Luigi Galvani

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Galvani, Luigi

Galvani, Luigi (lo͞oēˈjē gälväˈnē), 1737–98, Italian physician. He was professor of anatomy from 1775 at the Univ. of Bologna and was noted as a surgeon and for research in comparative anatomy. During experiments on muscle and nerve preparations of frogs, he noticed the contraction of a frog's leg touched with charged metal. He devised an arc of two metals with which contractions could be induced and in 1791 published his results, attributing the source of electricity to the animal tissue. The explanation was disputed by Volta, who correctly believed that the electricity originated in the metallic arc. The controversy focused attention on electricity in animals and stimulated research in electrotherapy and on electric currents. Many terms in electricity are derived from Galvani's name.
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Galvani, Luigi


(also Aloisio Galvani). Born Sept. 9, 1737, in Bologna; died there Dec. 4, 1798. Italian anatomist and physiologist. One of the founders of the theory of electricity and the founder of electrophysiology.

Galvani was educated at the University of Bologna, where he also taught medicine. His first works were devoted to comparative anatomy. In 1771 he began experiments in animal electricity. Galvani investigated the capacity of the muscles of a dissected frog to contract under the effect of an electrical current, and he observed the contraction of muscles when they were connected with metal to the nerves or the spinal cord. He called attention to the fact that a muscle contracts when it is touched simultaneously with two different metals. These experiments were correctly explained by A. Volta, and they contributed to the invention of a new power source—the galvanic cell. In 1791, Galvani published A Treatise on the Forces of Electricity During Muscular Movement. With new experiments published in 1797 he proved that a frog’s muscle contracts even without metal touching it, when it is directly connected to a nerve. Galvani’s research was important for medical practice and developing methods of physiological experimentation.


Lebedinskii, A. V. “Rol’ Gal’vani i Vol’ta v istorii fiziologii.” In A. Galvani and A. Volta, Izbr. raboty o zhivotnom elektrichestve. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.