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September 9th 1737: Luigi Galvani born

On this day in 1737, the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani was born in Bologna. Galvani is best known for his 1771 experiment where he made the muscles of dread frog legs twitch when touched with a spark. He is thus considered a pioneer of the study of bioelectricity. Galvani died in December 1798. His work was an inspiration for Mary Shelley when she was writing ‘Frankenstein’. The word ‘galvanise’ is based on his name due to his famous experiments into the process.

The electrical currents generated by and through the neurons or nerve cells were the means by which the Italian anatomist Luigi Galvani discovered electricity. Galvani had found that electrical impulses could be conducted to the legs of frogs, which dutifully twitched; and the idea became popular that animal motion (“animation”) was in its deepest sense caused by electricity. This is at best a partial truth; electrical impulses transmitted along nerve fibers do, through neurochemical intermediaries, initiate such movements as the articulation of limbs, but the impulses are generated in the brain. Nevertheless, the modern science of electricity and the electrical and electronic industries all trace their origins to eighteenth-century experiments on the electrical stimulation of twitches in frogs.
—  Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence

Electricity and mental disease:

In the late 1700’s, Italian physician Dr. Luigi Galvani discovered that frog muscles reacted electrically when exposed to certain metals, which led to the notion that nerve pulses are electrical charges. One day, Galvani’s cousin, Dr. Giovanni Aldani, convinced French asylums to let him treat hopelessly depressed patients with electricity.

By the 1850’s, electricity was widely used to treat psychiatric ailments and would eventually turn into electroconvulsive therapy nearly a century later. This photo shows a man receiving static sparks to the spine for psychosis from tabes dorsalis, a degenerative nerve condition brought on by Syphilis.

Photo: Dr. Stanley B. Burns

DSCN4376 _ Piazza Luigi Galvani and Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna, 18 October on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
Basilica di San Petronio and San Domenico in Bologna
However, in order to fully gauge the massiveness of this structure, it would be the best to approach it from the back where other “modern” buildings helped viewers to scale the Basilica. Moreover, some exposed bricks lent a feeling of a rugged fortress.

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Also in the cockroach hacking vein, Greg Gage’s Cockroach Beatbox presentation. The video is worth watching for the students’ reactions alone.

Actual quotes from my actual physics teacher
  • Him:“Are we done yet? We ARE done, yes?”
  • Class:“... no....”
  • Him:“What? I thought I heard a yes. Someone said yes. I think it was me.”
  • Him:“What did the hare lose by?”
  • Student (reading from worksheet):“A shell.”
  • Him:“So does that mean the tortoise wins by a hair?”
  • Him:“During the 1780s, Luigi Galvani conducted an experiment... Of course, Franklin’s experiments weren’t long before this, but by the 1780s, he was busy with that silly independence stuff.”
  • Him:“What unit do you use to measure power?”
  • Student:“Watts.”
  • Him:“What? What did you say? Watt?”
  • Him:“What are you made of?”
  • Student:“Saltwater.”
  • Him:“That means you are... a battery, right? So the next time someone degrades you, you can just tell them that you have potential.”
  • Him:“What, you’ve NEVER seen a double rainbow before? You have to live.”
  • Him:“There’s a light, I’m not drunk, I can focus it on my eye.”
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