An early 19th century Italian physicist, Giovanni Aldini was the nephew of Luigi Galvani, the man who pioneered galvanism, or “hooking up shit to batteries,” as our wise janitor explained to us.
Aldini spent most of his life testing the medical applications of this discovery and wound up becoming the 19th century science equivalent of Elvis Presley. In the end, for his contributions to science, the emperor of Austria made him a Knight of the Iron Crown, a title which could only have been cooler if they fit the words “lightning” or “dragon” into it.
We were serious about the Elvis thing. Aldini traveled Europe with what can only be described as a science circus. His little big top of horror and science was a magnificent theatrical spectacle in which Aldini electrocuted human corpses and animal carcasses. And, of course, it always gathered huge crowds, because 19th century Europe simply did not have enough horror and violence in its everyday life.
During one show in London in 1802, Aldini electrically stimulated the heads and trunks of cows, horses, sheep and dogs with high powered batteries. The people witnessing this reported that the animals’ jaws and eyes started moving almost as if they were alive. It was pretty much Satan’s puppet show.
Wait, it Gets Weirder:
In January 1803, Aldini presented his most famous experiment. He was given the body of a hanged criminal, George Forster, who had been executed for the murder of his wife and child. Aldini created quite possibly one of the inspirations for Mary Shelley’s famous work.
Displaying Forster’s body for the public to see, he electrocuted his face, which started to twitch and move; his mouth and eyes opening and, according to all accounts, he looked very much alive.
But believing he did not freak out the people and humiliated Forster enough, Aldini stuck an electrified rod straight up the corpse’s ass, after which the body started to kick and punch around so much, most people were sure he came back to life and started screaming about hanging him again. But how do you kill something… that has already died?
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