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The Volta Prize (French: le Prix Volta) was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801–1802 to honor Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist noted for developing the battery. At that time Alessandro Volta was summoned to Paris to demonstrate his great discovery before the French Academy of Sciences. Bonaparte declared his presentation a triumph, awarded him a gold medal and conceived of the Volta Prize named in his honor. The French government awards the Volta Prize for scientific achievement in electricity.
Notable recipients of the Volta Grand Prize have included Sir Humphry Davy, Heinrich Ruhmkorff (1864), who commercialised the induction coil, and Zénobe Gramme, inventor of the Gramme dynamo and the first practical electric motor used in industry.
One of its most notable awards was made in 1880, when Alexander Graham Bell received the third Grand Volta Prize with its purse of 50,000 francs (approximately US$10,000 at that time, about $230,000 in current dollars) for the invention of the telephone from L’Académie française, representing the French government. Among the luminaries who judged were Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. Since Bell was himself becoming more affluent, he used the prize money to create institutions in and around the United States capital of Washington, D.C., including the prestigious Volta Laboratory Association (in 1880, also known as the 'Volta Laboratory' and as the 'Alexander Graham Bell Laboratory'), with his endowment fund (the 'Volta Fund'), and then in 1887 the 'Volta Bureau', which later became the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
^ a b c Crosland, Maurice P. "Science Under Control: The French Academy of Sciences, 1795–1914", Cambridge University Press, 1992. As cited by James Love in KEI Issues Report on Selected Innovation Prizes and Reward Programs: The Volta Prize For Electricity, March 20, 2008, pg.16. Retrieved from Knowledge Ecology International website on January 5, 2010.