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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

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
Category: Electricity
Title: 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
Release Date: 2018-06-04
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Date added: 27 March 2019
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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.


By JOHN ALDINI,

PROFESSOR OF EXPERIMENTAL PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA, MEMBER OF THE MEDICAL AND GALVANICSOCIETIES OF PARIS, OF THE MEDICAL SOCIETY OF LONDON, ETC.


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.

Illustration: Medallion

LONDON:

PRINTED FOR CUTHELL AND MARTIN, MIDDLE-ROW, HOLBORN,
AND J. MURRAY, NO. 32, FLEET-STREET,

BY WILKS AND TAYLOR, CHANCERY-LANE.

1803.

EDITOR’S PREFACE.


Few discoveries in modern times have excited somuch curiosity as that of Galvanism. Ever since itwas first made known by its celebrated Author, it hasengaged the attention of the most eminent philosophersin Europe; and various researches have been undertakento ascertain the principles on which it depends;and the laws to which it is subject.

Though some of its singular properties are fullyestablished, it must be allowed that the discovery isstill in its infancy; but enough of it is known to proveits importance, and to induce philosophers to continuetheir researches, which there is every reason to supposemay lead to some very curious results.

The experiments, indeed, which have already beenmade, seem to indicate that it may open a new field inthe healing art; and it appears by a late report presentedto the Class of the Exact Sciences of the Academyof Turin, that the medical application of it has beenattended with the most beneficial effects in a case ofconfirmed hydrophobia.

While Galvanism, independently of other advantages,holds out such hopes of utility in regard to objectsso interesting to mankind; a work containing afull account of the late improvements which have beenmade in it, illustrated by a complete course of experiments,cannot fail of being acceptable to the public ingeneral, and in particular to medical men, to whosedepartment, in one point of view, it more essentiallybelongs.

When Professor Aldini left this country, the manuscript,written in French, together with two printedLatin Dissertations, was put into the Editor’s hands,in order that they might be prepared for the press. Atranslation of these forms the principal part of thework: and an Appendix has been added, containingthe author’s experiments on the body of a malefactorexecuted at Newgate; experiments of a similar kindon the bodies of three criminals decapitated at Bologna;and an experiment lately made at Calais, whichseems to show that Galvanism is susceptible of beingconveyed to a very considerable distance through thewater of the sea.

The Editor thinks it necessary to observe, that theprincipal experiments, of which an account is givenin this work, are illustrated by proper engravings, andthat the title page is embellished with a representationof the gold medal presented to the Author, as a markof their respect, by the medical professors and pupilsof Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals.

London,
May 12th, 1803.

CONTENTS.


PART I.
PAGE
OF THE NATURE AND GENERAL PROPERTIES OF GALVANISM.
Proposition I. Muscular contractions are excited by thedevelopment of a fluid in the animal machine, which isconducted from the nerves to the muscles without the concurrenceor action of metals 3
Prop. II. The Galvanism excited, in the preceding experiments,is not owing to the communication nor to the transfusionof the general electricity, but to an electricity peculiarto animals, which acts a very distinguished part in theanimal economy 6
Prop. III. Galvanism develops itself in a powerful manner,independently of metals, by means of the human animalmachine 8
Prop. IV. Muscular contractions can be excited, undercertain conditions, without establishing a continued arcfrom the nerves to the muscles 11
Prop. V. The effects of Galvanism, in the preceding experiments,do not depend on the action of any stimulant,which occurs in performing the experiments, and ought notto be confounded with the effects of that action 12
Prop. VI. Galvanism is excited in the animal machine withoutany intermediate body, and merely by the applicationof the nerves to the muscles 14
Prop. VII. The heterogeneity of metals contributes, in agreat degree, to excite muscular contractions with morefacility, but is not absolutely necessary to their production 19
Prop. VIII. The Leyden flask, the Voltaic pile, and animalsubstances, have the faculty of absorbing principles fromthe atmospheric air in an insulated plenum 21
Prop. IX. Flame prevents the action of the Leyden flask,as well as that of the pile, and also muscular contractions 27
Prop. X. Certain fluids, applied to the whole surface ofthe pile, or of animal parts, do not prevent the action ofGalvanism 29
Prop. XI. Mere electrization, by means of the commonkinds of apparatus, does not increase the action of Galvanism 32
Prop. XII. The Galvanic action is increased by employingas part of the arc the apparatus of Volta, or theelectrified Leyden flask 34
Prop. XIII. Galvanism, in animals and in the pile, traverseslarge spaces with the same rapidity as the electricfluid 36
Prop. XIV. The muscular contractions, which, accordingto the observations of Galvani, are produced by an electricatmosphere whether natural or artificial, correspond entirelywith those produced by the pile, or by similar kindsof apparatus 37
Prop. XV. Opium, cinchona, and other stimulants of asimilar kind, which exercise a powerful action on the animalmachine, contribute also to excite the action of thepile 41
Prop. XVI. If the general relation between Galvanism andelectricity be examined, such a correspondence will be foundbetween them, as tends to confirm the analogy alreadystated 44
Prop. XVII. The hypothesis of an animal pile, analogousto that formed artificially, seems well calculated to explainthe sensations and contractions in the animal machine 47
PART THE SECOND.
ON THE INFLUENCE WHICH GALVANISM HAS ON THEVITAL POWERS 53
Section I. Galvanism applied to various quadrupeds,birds, and other warm-blooded animals 54
Section II. Experiments made on human bodies afterdeath 67
PART THE THIRD.
ON THE POWER OF GALVANISM AS APPLIED TO MEDICINE 97
Sect. I. Advantages which the medical administration ofGalvanism has over that of common electricity 99
Sect. II. Application of Galvanism to the organs of hearingand of sight 101
Sect. III. Application of Galvanism in cases of asphyxiaand drowning 110
Sect. IV. Galvanism applied to the cure of melancholymadness 113
Sect. V. General reflections on the action and influencewhich Galvanism, considered in a medical point of view,exercises on the animal œconomy 123
Dissertation on animal electricity, read in the Instituteof Bologna in the year 1793 133
Second Dissertation on animal electricity, read in theInstitute of Bologna in the year 1794 155
Conclusion 186

