Alessandro Volta, man and scientist

3. The discovery of methane
In October of the same year (1775) Count Firmian put Volta in charge of Experimental Physics at the State Grammar School in Como.
While on his summer holidays, in 1776, on Lake Maggiore, his boat went alongside the reeds near Angera. Volta began to poke the muddy bottom of the water with a stick and saw lots of gassy bubbles floating up to burst on the surface. He collected some of this gas and discovered it was inflammable. He called it inflammable air from marshlands. It was what we nowadays call methane.

Gas collecting in the marshes at Angera

The possibility of sparking off an explosion with a mixture of gas, even in a closed environment, led Volta to construct an interesting gadget later called Volta’s Pistol.

Signed drawing of Volta's Pistol