Museo Galileo
Virtual Museum
Electric pistol, Volta type
    • Setting:
      Room XVII
    • Inventor:
      Alessandro Volta
    • Maker:
    • Date:
      ca. 1780
    • Materials:
      brass, glass
    • Dimensions:
      total length 120 mm, max. diameter 60 mm, tube diameter at mouth 22 mm
    • Inventory:
    • Electric pistol, Volta type (Inv. 897)

Green glass instrument in the shape of a spherical flask with a long neck. Two electrodes protruding from opposite sides are secured with sealing wax. Internally they terminated in sharp points (forming a spark gap) and externally they carried small rings. The pistol would be filled with hydrogen from a rubber bag (missing). The gas was exploded by a spark from a Leyden jar. The detonation caused the violent expulsion of the barrel stopper.

In 1776, Alessandro Volta began a series of experiments in which he used an electric spark to ignite methane (which he observed and collected in swamps) and detonate a mixture of hydrogen and air. These experiments led him to invent his electric pistol, hydrogen lamp, and eudiometer. Provenance: Lorraine collections.