Giovanni Aldini

Giovanni Aldini (April 10, 1762 – January 17, 1834), was an Italian physician[1] and physicist born in Bologna. He was a brother of a statesman.

Giovanni Aldini
Giovanni Aldini.jpg
Born(1762-04-10)April 10, 1762
DiedJanuary 17, 1834(1834-01-17) (aged 71)

He became professor of physics at Bologna in 1798, in succession to his uncle Luigi Galvani (1737–1798).[2] His scientific work was chiefly concerned with galvanism, anatomy and its medical applications, with the construction and illumination of lighthouses, and with experiments for preserving human life and material objects from destruction by fire. He wrote in French and English in addition to his native Italian. In recognition of his merits, the emperor of Austria made him a knight of the Iron Crown and a councillor of state at Milan, where he died. He bequeathed a considerable sum to found a school of natural science for artisans at Bologna.[3]


Aldini demonstrating electricity generated by an ox head

Aldini's most famous public demonstration of the electro-stimulation technique of deceased limbs was performed on the executed criminal George Forster at Newgate in London in 1803.[4][5] The Newgate Calendar describes what happened when the galvanic process was used on the body:

On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion.[6]

Shelley's Frankenstein associationEdit

Mary Shelley (born Mary Godwin 30 August 1797) would have been only 5 years old in January 1803 when Aldini experimented on the corpse of George Foster. In her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein she does not mention Aldini, but "galvanism" was among the evening discussion topics before she experienced her "waking dream" that led to her writing.[7] Chapter 5, the creature awakened:

By the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.


  1. ^ "This Real Doctor's Crazy Experiments Inspired 'Frankenstein'". All That's Interesting. 2017-11-20. Retrieved 2020-04-04.
  2. ^ Parent, Andre (December 2004). "Giovanni Aldini: From Animal Electricity to Human Brain Stimulation". The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences. 31 (4): 576–84. doi:10.1017/S0317167100003851. PMID 15595271.
  3. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Aldini, Giovanni" . Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ "AIM25 text-only browsing: Royal College of Surgeons of England: Aldini, Giovanni: Notebook". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  5. ^ "Early Nineteenth century electrochemistry". Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  6. ^ The Newgate Calendar - George Foster Executed at Newgate, 18th of January, 1803, for the Murder of his Wife and Child, by drowning them in the Paddington Canal; with a Curious Account of Galvanic Experiments on his Body
  7. ^ Shelley, Mary. "Introduction" Frankenstein (1831 edition) Gutenberg
    "Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth."

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