The Writings of Galvani


    IN connexion with the commemoration at Bologna of the bicentenary of the birth of Galvani, attention may be directed to an interesting memoir in the Annals of Science, 1, No. 3, July 1936, by Prof. J. F. Fulton and Prof. H. Gushing, of the Yale University School of Medicine, entitled "A Bibliographical Study of the Galvani and the Aldini Writings on Animal Electricity". Modest and shy, Galvani showed the greatest indifference to having his name appear in print, and thus out of all the known discourses or lectures prepared by him during the twenty-five years between his professorial appointment and the appearance of his famous "De vivibus electricitatis", only three, making a total of thirty printed pages, appear to have been published. Galvani's lack of self-assurance was not, however, shared by his nephew Giovanni Aldini (1762-1834), professor of physics in the University of Bologna, and it was he who took up the cudgels in defence of his uncle's thesis. Galvani's memoir appeared early in 1791 and two reprints were issued the same year. Next year, after Volta's criticism of Galvani's views, Aldini published an edition with annotations, and a German translation was made by Dr. J. Mayer (1752-1807) in 1793. The subject of animal magnetism had by then become a matter for widespread controversy. Galvani died in 1798, but a year or two later Aldini visited England, gave lectures on galvanism at Guy's and St. Thomas's Hospitals and was presented with a gold medal. His "Improvements in Galvanism", printed in London in 1803, has the title-page embellished with a representation of the medal. Altogether twenty-eight items are included in the bibliography, all of them being very fully described, while there are photographs of several of the title-pages.

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    The Writings of Galvani. Nature 140, 840–841 (1937).

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