Electric fish inspire inventors across the centuries

Inspired by the eel’s electric organ, Thomas Schroeder and colleagues built a device that provides electricity in a variety of situations (Nature 552, 214–218; 2017, and see go.nature.com/2hzh4jd). This example of technology derived from a biological concept has echoes of Alessandro Volta’s invention of the battery more than two centuries earlier.

Volta (1745–1827) was professor of physics at the University of Pavia in Italy and a fellow of the Royal Society. On 20 March 1800, he sent a letter to Joseph Banks, president of the Royal Society, to communicate his new apparatus (A. Volta Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 90, 403–431; 1800). He termed this the Organe électrique artificiel because it was designed to reconstruct the natural apparatus of electric fish (see also M. Piccolino Trends Neurosci. 23, 147–151; 2000).

Nature 555, 165 (2018)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-018-02832-2


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