Alesandro Anastasio Volta, Italian physicist and inventor, late 18th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Tardieu after Bettoni. Volta (1745- 1827) was the inventor of the voltaic pile, an early battery and the first source of current electricity. This consisted of two different metals, separated by chemicals in order to enable a flow of electricity. In 1775, he invented the electrophorus, a precursor of the induction machine, and in 1777 he invented an 'inflammable air' electric pistol. The unit of electromotive force 'volt' is named after him.