Cambridge, 1904: The Engineer

Alan J. McComas

in Galvani’s Spark

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780199751754
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199897094 | DOI:
Cambridge, 1904: The Engineer

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Using a sensitive capillary electrometer, Francis Gotch and Victor Horsley obtain the first, barely detectable, recordings of nerve impulses. Later, Keith Lucas begins a novel and important series of investigations into the properties of nerve and muscle impulses at Cambridge. Once conclusion is that the impulse maintains its full amplitude while travelling along a fibre (the “all or none” law). After a brilliant undergraduate career, Edgar Adrian joins Lucas. Together, they conclude that the energy for the transmission of the impulse is derived locally, from the fibre itself-rather like the firing of a train of gunpowder. They decide to use the capillary electrometer rather than the newly-invented Einthoven string galvanometer for their further studies. With the outbreak of the 1914–18 war, their work is brought to a halt.

Keywords: Keith Lucas; Edgar Adrian; all or none law; capillary electrometer; string galvanometer

Chapter.  4314 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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