The fall 2013 issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the research into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep in the 1960s, investigations of animal electricity by Alexander von Humboldt (above), and the academic status of neurobiology in Argentina in the 1920s, among others. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.
“Alexander von Humboldt: Galvanism, Animal Electricity, and Self-Experimentation Part 2: The Electric Eel, Animal Electricity, and Later Years,” by Stanley Finger, Marco Piccolino & Frank W. Stahnisch. The abstract reads,
After extensive experimentation during the 1790s, Alexander von Humboldt remained skeptical about “animal electricity” (and metallic electricity), writing instead about an ill-defined galvanic force. With his worldview and wishing to learn more, he studied electric eels in South America just as the new century began, again using his body as a scientific instrument in many of his experiments. As had been the case in the past and for many of the same reasons, some of his findings with the electric eel (and soon after, Italian torpedoes) seemed to argue against biological electricity. But he no longer used galvanic terminology when describing his electric fish experiments. The fact that he now wrote about animal electricity rather than a different “galvanic” force owed much to Alessandro Volta, who had come forth with his “pile” (battery) for multipling the physical and perceptable effects of otherwise weak electricity in 1800, while Humboldt was deep in South America. Humboldt probably read about and saw voltaic batteries in the United States in 1804, but the time he spent with Volta in 1805 was probably more significant in his conversion from a galvanic to an electrical framework for understanding nerve and muscle physiology. Although he did not continue his animal electricity research program after this time, Humboldt retained his worldview of a unified nature and continued to believe in intrinsic animal electricity. He also served as a patron to some of the most important figures in the new field of electrophysiology (e.g., Hermann Helmholtz and Emil du Bois-Reymond), helping to take the research that he had participated in to the next level.
“Cerebrocerebellar System and Türck’s Bundle,” by Eliasz Engelhardt. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: Journal of the History of the Neurosciences