched repeatedly in the extremes, or an incessant motion of the electric fluid, if the closed circuit is maintained (even through a person). Volta makes the stack in two versions, with crowns of cups and columns, both based on pairs of silver-zinc elements, separated by a wet conductor.
With regard to the interpretation of the operation, Volta continues to prefer bimetallic contact as the most effective motor of electricity and interprets the interposed wet conductor as the medium which, when added to the bimetallic pairs, allows the addition of tensions. It will then discard the interpretations of a chemical nature.
Volta announced his invention on March 20, 1800 with a letter to Sir Banks, president of the Royal Society of London. It is interesting that he calls his a number of times