William Robert Grove

William Robert Grove
Death date


William Robert Grove was born July 11th, 1811, in Wales, and is most known for the development of an improved wet-cell battery in 1838, named the Grove cell, which used a platinum electrode immersed in nitric acid and a zinc electrode in zinc sulfate to generate about 12 amps at 1.8 volts.

He was educated by private tutors and then at Brasenose College, Oxford, and studied law at Lincoln's Inn. He turned away from his law career and towards science, developing the two-fluid electric cell, known as the Grove cell or Grove battery. He used his batteries to produce electric light for a lecture at the London Institution as a professor of experimental philosophy, and developed the "gas battery," the first fuel cell, in 1842, which used the formation of water from hydrogen and oxygen gas to generate current.

His On the Correlation of Physical Forces in 1846 enunciated the principle of conservation of energy a year before Hermann von Helmholtz did so in Über die Erhaltung der Kraft (“On the Conservation of Force”). After 1853 he turned back to law and patent work, and was appointed to the Court of Common Pleas in 1871 and knighted in 1872. He resumed scientific studies in 1887 after retiring from the bench. He died in 1896 at 85 years old in London.

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