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    Sale 5822

    Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts including the Works of Charles Dickens

    1 June 2009, London, South Kensington

  • Lot 79

    VOLTA, Alessandro (1745-1827). Autograph letter signed to an unidentified correspondent [Claude-Louis Berthollet], Como, 12 October 1802, in French, 5 pages, small 4to.

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    VOLTA, Alessandro (1745-1827). Autograph letter signed to an unidentified correspondent [Claude-Louis Berthollet], Como, 12 October 1802, in French, 5 pages, small 4to.

    A stinging attack on the claims of Professor Aldini of Bologna, a rival in the scientific community, singling out particularly his latest experiments and demonstrations, 'l'atalage de ces expériences de boucherie, qui ne prouvent rien de plus que les anciennes galvaniques sur les grenouilles, etc' and refuting his claims to have identified the origin of electricity as muscular. There is, he writes, nothing new which has not already been shown with a single piece of metal. Aldini's attempts to prove his theory of Galvanism's independence from electricity confirm rather than disprove Volta's principles. Volta also refers to his own current writing, in Italian, on the subject, and to recent scientific publications.

    The letter opens with an apology for delay in sending for publication the conclusion to the memoir on current and static electricity which Volta read to the Institut [National de Paris] in 1801. Berthollet was editor of the Annales de chimie in which it was published. Giovanni Aldini, a nephew of Luigi Galvani, conducted famously gruesome experiments, to which Volta refers, administering electric shocks not only to animals but also to severed limbs and even decapitated criminals, to demonstrate that animal electricity was muscular in origin, while Volta believed that it was a physical phenomenon, i.e. metallic electricity. Apparently unpublished (not in the Epistolario, 1949-55).


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