The Body Electric

Today is the 261st anniversary of the birth of Luigi Galvani, an Italian anatomist known for his discovery of electrical conductivity in animals. Galvani made the chance observation, described in 1791, that a frog will twitch if laid out for dissection on a table with a generator. He then showed that convulsions could be produced by connecting the frog to a lightning conductor during stormy weather, and whenever the frog formed part of a circuit containing one or more pieces of metal. Galvani spurred a vigorous debate about whether the electricity resided in the animal, as he supposed, or in the metals, as Allessandro Volta proposed. Volta was proved correct in 1800 when he discovered the voltaic cell.

[Source: Trevor I. Williams, Ed., A Biographical Dictionary of Scientists (John Wiley & Sons, New York, ed. 3, 1982).]