XIX Century

Wilhelm Josef Sinsteden

(6 May, 1803 – 12 November, 1891) was a German physician and physicist. He went into military service in 1828 as a company surgeon. In the same year he received his doctorate at the Berlin University. In 1832 he became a pensioner doctor at the Friedrich Wilhelm Institute, in 1836 staff physician there.

In addition to his military medical profession, Wilhelm Josef Sinsteden worked on scientific topics. He gained notoriety primarily through his electrophysical investigations and as the author of physical treatises in the fields of optics and electricity. He designed inductors, breakers and one of the first electric motors. In attempts to measure the current, he noticed a loosening of the lead on the lead electrodes in the dilute sulfuric acid and a coating of lead oxide on the positive electrodes. In 1854 Sinsteden developed the lead-acid accumulator, with which he could generate sparks and melt wires. The functional principle was developed five years later by Gaston Raimond Planté to the construction still used today.


William Robert Grove

(11 July, 1811 – 1 August, 1896) was a Welsh judge and physical scientist. He anticipated the general theory of the conservation of energy, and was a pioneer of fuel cell technology. He invented the Grove voltaic cell.

During 1839, Grove developed a novel form of electric cell, the Grove cell, which used zinc and platinum electrodes exposed to two acids and separated by a porous ceramic pot. Grove announced the latter development to the Académie des Sciences in Paris in 1839. In 1840 Grove invented one of the first incandescent electric lights, which was later perfected by Thomas Edison. On Faraday’s invitation Grove presented his discoveries at the prestigious Royal Institution Friday Discourse on 13 March 1840.

In 1842, Grove developed the first fuel cell (which he called the gas voltaic battery), which produced electrical energy by combining hydrogen and oxygen, and described it using his correlation theory. In developing the cell and showing that steam could be disassociated into oxygen and hydrogen, and the process reversed, he was the first person to demonstrate the thermal dissociation of molecules into their constituent atoms. Grove is also credited for the discovery of sputtering.


Josiah Latimer Clark

(10 March, 1822 – 30 October, 1898), was an English electrical engineer.

Clark paid much attention to the subject of electrical measurement, and besides designing various improvements in method and apparatus and inventing the Clark standard cell.

Clark’s original cell was set up in a glass jar in a similar way to a gravity Daniell cell. The copper cathode was replaced by a pool of mercury at the bottom of the jar. Above this was the mercurous sulfate paste and, above that, the zinc sulfate solution. A short zinc rod dipped into the zinc sulfate solution. The zinc rod was supported by a cork with two holes — one for the zinc rod and the other for a glass tube reaching to the bottom of the cell. A platinum wire, fused into the glass tube, made contact with the mercury pool. When complete, the cell was sealed with a layer of marine glue.

Clark took a leading part in the movement for the systematization of electrical standards. He also devised improvements in the insulation of submarine cables. In the later part of his life he was a member of several firms engaged in laying submarine cables, in manufacturing electrical appliances, and in hydraulic engineering. Clark was one of the first authors to attach the metric prefixes mega– and micro– to units other than the metre.


John Benjamin Dancer

(8 October, 1812 – 24 November, 1887) was a British scientific instrument maker and inventor of microphotography. He also pioneered stereography. In 1856, he invented the stereoscopic camera (GB patent 2064/1856).

Dancer improved the Daniell cell by introducing the porous pot cell, which he invented in 1838. It consists of a central zinc anode dipped into a porous earthenware pot containing a zinc sulfate solution. The porous pot is, in turn, immersed in a solution of copper sulfate contained in a copper can, which acts as the cell’s cathode. The use of a porous barrier allows ions to pass through but keeps the solutions from mixing.


Gaston Planté

(22 April, 1834 – 21 May, 1889) was a French physicist who invented the lead–acid battery. This type battery was developed as the first rechargeable electric battery marketed for commercial use.

In 1859, Planté invented the lead-acid cell, the first rechargeable battery. His early model consisted of a spiral roll of two sheets of pure lead, separated by a linen cloth and immersed in a glass jar of sulfuric acid solution. The following year, he presented a nine-cell lead-acid battery to the Academy of Sciences. In 1881, Camille Alphonse Faure would develop a more efficient and reliable model that saw great success in early electric cars.

Planté also investigated the differences between static electricity and dynamic electricity (i.e., from batteries). As part of this investigation, Planté invented a mechanical device that he called the Rheostatic Machine. The Rheostatic Machine used a bank of mica capacitors, a clever rotating commutator, and a series of contacts to alternately charge a bank of capacitors in parallel (from a high-voltage battery source) and then connect the capacitors in series. This arrangement multiplied the battery voltage by the number of capacitor stages to obtain very high voltages. By rapidly rotating the shaft, a series of high-voltage sparks many centimetres long could be rapidly generated. This device was a mechanical predecessor of the modern-day Marx generator. Using this device, Planté explored the electrical breakdown of air, the formation of Lichtenberg figures, and the behaviour of thin wires when pulsed by high electric currents.


