Grove, Sir William Robert
Sir William Robert Grove (1811-1896), a British physicist and justice of Britain's high court. He first demonstrated the fuel cell while experimenting with electrolysis in 1839. He reasoned that if electricity could produce hydrogen and oxygen, then combining the two (reversing the process) should create electricity. Grove tested this theory by enclosing two platinum strips in separate sealed bottles, one containing hydrogen and the other containing oxygen. When these containers were immersed in diluted sulfuric acid, a current began to flow between the two electrodes and water was formed in the gas bottles—Grove had devised the world’s first “gas battery,” later renamed the fuel cell. However, interest in Grove's gas battery diminished with the discovery of cheap, abundant fossil fuels that could more effectively and affordably generate electricity.