Richard Caton

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Richard Caton (1842, Bradford – 1926), of Liverpool, England, was a scientist who was crucial in discovering the electrical nature of the brain and laid the groundwork for Hans Berger to discover Alpha wave activity in the human brain.

In July 1875 Caton reported to the British Medical Association in Edinburgh (Caton 1875) that he had used a galvanometer to observe electrical impulses from the surfaces of living brains in animal subjects.(Smith 1970)(Finger 1994) After Caton died, Hans Berger was one of few to recognize his importance and cited him in his 1929 report on the discovery of Alpha waves. He wrote:

Caton has already published experiments on the brains of dogs and apes in which bare unipolar electrodes were placed either on the cerebral cortex and the other on the surface of the skull. The currents were measured by a sensitive galvanometer. There were found distinct variations in current, which increased during sleep and with the onset of death strengthened, and after death became weaker and then completely disappeared. — Translated by Cohen, 1959. (Berger 1929)(Finger 1994)

He founded and was subsequently the inaugural president of the Liverpool Medical Students Society.


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