Battery (n.) - Destroying Cities and Powering Our Lives

Battery (n.) - Destroying Cities and Powering Our Lives


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Definition

Battery

noun
A device that uses chemical reactions to create an electrical current.

Or multiple similar items used together to create an effect greater than a single item. This sense is generally used for artillery, but can also apply to electrical cells, or medical tests.

History & Etymology

The words battery, batter and battle all come from the same Latin word, battuō. In Latin this word meant to beat, hit, pound or beat up. 

For words like battle and batter it makes sense how those words came in to being.  Even in the sense of brownie batter it makes sense because of how the ingredients are beaten together.

Well let’s follow the trail from the Latin and see where it leads. When vulgar Latin became Old French baterie meant to thrash or assault. During the transition between Old French and Middle French the word also applied to the bombardment of a city with projectiles, and began to be used to describe the artillery doing the bombarding. 

When battery entered the English language in the 1530s it’s most common use was to describe the unlawful beating of a person and in military terminology to describe a unit of artillery. 

Over time the military use of the word battery started changing to any group of similar things used to achieve a greater effect. Example would be something like a battery of tests.

In the late 1740s Benjamin Franklin created what he called an electric battery out of a series capacitors made from glass window panes. Each window pane was an individual capacitor and stored a small amount of electricity, but when they were put together they could suite store and output at more power. This is why Franklin used the word battery. When multiple capacitor are put together to create a greater discharge, it fit the definition at the time. 

But that's still not really what we call a battery today. The first battery in the sense we use the word today was invented in 1799 by Alessandro Volta when he published his work on the Voltaic Pile Though at the time and for some time after this was not called a battery, but when they were connected together to discharge more power that's when they would become a battery. , but at the time this was simply referred to as a Voltaic Pile or Voltaic Cell. Still the word battery wasn’t applied to these cells until multiple cells were put together. 

Growing up in Oregon my family made many trips to the coast where we visited a place called Battery Russell. As a kid growing up when every toy required batteries to operate I couldn’t figure out why this place was called a battery.

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