Frederik Louis Wilhelm Hellesen

(2 February, 1836 – 22 December, 1892) was a Danish inventor and industrialist. In 1887 he designed what is thought to be the first dry cell battery based on the Leclanché cell design. The same year he founded the company W. Hellesen In 1889 he sold his first batteries to the Danish Telephone Company. The same year a young chemist Valdemar Ludvigsen (1861–1939) came to the factory helping by the further development of the batteries. When Frederik Hellesen died in 1892 his widow took over the company with the help of Ludvigsen. In 1906 V. Ludvigsen became the sole owner of the factory with the name A/S Hellesens Enke & V. Ludvigsen (later known as A/S Tudor-Hellesens, A/S Hellesens, and GN Hellesens), now defunct. Today the Hellesens brand name is owned by Duracell.


Georges Leclanché

(October 9, 1839 – September 14, 1882) was a French electrical engineer chiefly remembered for his invention of the Leclanché cell, one of the first modern electrical batteries and the forerunner of the modern dry cell battery.

He was educated in England but completed his education at École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures (École Centrale Paris), one of the top engineering schools in France, graduating in 1860 to begin work as an engineer. He first worked for a French railways company (Compagnie des chemins de fer de l’Est) where he was in charge of communication infrastructures related to the electrical transmission of time. His interest for the development of efficient electrical cells arose from the problems affecting the existing generation of cells used at this time in the railways. Because of the political situation, he emigrated in Brussels where he built a small laboratory. It is there that in 1866 he invented the Leclanché cell, one of the first electrical batteries and the forerunner of the modern dry cell battery. It comprised a conducting solution (electrolyte) of ammonium chloride with a negative terminal of zinc (anode/oxidation) and a positive terminal of manganese dioxide (cathode/reduction). His invention was rapidly adopted by the Belgian telegraph administration and the railways company of The Netherlands.

Leclanché’s “wet cell” (as it was popularly called) was the forerunner to the world’s first widely used battery, the zinc-carbon battery. In 1876, Leclanché jellifies the electrolyte of his cell by adding starch to the ammonium chloride, making his cell more portable.

After the fall of Napoléon III, he came back in France in Paris where he became associated with Ernest Barbier to found the cells factory “Leclanché-Barbier”. He was the main manufacturer of cells in France.


Camille Alphonse Faure

(21 May, 1840 – 14 September, 1898) was a French chemical engineer who in 1881 significantly improved the design of the lead-acid battery, which had been invented by Gaston Planté in 1859. Faure’s improvements greatly increased the capacity of such batteries and led directly to their manufacture on an industrial scale.

From 1874 until about 1880, he worked as a chemist at the new factory of the Cotton Powder Company at Uplees, Faversham, Kent, England. While there, he and the factory manager, George Trench, took out patents for Tonite (a new high explosive) (1874), and an improved dynamite detonator (1878).

In 1880, Faure patented a method of coating lead plates with a paste of lead oxides, sulphuric acid and water, which was then cured by being gently warmed in a humid atmosphere. The curing process caused the paste to change to a mixture of lead sulphates which adhered to the lead plate. During charging the cured paste was converted into electrochemically active material (the “active mass”) and gave a substantial increase in capacity compared with Planté’s battery. This was a significant breakthrough that led to the industrial manufacture of lead-acid batteries.


Thomas Alva Edison

(February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman who has been described as America’s greatest inventor. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. These inventions, which include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, have had a widespread impact on the modern industrialized world. He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of organized science and teamwork to the process of invention, working with many researchers and employees. He established the first industrial research laboratory.

Thomas Edison worked in the 1890s on developing an alkaline based battery that he could get a patent on. Edison thought if he produced lightweight and durable battery electric cars would become the standard, with his firm as its main battery vendor. After many experiments, and probably borrowing from Jungner’s design, he patented an alkaline based nickel–iron battery in 1901. However, customers found his first model of the alkaline nickel–iron battery to be prone to leakage leading to short battery life, and it did not outperform the lead-acid cell by much either. Although Edison was able to produce a more reliable and powerful model seven years later, by this time the inexpensive and reliable Model T Ford had made gasoline engine cars the standard. Nevertheless, Edison’s battery achieved great success in other applications such as electric and diesel-electric rail vehicles, providing backup power for railroad crossing signals, or to provide power for the lamps used in mines.


Nikolaus Josef Schalkenbach

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(9 September, 1848 – December, 1925) was an electrical engineer and inventor in the field of electricity.

