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Selected experiments as reported by Aldini in 1803 (2)

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

(Fig. 1) "The head of an ox, recently killed, was subjected to the action of a [voltaic] pile [ie, a batterhy] composed of fifty plates of copper and zinc, separated, as usual, by small pieces of pasteboard moistened with a solution of muriate of soda [ie, common salt, sodium chloride, to facilitate conduction]. Having moistened one of the ears with the same solution, by means of a syringe, I introduced into it one extremity of a metallic wire. I then formed an arc with this wire to the summit of the pile, and by means of another wire made a communication between the bottom of the pile and the nostrils. When this apparatus was applied, the eyes were seen to open, the ears to shake, the tongue to be agitated, and the nostrils to swell, in the same manner as those of the living animal, when irritated and desirous of combating another of the same species. I then moistened both the ears with salt water, by the same method as before, and inserted into each an extremity of one of the arcs. When the Galvanism was communicated, the movements already described were reproduced; but they appeared to be much more violent."

(Fig. 2) "A pile composed of a hundred pieces of silver and zinc being employed, the tongue issued from the mouth four inches, and re-entered it an inch, on each application of the arc; notwithstanding the resistance opposed by the teeth which pressed against it: so that after four or five applications of the arc it was entirely restored to its usual situation."

(Fig. 4) "The head and trunk of a dog, separated from each other, and placed in such a manner as to leave an interval of about a foot between them, were made to move simultaneously by applying the Galvanic action to one of the ears, and to a small incision made in one of the extremities of the trunk."

(Source: Plate 2. 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