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Upcoming Speakers - Dr. Stanley Finger

Benjamin Franklin and Medical Electricity

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), who is well known in many fields, especially as a witty writer and skilled diplomat, was an early, major contributor to medicine from the New World. Among his numerous accomplishments are many experiments on medical electricity, a fadish new cure that had just been introduced. In the middle of the eighteenth century, Franklin, who was already making a name for himself as an electrical scientist, set forth to determine whether electricity might in fact be a cure for palsies, hysteria, deafness, and a possible brain tumor. Later in his life, he even wrote about shocks to the head as a possible treatment for melancholia and other forms of madness. Franklin's "clinical trials" showed that electricity was neither a quack remedy nor a panacea. That is, it worked for some disorders, but not for others. Interestingly, Franklin never speculated on why this should be the case, having considerably more faith in his data than in popular theories.

Stanley Finger received his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1968 and has been on the faculty of Washington University (St. Louis, MO) since that time. He holds a professorship in psychology and is associated with two programs at Washington University: Neural Sciences and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology. He has written over 155 articles and has authored or edited 9 books, with two more in progress. His four most recent books are Origins of Neuroscience (1994: Oxford University Press), Minds Behind the Brain (2000: Oxford University Press), Trepanation (2003: Swets and Zeitlinger), and Doctor Franklin's Medicine (2006: Univ. Penn. Press). His articles dealing with the history of science and medicine have covered a wide range of topics, including: the science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the man who recognized the first ancient trepanned skull, the early history of phantom limbs, and the discovery of cerebral dominance. Stanley Finger was the first president of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences and is currently Senior Editor of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences.

November 6, 2007
3:30, Location TBA
Dr. Stanley Finger
Washington University

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