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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/127

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SKETCH OF ALESSANDRO VOLTA.

like the gaudy posters of our London advertisers. Fruits and flowers which desire to attract the attention of beasts, birds, or insects, are tricked out in flaunting hues of crimson, purple, blue, and yellow; fruits and flowers which could only be injured by the notice of animals are small and green, or dingy and inconspicuous.—Longman's Magazine.

 

SKETCH OF ALESSANDRO VOLTA.

VOLTA'S title to be remembered rests chiefly upon his application of the discovery of the production of electricity by contact, which has been fruitful and continues to be fruitful of results of the greatest importance in the progress of research in the domains of physical forces and of the constitution of matter, and is one of the most potent instruments in the hands of students for enlarging the boundaries of their knowledge of the material world.

Alessandro Volta was born at Como, Italy, February 19, 1745, and died in the same place March 5, 1827. He began his studies in the public school of his native town, where he distinguished himself among his fellow-pupils by his capability and his assiduity at work. A passage in his first scientific paper shows that when he was eighteen years old he had been engaged in a correspondence with the Abbé Nollet on subjects relating to electricity. At nineteen years of age he composed a poem, in Latin, which has never been published, in which some of the more important discoveries of the time were described. In 1774 he was appointed to the chair of Physics in the Royal School at Como, for which his first two scientific papers—on the Attractive Force of the Electric Fire, and on the Method of constructing the New Electrical Machine—seem to have been among his strongest recommendations. He went out of Italy for the first time in 1777, to make a visit of several weeks in Switzerland, where he met Haller at Berne, Voltaire at Ferney, and Benjamin de Saussure at Geneva. The story of this excursion was related in a book[1] which was published at Milan in 1827. In 1779 Volta was made a professor in the University of Pavia, where his instructions were attended by throngs of interested youths from all countries, proud to be his pupils, and where he continued till 1819, when he retired to spend the rest of his days in his native town. In 1782 he made what appears to have been the longest journey of his life, in company with the surgeon Scarpa, and visited the capitals of Germany, Holland, England,


  1. Relazione del Prof. Volta di un suo Viaggio letterario nel Swizzera.