Chapter

A “Fortunate” Discovery

Marco Piccolino, Marco Bresadola and Nicholas Wade

in Shocking Frogs

Published in print November 2013 | ISBN: 9780199782161
Published online June 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199345182 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199782161.003.0005
A “Fortunate” Discovery

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This chapter reconstructs the final stage of Galvani’s electrophysiological investigation, which led him to the publication of his theory of animal electricity. The final model of the muscle as an “animal Leyden jar” emerged from a tortuous path, characterized by Galvani’s ability to exploit the results coming from different research programmes such as the study of the role of “airs” (the 18th century term for gases) in the living bodies and the investigation of the effects of different forms of electricity on nerves and muscles. Between 1786 and 1791 Galvani elaborated several versions of his explanation of nerve conduction and muscular contraction, which varied with the progress of the experiments performed during this period as well as on reflections concerning electric fishes and tourmaline. The final version of his theory of animal electricity was formulated in 1791 and published in De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari, a major contribution in the history of science.

Keywords: pneumatics; leyden jar; animal electricity; tourmaline; metal arcs; atmospheric electricity

Chapter.  14816 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuropsychology ; Cognitive Psychology

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