Volta vs Galvani - The animal electricity debate

In 1801 Volta invented the voltaic pile. It revolutionised study into electricity's effect on the body by providing, for the first time, a continuous current.  

Alessandro Volta, head and shoulders portrait, engraved by Ambroise Tardieu from a painting by Noccolo Bettoni

A prolific contributor to medical electricity, Volta in 1801 invented the voltaic pile. It revolutionised study into electricity's effect on the body by providing, for the first time, a continuous current. He also studied its effect on animals, vehemently objecting to Galvani's inference of animal electricity. 

He claimed that the contractions obtained could be attributed to an excess or defect of electricity in different parts of the animal, which would have been due instead to the effect of two different metals (in the same manner as his pile). The debate raged for some years until the term galvanism was introduced, the use of which did not commit one to any particular allegiance.

Engraved images of Volta's pile

 

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