Gaston Planté was a French physicist who developed the first lead-acid rechargeable electric storage battery.
Planté was born in Orthez, France, in 1834. He became a professor of physics in Paris in the 1850s. One of his earliest accomplishments was discovering the first fossils of a prehistoric flightless bird near Paris.
In 1859, Planté designed a battery that could store a useful amount of energy. Unlike the state-of-the-art Daniell Cell, it could be recharged by reversing the ordinary negative-to-positive flow of electrons. His design was built around two electrodes, an anode of lead and a cathode of lead dioxide, separated by a rubber strip and placed in sulfuric acid. This battery produced a charge of two volts, almost double that of the Daniell Cell. Planté presented a series of nine connected cells to the French Academy of Sciences in 1860. The modern lead-acid batteries modeled on Planté’s design, however, contain six cells that produce twelve volts.
The Planté battery has been installed in applications requiring temporary high-voltage electricity. An improved design, featuring longer life, was created by French engineer Camille Faure in 1881 and was applied in the creation of the modern twelve volt automobile battery.