Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
The Shocking History of Electric FishesFrom Ancient Epochs to the Birth of Modern Neurophysiology$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Stanley Finger and Marco Piccolino

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195366723

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195366723.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 21 March 2019

From the Occult to Mechanical Theories of the Discharge

From the Occult to Mechanical Theories of the Discharge

(p.137) Chapter 9 From the Occult to Mechanical Theories of the Discharge
The Shocking History of Electric Fishes

Stanley Finger

Marco Piccolino

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines new theories about the mechanisms of torpedo discharge that emerged as a consequence of the scientific revolution of the 17th century. These theories are centered on mechanical actions, and specifically violent contractions of special muscles (musculi falcate or falciform muscles) in the fish's body. The basic idea is that rapid muscular contractions could, in some way, produce the torpedo's well-known benumbing effects. From the viewpoint of modern science, these theories were largely flawed. As we now know, the torpedo's shocks are electrical and not mechanical in nature. But while this is clear now, the new mechanical explanations for the torpedo's powers were clearly advances over the idea of a cold poison, which can be traced back to Galen's era, and over the numerous vague references to occult or hidden qualities, which became popular during the Renaissance but really explained nothing. In brief, they were based on a “new” and more demanding sort of science and on new ways of thinking.

Keywords:   torpedo discharge, scientific revolution, electrical shock, electric fish, musculi falcate, falciform muscles

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .