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Electrotherapy equipment, London, England, 1780-1800

The cylinders of this electrotherapy machine are turned against the leather cushion, creating an electrical charge which is then transmitted to a Leyden jar. This holds the charge, which can then be passed to a flexible conductor used to deliver an electric shock to the patient. Electrotherapy was used for a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders. This type of equipment was invented by Edward Nairne (1749-1806), an optical and mathematical instrument maker and natural philosopher. Electrotherapy came into popular use in England in the second half of the 1700s.

Object number:

A199299 Pt1

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    Techniques and Technologies:


    Glossary: electrostatic machine

    mechanical device that produces static electricity, or electricity at high voltage and low continuous current.

    Glossary: Leyden jar

    Earliest and simplest device for storing static electricity, developed c.1745 in Leyden, Holland. The original electrical capacitor, it consists of a foil-lined glass jar partly filled with water and closed with a cork through which protrudes a brass rod wired to the foil. To charge the jar, friction is applied to the tip of the rod

    Glossary: electrotherapy

    The passing of electric currents through the body's tissues to stimulate the functioning of nerves and the muscles.

    Glossary: nervous diseases

    Diseases of the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. These include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome (CJD), Parkinson’s disease and meningitis.