Luigi Galvani

Luigi Galvani (1737-1798)

Luigi Galvani (1737 – 1798) Italian obstetrician, surgeon and anatomist.

Discovered the physiological action of electricity and demonstrated the existence of natural electric current in animal tissue – “the electrical forces in muscular movements” or the ‘animal electricity

Alessandro Volta, Italian Scientist and inventor, attempts to disprove Galvani’s theory of “animal electricity'” by showing that the electrical current is generated by the combination of two dissimilar metals.

Einthoven refers to Galvani in the naming of his string galvanometer


Biography

  • Born 9 September 1737 Bologna, Italy
  • 1775 – Chair of anatomy, University of Bologna
  • 1782 – Professor of obstetrics, University of Bologna
  • 1797 – Refused to swear oath to the Cisalpine Republic, the new state renounced his academic and public positions. Galvani lost his financial income and home, he moved in with his brother and died within a year depressed and in poverty.
  • Died 4 December 1798 Bologna, Italy

Medical Eponyms

  • Galvanic cell, Galvani potential,
  • Galvanic corrosion
  • Galvanization – and the origin of the metaphorical use of the verb “galvanize”
  • The Galvanometer –  instrument for measuring (and recording) electricity – this is essentially what an ECG is; a sensitive galvanometer.
  • Medicine: Galvanic skin response.

Key Medical Attributions

Galvani noted that a dissected frog’s leg twitches when touched with a metal scalpel. He had been studying the effects of electricity on animal tissues that summer. On 20th September 1786 Galvani wrote

I had dissected and prepared a frog in the usual way and while I was attending to something else I laid it on a table on which stood an electrical machine at some distance from its conductor and separated from it by a considerable space. Now when one of the persons present touched accidentally and lightly the inner crural nerves of the frog with the point of a scalpel, all the muscles of the legs seemed to contract again and again as if they were affected by powerful cramps.

Galvani showed that direct contact with the electrical generator or the ground through an electrical conductor would lead to a muscle contraction. Using brass hooks attached to frog’s spinal cord suspended from an iron railing, he noticed that the frogs’ legs twitched during lightening storms and also when the weather was fine…

Galvani interpreted these results in terms of ‘animal electricity’ or the preservation in the animal of ‘nerveo-electrical fluid’ similar to that of an electric eel. He later also showed that electrical stimulation of a frog’s heart leads to cardiac muscular contraction.

Alessandro Volta, Italian Scientist and inventor, attempts to disprove Galvani’s theory of “animal electricity'” by showing that the electrical current is generated by the combination of two dissimilar metals.


Major Publications


References


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eponym

the person behind the name

Dr Ben Mackenzie emergency medicine trainee | LinkedIn |

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