miércoles, 25 de febrero de 2009

Late improvements in Galvanism

In 1803, Giovanni Aldini, nephew of the Italian anatomical experimenter Luigi Galvani, had published an extraordinary book in London. Its full title was 'An Account of the late Improvements in Galvanism; with a series of curious and interesting experimtents 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 experiments on the body of a malefactor executed at Newgate...'

[...] For the first experiments, he reports that 'On the first application of the [electric] arcs the jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and the left eye actually opened.' The third experiment was more elaborate: 'The conductors being applied to the ear, and to the rectum, excited in the muscle contractions much stronger than in the preceding experiments. The action even of those muscles furthest distant from the points of contact with the arc was so much increased as almost to give an appearance of re-animation.'
By the fourth experiment, Aldini reports that the effect 'surpassed our most sanguine expectations, and vitality might, perhaps, had been restored, if many circumstances had not rendered it impossible'. He does not tell us what the 'many circumstances' were that prevented re-animation of the deceased murderer, and Aldini, despite his bizarrely heroic efforts, never did make the ultimate breakthrough, as the fictional Frankenstein would.

Maurice Hindle, Introducción a: Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Penguin, 2003. p.xli-xlii.