Andrea here, musing today on a very “shocking” topic! Ha—now that I have your attention, I shall explain! I have a new release coming out on the 24th. Murder at Kensington Palace is the third book in my Wrexford & Sloane Regency mystery series, and the plot involves electricity!
The voltaic pile (basically the first electrical battery) was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. As often happens in the world of invention, the discovery was sparked by a disagreement he had with Luigi Galvani, another man of science who had discovered he could make the legs of a dead frog “jump “ when they were used to form a circuit between two different type of metal. Galvani claimed he had discovered animal electricity—an electrical fluid inherent in the frog itself.
Volta believed the reaction had a more rational explanation than that, and set about creating a chemical electrolyte (the fluid that creates the circuit between two different metals and thus an electrical current.) He soaked cloth or cardboard in brine and spaced them between disks of zinc and metal—and lo and behold created an electrical current! By adding more disks and electrolyte pads, he discovered he could make a voltaic pile more powerful.
This awesome new discovery was hugely exciting to the scientific world during the Regency. In London, people flocked to the Royal Institution, one of the leading scientific organizations of the time, to hear lectures and see demonstrations of voltaic batteries.