Around 1881 he actively supported his cousins ​​Hubert and Henri Tudor from Rosport with the installation of an electric lighting system in the Irminenhof there, the first in the country of Luxembourg. In addition to a Gramme-type dynamo driven by the ban mill, the circuit included a lead accumulator with rigid lead plates designed by Henri Tudor with a ribbed surface and Edison bulbs. The accumulator compensated for current fluctuations and stored the current when it was not needed.

In 1885, Schalkenbach contacted Adolph Müller, commercial representative of the electro-technical factory Spiecker & Co. from Cologne, several times to inform him of the first usable lead accumulator, which had been working faultlessly at the Irminenhof in Rosport for several years. It is thanks to Schalkenbach that Müller moved to Rosport to convince himself of the quality of the Tudor accumulator. Thus Schalkenbach has great credit for a development that led to the founding of a global company in 1890, Accumulatoren-Fabrik Aktiengesellschaft (AFA), which later became Varta AG.

In 1886, Schalkenbach founded the company Gebrüder Tudor & Schalkenbach with the brothers Hubert and Henri Tudor in Rosport, which immediately started to manufacture Tudor batteries for public lighting in the city of Echternach. Various authors make the assumption without proving that the Tudor electrode was an invention by Schalkenbach; Henri Tudor only served as the namesake when the patent was registered in 1886. This can be countered by the fact that Adolph Müller, who knew Schalkenbach well and is considered an extremely reliable rapporteur, always refers to Henri Tudor as the inventor and expert in his chronicle published in 1913.

Nikolaus Schalkenbach created a reliable electricity meter that was later developed by Hermann Aron and others. Such electricity meters have been manufactured in the Rosporter Tudor plant.


Edward Weston

(May 9, 1850 – August 20, 1936) was an English-born American chemist noted for his achievements in electroplating and his development of the electrochemical cell, named the Weston cell, for the voltage standard.

After receiving his medical diploma in 1870, where he found a job in the electroplating industry, realizing the need for a constant source of current, he developed an interest in power generation and invented several dynamos and generators. He eventually co-founded the Weston Electric Light Company in Newark, New Jersey and later won the contract to illuminate the Brooklyn Bridge.

He invented two alloys, constantan and manganin. Weston developed measurement instruments for electric current—the modern foundation for the voltmeter, ammeter and wattmeter.

Weston invented and patented the saturated cadmium cell in 1893. The cathode in the cell is an amalgam of cadmium with mercury, the anode is of pure mercury, and the electrolyte is a solution of cadmium sulphate. The Weston cell is a wet-chemical cell that produces a highly stable voltage suitable as a laboratory standard for calibration of voltmeters. The temperature coefficient was reduced by shifting to an unsaturated design, the predominant type today.


Carl Gassner

(17 November, 1855 – 31 January, 1942), is a German physician, scientist and inventor, better known to have contributed to improve the Leclanché cell and to have fostered the development of the first dry cell, also known as the zinc–carbon battery, less likely to break or leak and that could be effectively industrially produced at large scale.

In 1880, most of the door bells operated with a wet Leclanché cell containing an aqueous electrolyte solution which often dried out, rendering the cell unusable. To remediate to this inconvenient, in 1876, Georges Leclanché started to jellify the electrolyte of his cell by adding starch to the ammonium chloride, making also his cell more portable.

In 1885, Gassner also decided to modify the Leclanché cell by immobilizing the liquid electrolyte in plaster of Paris used as a porous binder, to which he added hydrophilic chemicals and zinc chloride. The purpose of the addition of ZnCl2 was to limit the corrosion rate of the zinc anode when the cell is not used and so to extend the service life of the cell. On 8 April 1886 he obtained a patent in Germany, and on 15 November 1887 in the United States.

Subsequently, the director of the Erfurt post-office ordered 100,000 batteries, forcing Gassner to establish a factory in Frankfurt. He could have earned millions of marks, but for peace he renounced all the rights of the Frankfurt company and the production was  interrupted.


Henri Owen Tudor

(30 September, 1859 – 31 May, 1928) was a Luxembourgish engineer, inventor, and industrialist. He developed the first commercially usable lead-acid battery. He was a student from 1879 to 1883 at the École Polytechnique, which was part of Brussels University. In 1885, the young engineer specialised at an electrical engineering institution in Paris.

Henri Tudor was interested in electricity and especially in its storage. He developed an electric lighting system in his father’s residence, the Irminenhof in Rosport, even before he had completed his engineering studies. During his vacations, he connected a Gramme type generator to the water-wheel of the Bannmillen, a mill located on the lower part of the property. Wires carried the electric energy from the mill to the house, which was illuminated with Edison light bulbs. The power supplied by the generator was obviously irregular. Furthermore, it was not used during off-peak hours. Henri Tudor had the idea of using lead acid accumulators as a buffer – to equalize the voltage and to store the unused energy.

