William Cruickshank
b. 1745, England
d. 1800, England

William Cruickshank, an English chemist, designed the first electric battery capable of mass production by joining zinc and copper plates in a wooden box filled with electrolyte. He also performed experiments leading to electroplating.


The first of the long list of those to improve the battery was Dr. William Cruickshank who also discovered the metal strontium in 1787. In 1802, Dr. William Cruickshank designed the first electric battery capable of mass production. Cruickshank had arranged square sheets of copper, which he soldered at their ends, together with sheets of zinc of equal size. These sheets were placed into a long rectangular wooden box that was sealed with cement. Grooves in the box held the metal plates in position. The box was then filled with an electrolyte of brine, or watered down acid. This flooded design had the advantage of not drying out with use and provided more energy than Volta’s disc arrangement.

Cruickshank and the first flooded battery

With this battery Dr. Cruickshank was able to extract metals out of their solutions, thereby establishing the art of electroplating. Although the new arrangement was an important improvement, the cells still leaked and were untidy. Cruickshank decomposed the chlorides of magnesia, soda and ammonia and he was able to precipitate pure copper and silver from their salt solutions - a process that led to the beginnings of the great metal refineries of today.

William Cruickshank, an English chemist, after reading Volta's letter built a battery of electric "cells" by joining zinc and copper plates in a prepared wooden box. With this, the first improvement on Volta's battery, he decomposed compounds and electroplated metals.
(from Le Regne de l'Electricite, 1895)

Additional discoveries showed that the liquid around the poles connected with the positive wire of the battery proved to be alkaline and the liquid around the negative wire was shown to be acid. Finally, the common term "cell" associated with the elements of an electric battery was derived from Cruickshank's arrangement of elements in his trough battery.

This text has been compiled from the biography of Cruickshank available in the Internet:
( 1 , 2 )

(updated & corrected on April 4, 2003) 1