Electric Current
Electricity and Magnetism

The frog battery and other instruments

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

A number of batteries have been produced from animal parts. These gruesome creations were possible due to the existence of the current of injury and demarcation potential that occur in injured tissue and distinguish it from healthy muscle. Animal tissues have also been used in the construction of electrical instruments.

  • Aldini created a battery from an ox’s head.
  • Galvani used freshly prepared frogs’ legs as an early form of voltmeter.
  • Chemist Robert Hare, in addition to suggesting that the experimenter’s tongue may take on “the office of a galvanoscope”, proposed that the limbs of a frog may be used as an “organic instrument”.
  • Physicist and pioneering investigator of bioelectricity Carlo Matteucci designed a frog galvanometer consisting of a frog’s leg placed in a glass tube, with “a long piece of sciatic nerve protruding”. The presence of current could be observed by the contraction of the leg muscles.


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