Saturday March 20, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Electric Battery

The excellent suggestion of putting the topic into the introductory heading is due to Ross Fishman of Chicago, IL, USA.  Thanks Buddy!!!!

On this Day:

In 1800, Alessandro Volta reported his discovery of the electric battery in a letter to Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society of London.

Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (18 February 1745 – 5 March 1827) was an Italian physicist, chemist, and pioneer of electricity and power who is credited as the inventor of the electric battery and the discoverer of methane. He invented the Voltaic pile in 1799, and reported the results of his experiments in 1800 in a two-part letter to the President of the Royal Society. With this invention Volta proved that electricity could be generated chemically and debunked the prevalent theory that electricity was generated solely by living beings. Volta’s invention sparked a great amount of scientific excitement and led others to conduct similar experiments which eventually led to the development of the field of electrochemistry.

Volta also drew admiration from Napoleon Bonaparte for his invention, and was invited to the Institute of France to demonstrate his invention to the members of the Institute. Volta enjoyed a certain amount of closeness with the emperor throughout his life and he was conferred numerous honours by him. Volta held the chair of experimental physics at the University of Pavia for nearly 40 years and was widely idolised by his students.

Despite his professional success, Volta tended to be a person inclined towards domestic life and this was more apparent in his later years. At this time he tended to live secluded from public life and more for the sake of his family until his eventual death in 1827 from a series of illnesses which began in 1823. The SI unit of electric potential is named in his honour as the volt.

Volta was born in Como, a town in present-day northern Italy, on 18 February 1745. In 1794, Volta married an aristocratic lady also from Como, Teresa Peregrini, with whom he raised three sons: Zanino, Flaminio, and Luigi. His father, Filippo Volta, was of noble lineage. His mother, Donna Maddalena, came from the family of the Inzaghis.

In 1774, he became a professor of physics at the Royal School in Como. A year later, he improved and popularised the electrophorus, a device that produces static electricity. His promotion of it was so extensive that he is often credited with its invention, even though a machine operating on the same principle was described in 1762 by the Swedish experimenter Johan Wilcke. In 1777, he travelled through Switzerland. There he befriended H. B. de Saussure.

In the years between 1776 and 1778, Volta studied the chemistry of gases. He researched and discovered methane after reading a paper by Benjamin Franklin of the United States on “flammable air”. In November 1776, he found methane at Lake Maggiore, and by 1778 he managed to isolate methane. He devised experiments such as the ignition of methane by an electric spark in a closed vessel.

Volta also studied what we now call electrical capacitance, developing separate means to study both electrical potential (V) and charge (Q), and discovering that for a given object, they are proportional. This is called Volta’s Law of Capacitance, and for this work the unit of electrical potential has been named the volt.

In 1779 he became a professor of experimental physics at the University of Pavia, a chair that he occupied for almost 40 years.

Luigi Galvani, an Italian physicist, discovered something he named, “animal electricity” when two different metals were connected in series with a frog’s leg and to one another. Volta realised that the frog’s leg served as both a conductor of electricity (what we would now call an electrolyte) and as a detector of electricity. He also understood that the frog’s legs were irrelevant to the electric current, which was caused by the two differing metals. He replaced the frog’s leg with brine-soaked paper, and detected the flow of electricity by other means familiar to him from his previous studies. In this way he discovered the electrochemical series, and the law that the electromotive force (emf) of a galvanic cell, consisting of a pair of metal electrodes separated by electrolyte, is the difference between their two electrode potentials (thus, two identical electrodes and a common electrolyte give zero net emf). This may be called Volta’s Law of the electrochemical series.

In 1800, as the result of a professional disagreement over the galvanic response advocated by Galvani, Volta invented the voltaic pile, an early electric battery, which produced a steady electric current. Volta had determined that the most effective pair of dissimilar metals to produce electricity was zinc and copper. Initially he experimented with individual cells in series, each cell being a wine goblet filled with brine into which the two dissimilar electrodes were dipped. The voltaic pile replaced the goblets with cardboard soaked in brine.

In announcing his discovery of the voltaic pile, Volta paid tribute to the influences of William Nicholson, Tiberius Cavallo, and Abraham Bennet.

