1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Volta, Alessandro
VOLTA, ALESSANDRO (1745-1827), Italian physicist, was born at Como on the 18th of February 1745. He is celebrated as a pioneer of electrical science, after whom the "volt" is named. In 1774 he was appointed professor of physics in the gymnasium of Como, and in 1777 he travelled through Switzerland, where he formed an intimate friendship with H. B. de Saussure. In 1779 a chair of physics was founded in Pavia, and Volta was chosen to occupy it. In 1782 he journeyed through France, Germany, Holland and England, and became acquainted with many scientific celebrities. In 1791 he received the Copley medal of the Royal Society. In 1801 Napoleon called him to Paris, to show his experiments on contact electricity, and a medal was struck in his honour. He was made a senator of the kingdom of Lombardy. In 1815 the emperor of Austria made him director of the philosophical faculty of Padua. In 1819 he retired and settled in his native town, where he died on the 5th of March 1827. For Volta's electrical work, and his place in the history of discovery (see Electricity; also Voltmeter).