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Selected experiments as reported by Aldini in 1803 (1)

Selected experiments as reported by Aldini in 1803, when he summarized experiments and demonstrations over the prior decade.

(Fig. 1, bottom left): "Having provided the head of an ox, recently killed, I thrust a finger of one of my hands, moistened with salt water, into one of the ears, at the same time that I held a prepared frog in the other hand, in such a manner that its spinal marrow touched the upper part of the tongue. When this arrangement was made, strong convulsions were observed in the frog; but on separating the arc all the contractions ceased."

(Fig. 3, bottom right): "Having placed the trunk of a calf on an insulated table, I made a longitudinal incision in the breast, in order to obtain a long series of muscles uncovered. I then arranged two insulated persons in such a manner that the one with a finger, moistened by salt water, touched the spinal marrow of the calf, while the other applied the spinal marrow of a frog to the muscles of the trunk. Every time this arc was formed, muscular contractions were produced in the frog. When the two persons let go each other’s hands, the contractions ceased. I repeated this experiment, with the same success, on the insulated head of an ox, conveying the arc from the spinal marrow of the frog to the tongue. Frogs were as violently affected when the experiment was made with the insulated trunks of different kinds of birds. This experiment, in my opinion, affords a decisive proof that the Galvanic fluid is peculiar to the animal machine, independently of the influence of metals, or of any other foreign cause."

(Source: Plate 1. Aldini J. An account of the late improvements in galvanism, with a series of curious and interesting experiments performed before the commissioners of the French National Institute, and repeated lately in the anatomical theatres of London: To which is added, an appendix, containing the author’s experiments on the body of a malefactor executed at Newgate. &c. &c. illustrated with engravings. London: Wilks and Taylor, 1803.)

Associated Disorders

  • Central nervous system injury
  • Movement disorders
  • Peripheral nervous system injury