Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/423

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SKETCH OF LUIGI GALVANI.

among the most important of which were those on the urinary organs and kidneys of birds and on the ears of birds. In the former paper he treated the subject with remarkable accuracy, showing the position of the kidneys of birds in the abdomen, their situation with respect to the vertebral column, and how they are adapted, as in quadrupeds, to the secretion of urine. The descriptions, all drawn with equal care, contained various curious facts, some of which had then the merit of novelty. Three years after this Galvani had prepared a large work embodying the fruits of his studies of the organ of hearing, when he was anticipated by the publication of Scarpa's Observations on the Fenestra Rotunda. He was astonished to find in this book the facts which he had announced at special sessions of the institute, and which he had believed to be his own exclusively, and, giving up the publication of the larger book, satisfied himself with imparting in a short sketch such facts as were not mentioned in Scarpa's treatise. He gave interesting details respecting the chord of the tympanum, the membranous labyrinth, the semicircular canals, and on the single little bone which in its own body and appendices performed the functions of the three little bones found in the ears of mammals. His most important work, the one on which his enduring fame is based, was published in 1791, under the title De Viribus Electricitatis in Motu Musculari Commentarius, or Commentary on the Forces of Electricity in Muscular Motion. It embodied, in a small volume of only fifty-five pages, the account of his experiments with the frog's leg, in which the kind of electrical manifestation to which Galvani's name is attached (galvanism) was first remarked by him.

Previous to the publication of this little book Galvani suffered his greatest grief by the death of his wife, Lucie Galeazzi, with whom he had lived happily for thirty years, and who, according to some of the versions of the story, had no little to do with his great discovery. This loss was followed by other troubles, which, although they did not so nearly touch his heart, were severe enough, and eventually perhaps hastened his death. The Cisalpine Republic required an oath from all persons in its service, which, it being repugnant to his political and religious convictions, Galvani refused to take. The Government deprived him of his position, and he, nearly reduced to poverty, went to live with his brother Giacomo. Soon afterward he fell into a decline, from which he could not be raised even by the skill and careful attention of the eminent physicians Uttini and Cingari. The Government of the republic, recognizing the eminent worth of his scientific achievements, notwithstanding he persisted in refusing to take the oath, ordered him restored to his chair in the university, but he never took advantage of the act.