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Electric Torpedo Ray

Early debate centred on whether there was any relationship between the 'nervous fluids' of animals and atmospheric electricity.

Engraved diagrams of the electric organs of the Torpedo Ray

Human scientific study of electrical phenomena has always had its relationship to the human body at the forefront of investigation. 

Gilbert in his famous treatise De Magnete reveals that as early as 1600 lodestone was considered a possible cure for headaches, insanity and poisoning.

It was even believed that this earliest studied electrical force would cause an unchaste wife to fall out of bed.

Electrical knowledge grew hand in hand with that of the inner workings of the human body. As men learnt to produce, accumulate and direct electrical currents they showed a bold and at times audacious willingness to investigate its effect on themselves. For some this had fatal consequences, but with deeper understanding came a greater appreciation for electricity's all-encompassing presence and its potential curative effects.

Engraved diagram of a cross section of the Torpedo Ray

Early debate centred on whether there was any relationship between the 'nervous fluids' of animals and atmospheric electricity. John Walsh examined the effects of the torpedo ray and concluded that there was a link, but this was greeted was scepticism because its shock failed to pass even a small gap or produce a spark. 

Henry Cavendish shed light on the matter by distinguishing between a quantity of electricity and its force, and the critics were finally silenced when Walsh produced a spark while experimenting with an electrical eel.

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