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Bois-Reymond, Emil du

berlin methods studied electric

(1818–96) German physiologist: pioneer electrophysiologist.

Du Bois-Reymond’s father was a Swiss teacher who moved to Berlin; he was an expert on linguistics and authoritarian enough to ‘arouse his son’s spirit of resistance’. The family spoke French and felt part of the French community in Berlin. Emil studied a range of subjects at Berlin for 2 years before he was fully attracted to medicine, which he studied under . He graduated in 1843 and was then already working on animal electricity (discovered by ) and especially on electric fishes. He introduced refined physical methods for measuring these effects and by 1849 had a sensitive multiplier for measuring nerve currents; he found an electric current in injured, intact and contracting muscles. He traced it correctly to individual fibres and found that their interior is negative with respect to the surface. He showed the existence of a resting current in nerves and suggested, correctly, that nerve impulses might be transmitted chemically. He was modest, but also confident, and his ideas aroused vigorous debate; his experimental methods dominated electrophysiology for a century.

Boito, Arrigo (baptismal name, Enrico) [next] [back] Boiling, Claude

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