Henri Tudor sought a permanent solution to lead-acid accumulator problems and manufactured himself a mould for casting large surface plates with which he built a lead-acid accumulator of his own design. With the combined equipment – generator and buffer battery – he was able to run continuously and constantly the power supply of the Irminenhof, which thus became the first private home in Luxembourg to have electric lighting.

In 1885, Adolph Müller, commercial representative for the Spiecker & Co. Electric Company in Cologne, travelled to Rosport to get further information on the reliable accumulator running in Rosport already for several years. After spending a few hours with Henri Tudor, Müller was convinced that he had seen with his own eyes an innovation which could be developed on a large scale. The two men agreed to wait until the large-scale street-lighting system in Echternach had been put in place. Once that had passed the test, Müller would begin to market, in Germany, accumulators made in Rosport. On 15 July 1888, Müller concluded an agreement with the Tudor brothers which assigned to the Accumulatoren-Fabrik Tudor’schen Systems Büsche & Müller in Hagen the exclusive right to manufacture and market Tudor accumulators in Germany, central and eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. The agreement also provided for the sharing of technology and licenses. Henri Tudor moved to Hagen to provide technical assistance during the start-up of the factory. He returned to Rosport in late 1888. Two years later, the Accumulatoren-Fabrik Tudor’schen Systems Büsche & Müller, now renamed Büsche & Einbeck, concluded an agreement with Siemens & Halske and AEG to establish a joint-stock company, the Accumulatoren-Fabrik Aktiengesellschaft (AFA). The demand was booming and turnover reached 3 300 000 marks. In 1891, it established a central research laboratory, where Henri Tudor acted as a scientific adviser. The improvements that he made included the negative plate with scraped-off paste and the unitary plate (1891), the development of new foundry moulds for finer grooves (1895–1896) and a solution to the problem of capacity loss observed on negative electrodes (1895–1896). AFA occupied a leading position on the German accumulator market and AFA shares were quoted on the Berlin Stock exchange from 1894 onwards. AFA changed its name in 1962 to Varta AG.


Ernst Waldemar Jungner

(June 19, 1869 – August 30, 1924) was a Swedish inventor and engineer. In 1899 he invented the nickel-iron electric storage battery (NiFe), the nickel-cadmium battery (NiCd) and the rechargeable alkaline silver-cadmium battery (AgCd). As an inventor he also fabricated a fire alarm based on different dilutions of metals. He worked on the electrolytic production of sodium carbonate, and patented a rock drilling device.

In 1900 he started the firm “Ackumulator Aktiebolaget Jungner”. There was a long patent dispute with Thomas Edison which was won by Edison in the end because he had larger financial resources. This caused serious problems to Jungner’s firm. The company managed to survive by using a slightly different name “Nya Ackumulator Aktiebolaget Jungner” in 1904. Jungner left the management of the company at this time, but remained a consultant to the new firm. This company was wound up in 1910, and a new company “Ackumulator Aktiebolaget Jungner” was created, which profitably used new technology developments. A descendant company “NiFe Junger” in 1991 became part of Saft Groupe S.A.


Gilbert Newton Lewis

(October 25, 1875 – March 23, 1946) was an American physical chemist and a former Dean of the College of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley. Lewis was best known for his discovery of the covalent bond and his concept of electron pairs; his Lewis dot structures and other contributions to valence bond theory have shaped modern theories of chemical bonding. Lewis also researched on relativity and quantum physics, and in 1926 he coined the term “photon” for the smallest unit of radiant energy.

Lithium is the metal with lowest density and with the greatest electrochemical potential and energy-to-weight ratio. The low atomic weight and small size of its ions also speeds its diffusion, suggesting that it would make an ideal material for batteries. Experimentation with lithium batteries began in 1912 under Lewis, but commercial lithium batteries did not come to market until the 1970s. Three volt lithium primary cells such as the CR123A type and three volt button cells are still widely used.


Carl Walther Nicolai Kangro

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(August 13, 1889, Riga, Latvia – 1976) was a chemist and university professor at the TU Braunschweig.

Kangro received his doctorate in physical chemistry in Leipzig in 1914 and from 1915 was an assistant at the Physikalisch-Chemisches Institut and later at the TH Hannover. He was head of the Institute of Metallurgical Chemistry at the TU Braunschweig. He was then senior engineer at Osram in Berlin from 1923 to 1925, before becoming senior engineer at the TH Braunschweig, where he became an associate professor and from 1936 to 1940 was director of the Chemical Metallurgy Institute . He retired in 1956.

In 1954 he was a pioneer in the concept of the redox flow battery. Further research was done at NASA in the 1970s. Redox flow batteries were later commercialized in the 1980s by Maria Skyllas-Kazacos in Australia (vanadium redox battery).

The Protagonists
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Sources : Wikipedia and others