History of Batteries


Benjamin Franklin first coined the term “battery” to describe an array of charged glass plates.

1780 to 1786

Luigi Galvani demonstrated what we now understand to be the electrical basis of nerve impulses and provided the cornerstone of research for later inventors like Volta.


Alessandro Volta invented the voltaic pile and discovered the first practical method of generating electricity. Constructed of alternating discs of zinc and copper with pieces of cardboard soaked in brine between the metals, the voltic pile produced electrical current. The metallic conducting arc was used to carry the electricity over a greater distance. Alessandro Volta’s voltaic pile was the first “wet cell battery” that produced a reliable, steady current of electricity.


Englishman, John F. Daniel invented the Daniel Cell that used two electrolytes: copper sulphate and zinc sulphate. The Daniel Cell was somewhat safer and less corrosive then the Volta cell.


William Robert Grove developed the first fuel cell, which produced electrical by combining hydrogen and oxygen. Also Inventors created improvements to batteries that used liquid electrodes to produce electricity. Bunsen (1842) and Grove (1839) invented the most successful.


French inventor, Gaston Plante developed the first practical storage lead-acid battery that could be recharged (secondary battery). This type of battery is primarily used in cars today.


French engineer, Ge orges Leclanche patented the carbon-zinc wet cell battery called the Leclanche cell. According to the History of Batteries: “George Leclanche’s original cell was assembled in a porous pot. The positive electrode consisted of crushed manganese dioxide with a little carbon mixed in. The negative pole was a zinc rod. The cathode was packed into the pot, and a carbon rod was inserted to act as a currency collector. The anode or zinc rod and the pot were then immersed in an ammonium chloride solution. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material. The liquid acted as the electrolyte, readily seeping through the porous cup and making contact with the cathode material.”


Twenty thousand of Georges Leclanche’s cells were now being used with telegraph equipment.


J.A. Thiebaut patented the first battery with both the negative electrode and porous pot placed in a zinc cup.


Carl Gassner invented the first commercially successful dry cell battery (zinc-carbon cell).


Waldmar Jungner invented the first nickel-cadmium rechargeable battery.


Thomas Alva Edison invented the alkaline storage battery.



The alkaline battery was developed in 1949 by Lew Urry at the Eveready Battery Company Laboratory in Parma, Ohio. Alkaline batteries could supply more total energy at higher currents than the Leclanché batteries. Further improvements since then have increased the energy storage within a given size package.

1954 – Solar Cells


Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar. A solar battery converts the sun’s energy to electricity. In 1954, Gerald Pearson, Calvin Fuller and Daryl Chapin invented the first solar battery. The inventors created an array of several strips of silicon (each about the size of a razorblade), placed them in sunlight, captured the free electrons and turned them into electrical current. Bell Laboratories in New York announced the prototype manufacture of a new solar battery. Bell had funded the research. The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system (Americus, Georgia) on October 4 1955.

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