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Minds Behind the BrainA history of the pioneers and their discoveries$
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Stanley Finger

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181821

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181821.001.0001

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Luigi Galvani: Electricity and the Nerves

Luigi Galvani: Electricity and the Nerves

Chapter:
(p.101) 8 Luigi Galvani: Electricity and the Nerves
Source:
Minds Behind the Brain
Author(s):

Stanley Finger (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181821.003.0008

Physiologists in the opening decades of the 18th century were skeptical of existing theories about how the nerves work. Some scientists began to wonder whether the nervous system may work by electricity, a term coined by the British physicist William Gilbert around 1600. Because so many people were involved with electricity, and because knowledge about electricity led to developments in so many different scientific fields, some broad-minded historians say that there was no single figure dominating the study of electricity at this time. When discussions narrow to just the history of neurophysiology, however, Luigi Galvani stood out. Galvani's experiments and theories were not as revolutionary as they were evolutionary. Galvani studied electricity with animals because this was one of the most exciting things an aspiring scientist could do, and he was the recipient of a wealth of experimental findings and new ideas. This chapter looks at Galvani's experiments with animals such as frogs, his theory on animal electricity, and his conflict with Alessandro Volta. Works on electrotherapy and the electric fish are also considered.

Keywords:   Luigi Galvani, electricity, nerves, animals, experiments, Alessandro Volta, electrotherapy, electric fish, animal electricity, neurophysiology

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