Introducing engineering
Introducing engineering

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Introducing engineering

5.1.2 Alessandro Volta (1745–1827)

Described image
Figure 79 'Tasting' electricity using two dissimilar metals

Volta, a compatriot of Galvani, was also interested in the study of electricity. He read Galvani's account of a range of careful experiments, attributing the twitching of the frogs' legs to the drawing of electricity from the nerve–muscle system. Volta, in the best tradition of science, reserved his judgement pending further, independent, investigations. He fixed his attention particularly on the fact that the connection to the nerve necessarily involved two different metals being in contact. Volta must have been aware of contemporary curiosity about the peculiar things that happen when different metals are joined together. Figure 79 shows the sort of experiment Volta's contemporaries were carrying out – an unpleasant taste can be detected when the tongue is touched to the junction of two crossed rods of different metals. Volta went further. He placed a silver coin on his tongue and then inserted a strip of tin foil into his mouth – a sour taste sensation correlated exactly with the foil touching tongue and coin simultaneously. Some interaction was evidently taking place between the two metals in his mouth. So Volta rejected Galvani's physiological description of the cause of the twitching frogs' legs. Instead he set about seeking a purely inorganic, chemical explanation, based on the contact of different metals.

T174_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus