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Central Galvanization, first stage, 1881

This illustration demonstrates a galvanization treatment. Galvanization—applying electrical current to the body—evolved into a medical therapy in the 19th and early 20th century. Italian physician Giovanni Aldini (1762–1834), Luigi Galvani's nephew, believed that electricity had great medical potential. Aldini tested the use of electrical current on his own brain before successfully applying it to treat people with personality disorders and depression. Physicians thought galvanization of the brain, depicted here, also helped with insomnia, hysteria, and hypochondria. Mary Shelley's knowledge of galvanism and the hopes for its potential in her time are evident as Victor Frankenstein makes several references to electricity in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818).

Courtesy National Library of Medicine

A seated youth, holding a tube and wires, as another person places wires on the youth's head.
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  • Creator:

    R. D. Mussey (1780–1866)