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Selected experiments as reported by Aldini in 1803 (3)

"On the power of galvanism as applied to medicine." Selected experiments as reported by Aldini in 1803, when he summarized experiments and demonstrations over the prior decade.

(Fig. 1) “I have had few opportunities of applying Galvanism in diseases of the organs of hearing. ... One extremity of the lever which forms the communication, is fixed to the base or negative end of the pile, and the other terminates in a small hammer, so placed as to strike a bell, which by means of a bason of water is in communication with certain parts of the patient, while an arc extends from the patient to the summit or positive end of the pile. In consequence of this arrangement, every time that the small hammer strikes the bell the Galvanic action of the pile is repeated. In cases of deafness, I cause the patient to hold in one hand an insulated metallic arc, one end of which is brought into contact with the affected ear, and the other with the positive end of the pile; and to immerse the other hand in a bason [sic, basin] of salt water placed above the bell. When this disposition has been made, the wheel-work is turned round, which gives motion to the lever; and every time that the hammer strikes the bell, a communication is formed between the positive and negative ends of the pile: consequently there will then be a circulation of the fluid, and the Galvanism will exercise a direct action on the organ of hearing."

(Fig. 3) "But as I observed that the action of Galvanism on the ears was sometimes too violent, we thought proper to apply it in a more moderate and less dangerous manner. Several persons having been induced through curiosity to try this action, the result, besides a violent commotion of the whole substance of the brain against the skull, was a state of watchfulness which continued several days running, and which I experienced myself as well as others. We then conceived the idea of shaving the head above the suture of the parietal bone; and having moistened the shaven part with salt water, a piece of gold or silver coin was placed over it. The patient then touched with one of his hands the bottom of the pile, and at the same time an arc was established from the summit of the pile to the metallic armature placed on the head. By this arrangement the action of the Galvanism was rendered more moderate; the patient endured it for a long time, and seemed to be greatly relieved by it."

(Source: Plate 3. 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