Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Electrifying Machine

As I was going through Crawford county probate records recently, my attention was drawn to an item in the estate inventory of Dr. James Williams:  an electrifying machine and apparatus (worth $35).  Since this was 1832, I was fairly certain it wasn't some type of generator and felt compelled to look it up.

According to several sources on the web, especially the Fort Williams Historical Park, this was basically a machine that created static electricity and was used to treat patients for "general disability", to extract disease, and to stimulate nerves and muscle.  It was in fact a very mild form of electro-shock therapy.  Benjamin Franklin reportedly used the device to treat paralytics.  One of the first important advocates of this treatment was John Wesley, the founder of the modern Methodist church, and he even published tracts on the benefits of the "therapeutic uses of electricity." 

Apparently Dr Williams was quite up-to-date on the treatments he had available for his patients. 

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