The battery made by Volta is credited as one of the first electrochemical cells. It consists of two electrodes: one made of zinc, the other of copper. The electrolyte is either sulfuric acid mixed with water or a form of saltwater brine (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Did you hear that the police arrested two kids yesterday.  One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one and let the other one off.

Second, a Song:

Roy Rogers (born July 28, 1950, Redding, California, United States) is an American blues rock slide guitarist and record producer. He was named after the singing cowboy. Rogers plays a variety of guitar styles related to the Delta blues, but is most often recognized for his virtuoso slide work.

In the 1980s, Rogers was a member of John Lee Hooker’s Coast to Coast Band. Rogers produced four John Lee Hooker albums – The Healer, a Grammy Award winner, Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom and Chill Out. He also produced two Grammy nominated recordings for Ramblin’ Jack Elliott entitled Friends of Mine and A Long Ride. Rogers also co-wrote “Gnawnin’ On It”, which was nominated for ‘Best Female Rock Vocal for Bonnie Raitt’, a long-time friend and collaborator.

Rogers has performed and/or recorded with a diverse spectrum of artists including Linda Ronstadt, Sammy Hagar, Bonnie Raitt, Zucchero, John Gorka and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Elvin Bishop, Carlos Santana, Steve Miller, and Ray Manzarek. Since 1980, Rogers has also fronted his own trio, The Delta Rhythm Kings. In 2003, Roger’s own Slideways reached number 3 on Billboard’s chart for “Top Blues Albums.” Split Decision also charted in 2009. He has also been nominated for a Blues Music Award for ‘Best Blues Guitar Instrumentalist’ by the Blues Foundation. Other awards include those from France and Australia with long-time friend Norton Buffalo. His most recent release is his first solo album in five years, titled Into The Wild Blue, released by Chops Not Chaps Records in June 2015. His releases have been received worldwide, as he has been touring Europe, Brazil, Australia, and Scandinavia since 1982.

“Terraplane Blues” is a blues song recorded in 1936 in San Antonio, Texas, by bluesman Robert Johnson. “Terraplane Blues” was Johnson’s first single and it became a moderate regional hit, selling 5,000 to 10,000 copies.

Johnson used the car model Terraplane as a metaphor for sex. In the lyrical narrative, the car will not start and Johnson suspects that his girlfriend let another man drive it when he was gone. In describing the various mechanical problems with his Terraplane, Johnson creates a setting of thinly veiled sexual innuendo. The guitar parts in “Terraplane Blues” are similar to those in Johnson’s “Stones in My Passway”.

“Terraplane Blues” has been recorded by a variety of artists, including Mickey Baker, Rory Block, Canned Heat, Eric Clapton, Foghat, Peter Green, John Hammond, Jr., John Lee Hooker, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Tony McPhee, Elliott Murphy, Lonnie Pitchford, Paul Pena, and Roy Rogers. Johnson’s one-time musical and travelling partner Johnny Shines recorded the song as “Fish Tail” and “Dynaflow Blues”. The Led Zeppelin song “Trampled Under Foot” is regarded as a tribute to Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues”, with Robert Plant using car parts as sexual metaphors (per Wikipedia).

The lyrics are a little hard to make out on this recording, but the slide blues guitar playing more than makes up for that.  Here are some of the lyrics to give you a flavour:

Now, you know the coils ain’t even buzzin’

Little generator won’t get the spark

Motor’s in a bad condition

You gotta have these batteries charged

But I’m cryin’, please, please don’t do me wrong

Who been drivin’ my Terraplane

Now for you since I been gone…

I hope you enjoy Roy Rogers performing Robert Johnson’s Terraplane Blues!


Thought for the Day:

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.” – Erma Bombeck

In response to the Shoe Smile of the Day:

Frank Fowlie of Richmond, BC, Canada writes:

“What type of shoes do thieves wear? Sneakers.   ~Groan~”

Gayle Myers of Vancouver, BC, Canada writes:

“Happy Persian New year !  Have a good weekend Gayle”

Ian Roote of West Vancouver, BC, Canada writes:

“Thanks David… You may want to add this song to your play list! Cheers, Ian” 

Have a great day!

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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