The ancient Greeks were familiar with electrical phenomena. Thales of Miletus describes how rubbing amber (ηλεκτρον, elektron) would cause it to attract light objects, such as feathers. However, it was not until the seventeenth century that various natural curiosities were brought together into a system that allowed them to be labelled ‘electric’. By the end of that century a great deal was known about electricity and its effect on the animal body. Inevitably, this mysterious electrical fluid began to be touted for its therapeutic properties. Electricity penetrated to the very core of the body to ‘rouse the dormant powers of life’ (A. Fothergill, 1795, p. 127). By the beginning of the nineteenth century, electricity had become, quite literally, the ‘spark of life’.17 As we observed in the preceding chapter, the Humane Society used electrical shock to re-excite the fading life-force into action, and failing that happy outcome, used it to insure that the mysterious life-force had actually fled, thus avoiding the horror of premature burial.
Combustion Dust Mercury Steam Respiration
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