Eusebio Valli

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Eusebio Valli (1755–1816) was a physician from Lari, Pisa, Italy, who in the shadows of Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta also studied the phenomenon of animal electricity or bioelectricity.

Animal electricity[edit]

Galvani's 1792 publication regarding the application of various metals to frogs inspired a large number of other Italian scientists to research what Galvani had dubbed "animal electricity." Eusebio Valli was the first of this group to publish and wrote that the discovery had prevented him “to sleep during several nights”. In the following months Valli became an ambassador of animal electricity in Europe, making public displays of the galvanian experiments and publishing galvanian papers in cities such as Turin, Paris, and London. In 1793 he published a 300-page volume in English, titled Experiments on Animal Electricity that at the time constituted the most organic analysis of all the problems of galvanism.[1]

When Volta renounced the distinction of "animal electricity", something that Galvani who believed in vitalism could not do, Valli stayed true to Galvani and called Volta's electricity of metals "imaginary."[2] Volta, of course, went on to invent the voltaic pile, the progenitor of the battery.

Valli also conducted experiments dealing with vaccination, a field in which he was less successful. In 1788, he unsuccessfully tried to vaccinate humans against 'human plague' by inoculating rinderpest (cattle plague).[3] In testing potential vaccines for the Rabies virus on himself, he caused his own premature death.

Popular references[edit]

Valli is named in Xavier de Maistre's A Journey around my Room at the beginning of Chapter 42:

I was sitting by my fire, after dinner...when the vapours of digestion, rising to my brain, so obstructed the passages by which ideas make their way there from my sense that all communication found itself intercepted; and just as my senses were no longer transmitting any ideas to my brain, the latter, in its turn, could no longer send out the electrical fluid that animates them, the fluid with which the ingenious Dr. Valli resuscitates dead frogs.[4]


The Controversy on Animal Electricity in Eighteenth-Century Italy: Galvani, Volta and Others by Walter Bernardi

Changing a Theory: The Case of Volta’s Contact Electricity, Nahum Kipnis

Rinderpest: A General Introduction by Paul-Pierre Pastoret

A Journey around my Room, by Xavier de Maistre, translated with notes by Andrew Brown. ISBN 1-84391-099-3


  1. ^ Bernardi
  2. ^ Kipnis
  3. ^ Pastoret
  4. ^ de Maistre