Europe, 1700-1800 C.E.

Galvani and the Leyden Jar

File:Luigi Galvani, oil-painting.jpgLuigi Galvani

In the last half of the 18th century, Luigi Galvani conducted a number of experiments in which he took the back legs of frogs, exposed the nerves, and touched metal lancets to the nerves to conduct an electric current (Gross, 1987). When electricity passed through the Leyden jar, and then the lancet, and finally to the nerve in the frog’s spinal column, the muscles contracted and caused the legs to move (Piccolino, 1997). He wrote that the muscle was the receptacle of electric current, and ultimately responsible for the muscle contractions.

Alessandro Volta repeated Galvani’s experiments, and ultimately disagreed with the assertion that the muscle was the receptacle, and instead the nerve was (Soylent Communications, 2012). His experiments with the nerves comparing different metals eventually led to the invention of the battery in the early 19th century.


Due to the amount of innovation and technological advances made from the beginning of the 19th century to 2012, the Beginnings of Neuroscience end at the 18th century. From the end of the 18th century, we move into Modern Neuroscience.



Gross, C. G. (1987). Early History of Neuroscience. In Adelman, G. (ed.), Encyclopedia of Neuroscience, 843-847.

Piccolino, M., (1997). Luigi Galvani and animal electricity: Two centuries after the foundation of electrophysiology. Trends in Neurosciences, 20, 443-448.

Soylent Communications, (2012). Alessandro Volta. Retrieved from

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