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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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Animal Spirits and Physiology

Animal Spirits and Physiology

(p.179) Chapter 11 Animal Spirits and Physiology
The Shocking History of Electric Fishes

Stanley Finger

Marco Piccolino

Oxford University Press

Advances in the science and technology of electricity created a new scientific attitude by the middle of the 18th century, one in which natural philosophers began to see many phenomena in new ways. This changing perception applied to physiology, and particularly to how the nerves and muscles might work. This chapter looks at older theories of nerve and muscle physiology, at how the idea that these structures are electrical first emerged—and at some of the controversies this generated. From a broader perspective, the chapter deals with the start of a fundamental shift away from classical science—one that was to lead to a great revolution in the biological sciences, a paradigm shift akin to that of Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood.

Keywords:   physiology, classical science, electricity, nerves, muscles

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