Luigi A. Galvani

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Luigi A. Galvani (1737-1798). Italian anatomist, surgeon, and physiologist, Luigi Aloisio Galvani was born in Bologna in 1737. Although he started his studies to join the church, Galvani followed with medical studies at the University of Bologna, where he became a skilled anatomist and surgeon. On July 15, 1759 Galvani obtained his degree in medicine and philosophy.

He was interested in the effects of electricity on tissues and through observation and experimentation he postulated the existence of "animal electricity", that is, electricity generated within the tissues. He postulated the possibility that nerves carried electricity. His theories led to a passionate controversy with Volta, who denied Galvani's postulates. Galvani's theories would only be confirmed after his death. 

Galvani was deeply religious, and when forced by government officials to take an oath of atheism, he refused. He was stripped of his position and was lead to poverty. His position was restored close to his death. In his honor, Andre Ampere (1775-1836) named one of his inventions that measures electricity,  the "galvanometer". His name is also present in vernacular English, when we say that a rock star or a movie "galvanizes" an audience, meaning it was "electrifying"!

1. "Luigi Galvani" Haas LF J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry v.56(10); Oct 1993
2. "Luigi Galvani and the foundations of electrophysiology" Cajavilca C, Varonb,J,Sternbachc GL; Resuscitation 80 (2009) 159–162

Luigi Galvani

Original imagecourtesy of National Institutes of Health.