An Account of the Late Improvements in Galvanism

An Account of the Late Improvements in Galvanism

About this book

Aldini, the nephew of Galvani, was the premier apologist for his uncle's theories of animal electricity. His Account of the Late Improvements represents his first book-length treatment of galvanism; it was translated from his original French manuscript, and included supplements taken from his previous short papers in Latin, as well as an account of Aldini's sensational galvanic experiments performed on executed criminals. This work, which is rare on the market, is in many ways the most dramatic of all the early works on medical electricity. Aldini's book was the outcome of a successful tour of England, during which he demonstrated aspects of galvanism at hospitals and on the body of a murderer, George Foster, who had been executed at Newgate Prison on 18 January 1803. This last demonstration, during which "the jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted and the left eye actually opened" (p. 193), seized the imagination of the British public and remained an enduring theme in popular culture. Mary Shelley, who knew of Aldini's work, used the idea of galvanic reanimation to brilliant effect in her classic novel Frankenstein (1818). Aldini's experiments on cadavers were important for the development of cardiac electrostimulation, while his successful treatment of "melancholy madness" (schizophrenia) with electricity anticipated modern electroshock therapy. Aldini performed his Newgate experiments with the help of Joseph Carpue, who published the first English book on medical electricity later that same year (Garrison-Morton 1989)

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