Giovanni Aldini (10 April 1762 – 17 January 1834) was an Italian physician and physicist born in Bologna. He was a brother of the statesman Count Antonio Aldini (1756–1826). He graduated in physics at University of Bologna in 1782.
|Born||10 April 1762|
Bologna, Papal States
|Died||17 January 1834(aged 71)|
|Alma mater||University of Bologna|
He became professor of experimental physics at University of Bologna in 1798, in succession to his uncle Luigi Galvani (1737–1798). 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, and in Latin, still used in the 18th century by the scientific community. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.