Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/131

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121
SKETCH OF ALESSANDRO VOLTA.

ject which, could be called incorrect, even at the present day. His first communication concerning his researches on the development of electricity by contact was addressed to the Royal Society of England in 1792. In his account of the pile, addressed to Sir J. Banks, and read before the Royal Society in June, 1800, Volta described some of the experimental results obtained with it, and showed that all the effects produced were the same as those which could be obtained from electrical machines, and that therefore galvanism and electricity were identical.

Volta received the Copley medal of the Royal Society in 1791 or 1792. In 1801 he visited Paris, upon the invitation of the First Consul, and there repeated his experiments on the development of electricity by contact before a commission of the Institute. According to M. Arago's story of the meeting, the First Consul desired to attend in person the session at which the commissioners were to present a detailed account of the grand phenomena. Hardly had their conclusions been read, when he proposed to decree a gold medal to Volta as a testimonial of the appreciation in which he was held by French men of science. Custom and the academical regulations hardly permitted compliance with this demand; but the regulations were made for ordinary conditions, and the professor from Pavia had placed himself beyond their line. The medal was voted by acclamation; and on the same day Volta was given, by order of Napoleon, the sum of two thousand francs from the state funds toward the expenses of his journey. In 1808 he was made one of the eight foreign associates designated by the Institute. He was also decorated with the crosses of the Legion of Honor and of the Iron Crown; was named a member of the Council of Lyon; and in 1810 was raised to the dignity of a senator of the kingdom of Italy, with the title of count. When, in 1804, he desired to retire from the university, the Emperor said he could not consent to such a step. "If Volta's functions as a professor are fatiguing to him, let them be reduced. Let him, if he will, have to give only one lesson a year; but the University of Pavia would be struck to the heart on the day that I should permit so illustrious a name to disappear from the list of its members. Besides," he added, "a good general ought to die on the field of battle." So Volta continued to attract young men to his lectures. In 1815 the Emperor of Austria made Volta Director of the Philosophical Faculty of Padua.

Sir Humphry Davy, who visited Volta at Milan in 1814, when he was sixty-nine years old, found him a man well advanced in age and in poor health. "His conversation was not brilliant; his views were narrow, but marked by considerable ingenuity. His manners were of perfect simplicity. He had not the air of a courtier, or even that of a man who had lived in the world. In