Celebrating 18 Years on the Web
TODAY IN SCIENCE HISTORY ®
Find science on or your birthday

107

Stories About Chemistry

INDEX

50. How Chemistry Made Friends with Electricity

It was an odd thing, at first glance, for a respectable man held in high esteem by all his friends, to occupy himself with.

First he prepared little metallic discs. Dozens and dozens of discs, copper and zinc ones. Then he cut up several sponges into round slices and soaked them in salt water. After this he began to stack the pieces on top of each other in much the same way as a child builds a pyramid, but, observing a certain sequence: a copper disc, a slice of sponge, a zinc disc. And he repeated this sequence many times. In a word, as long as he could keep the stack from falling down.

The man touched the top of his original structure with a moistened finger, and jerked his hand away immediately: he had received what we would now call a substantial electric shock.

That was how in 1800 the famous Italian physicist Alessandro Volta invented the galvanic cell, a chemical source of current. The electricity appeared in the “volta column” as a result of chemical reactions.

This marked the birth of new branch of science called electrochemistry.

Scientists acquired an instrument by means of which they could produce electric current over a considerable length of time. The current would continue to flow until the chemical process in the “volta column” stopped.

It appeared interesting to find out how electricity would act on different substances.

Two Englishmen, Carlisle, a physician, and Nicholson, an engineer, decided to start with water. By that time chemists had sufficient grounds to state that water consisted of hydrogen and oxygen. But somehow they had been unable to obtain conclusive proof.

Carlisle and Nicholson used an electric battery consisting of 17 voltaic cells. It gave a very strong current. And the water began to decompose vigorously into two gases, hydrogen and oxygen; in other words, electrolysis set in. That is what we call the process of decomposition of substances by electricity.


< back     next >


- 100 -
Sophie Germain
Gertrude Elion
Ernest Rutherford
James Chadwick
Marcel Proust
William Harvey
Johann Goethe
John Keynes
Carl Gauss
Paul Feyerabend
- 90 -
Antoine Lavoisier
Lise Meitner
Charles Babbage
Ibn Khaldun
Euclid
Ralph Emerson
Robert Bunsen
Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Bible
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
Avicenna
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
Archimedes
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Hippocrates
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
Aristotle
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton



who invites your feedback
Thank you for sharing.
Today in Science History
Sign up for Newsletter
with quiz, quotes and more.