Volta Prize

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The Volta Prize (French: le Prix Volta) was originally established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801 to honor Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist noted for developing the battery.[1][2] At that time Alessandro Volta was summoned to Paris to demonstrate his great discovery before the French Academy of Sciences. Bonaparte declared his presentation a triumph, presented him with a gold medal and conceived of the Volta Prize named in his honor, which the French government awarded for scientific achievement in electricity. An early recipient was Sir Humphry Davy for his work on electrolysis.

The prize was renewed by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1852 with a purse of 50,000 francs (approximately US$10,000 at that time, about $260,000 in current dollars[3]).

Notable recipients of the renewed Volta Grand Prize have included Paul-Gustave Froment, who developed an early electric motor, Heinrich Ruhmkorff, who commercialised the induction coil, and Zénobe Gramme, inventor of the Gramme dynamo and the first practical electric motor used in industry.

One of its most notable awards was made in 1880, when Alexander Graham Bell received the third Grand Volta Prize for the invention of the telephone from L’Académie française,[1] representing the French government. Among the luminaries who judged were Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.[1] Since Bell was himself becoming more affluent, he used the prize money to create institutions in and around the United States capital of Washington, D.C., including the prestigious Volta Laboratory Association (in 1880, also known as the 'Volta Laboratory' and as the 'Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory'), with his endowment fund (the 'Volta Fund'),[4] and then in 1887 the 'Volta Bureau', which later became the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.

The prize was discontinued in 1888.


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  1. ^ a b c Crosland, Maurice P. "Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences, 1795–1914", Cambridge University Press, 1992. As cited by James Love in KEI Issues Report on Selected Innovation Prizes and Reward Programs: The Volta Prize For Electricity, March 20, 2008, pg.16. Retrieved from Knowledge Ecology International website on January 5, 2010.
  2. ^ John L. Davis. Artisans and savants: The Role of the Academy of Sciences in the Process of Electrical Innovation in France, 1850–1880, Annals of Science, Volume 55, Issue 3, July 1998, pg.300. Retrieved from InformaWorld.com January 5, 2010.
  3. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  4. ^ The Volta Bureau, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing website. Retrieved 2009-02-15.