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The Shocking History of Electric FishesFrom Ancient Epochs to the Birth of Modern Neurophysiology$
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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

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Galvanism contra “Voltaism”: Electric Fishes and the “Unsolvable” Dilemma

Galvanism contra “Voltaism”: Electric Fishes and the “Unsolvable” Dilemma

(p.339) Chapter 23 Galvanism contra “Voltaism”: Electric Fishes and the “Unsolvable” Dilemma
The Shocking History of Electric Fishes

Stanley Finger

Marco Piccolino

Oxford University Press

With the invention of his battery—that is, his artificial electrical organ—Volta obtained the kind of celebrity and fame that is granted only to the greatest contributors to the sciences. He became a scientific hero, a giant celebrated alongside other such giants, including Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Sir Isaac Newton. But despite his overwhelming successes, Volta soon started to be dissatisfied by the way the electricity from his battery was viewed by some of the experts in the field. He was particularly discontented by the fact that there were still some scientists who did not view his newly discovered metallic electricity as a genuine electricity—one identical to the artificial electricity of friction machines and the natural electricity witnessed during lightning storms. In an impressive series of experiments that would terminate only at the end of his scientific life, Volta worked hard to show that he could imitate all the phenomena of a torpedo with his electric battery. His device could produce shocks even if immersed in water, and it could produce its electrical effects for considerable distances under the water.

Keywords:   Volta, battery, electricity, torpedo, metallic electricity, friction machines

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