APPENDIX

189
No. I. An account of the experiments performed, byJ. Aldini, on the body of a malefactor executed atNewgate Jan. 17, 1803 ib.
No. II. Report presented to the Class of the Exact Sciencesof the Academy of Turin, 15th August 1802, in regardto the Galvanic experiments made by C. Vassali-Eandi,Giulio, and Rossi, on the 10th and 14th ofthe same month, on the bodies of three men a short timeafter their decapitation. By C. Giulio 204
No. III. Account of an experiment made at Calais, on thetransmission of Galvanism through an arm of the sea 217
Pg 1

AN ACCOUNT

OF THE LATE

IMPROVEMENTS IN GALVANISM.


A just tribute of applause has been bestowed on the celebratedProfessor Volta for his late discovery; and I have nodesire to deprive him of any part of that honour to which heis so justly entitled; but I am far from entertaining an ideathat we ought, on this account, to neglect the first labours ofGalvani. Though these two philosophers pursued differentroutes, they concurred to throw considerable light on thesame points of science; and the question now is, to determinewhich of them deduced the most just consequences from thefacts he observed; and then to ascertain whether the factsestablished by Galvani lead to the theory of Volta, or whetherthose discovered by Volta are connected with the theory ofGalvani. For my part, I am of opinion that these two theoriesmay serve in an eminent degree to illustrate each other.

Last year Professor Volta announced to the public theaction of the metallic pile. I here propose to exhibit, accordingPg 2to the principles of Professor Galvani, the action of theanimal pile.

Such is the plan I have conceived in order to reconcile thesystems of these two illustrious philosophers: it forms theobject of the present work, which is divided into three parts.In the first I shall exhibit the action of Galvanism independentlyof metals, and explain some of its general properties.The second will contain experiments on the powerof Galvanism to excite the vital forces. In the third I shallpropose some useful applications of it to medicine, and explainthe principles on which the new medical administrationof Galvanism is founded. To render the work as methodicalas possible, I have endeavoured to arrange the experiments insuch a manner that they may serve as proofs to a series ofgeneral propositions, which, it is hoped, will be of use tophysiology and to the doctrine of the animal economy.


Pg 3

PART THE FIRST.

OF THE NATURE AND GENERAL PROPERTIES OFGALVANISM.


PROPOSITION I.

Muscular contractions are excited by the development of afluid in the animal machine, which is conducted from the nervesto the muscles without the concurrence or action of metals.

EXPERIMENT I.

Having provided the head of an ox, recently killed, Ithrust a finger of one of my hands, moistened with saltwater, into one of the ears (Plate I. fig. 1.), at the same timethat I held a prepared frog in the other hand, in such a mannerthat its spinal marrow touched the upper part of thetongue. When this arrangement was made, strong convulsionswere observed in the frog; but on separating the arc allthe contractions ceased.

This experiment will succeed still better if the arc be conveyedfrom the tongue of the ox to the spinal marrow of thefrog. This method was found to be exceedingly convenientfor trying the effect

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