The origins of electricity cannot be traced back exactly and still remain a mystery. Some of the earliest examples of the use of electricity include street lamps in Berlin in 1882 and lighting up of Chicago’s world fair in 1893 with 2,50,000 light bulbs.
One of the earliest batteries was found in Baghdad in 1936. It is believed that it was from the Parthian empire and could be over 2000 years old. It was made of a clay jar and it held an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder inside it. It is believed that when the jar was filled with vinegar or electrolyte, a voltage of 1.1 to 2 volts was developed. It is possible that the device was used for electroplating i.e. adding a layer of gold or another metal to a surface.
After the discovery of static electricity in 1744, Volta invented the first true battery in 1800 which came to be known as the voltaic pile. The voltaic pile consisted of pairs of copper and zinc plates stacked on top of each other, separated by a layer of cloth or cardboard soaked in brine. Brine functioned as an electrolyte in the above setup.
Meanwhile in India, Rishi Agastya had developed the first electro-voltaic cell long before the concert of electricity was known using simple materials including one earthen pot, copperplate, copper sulfate, wet sawdust, and zinc amalgam. A group of scientists from HBCSE, Mumbai have verified the above mentioned fact.
The early efforts of Volta were recognized by the Institute of France. When Volta was invited to lecture at the Institute of France, even Napoleon Bonaparte participated in his lectures.