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August 6, 1982

Electromagnetism and Life

Author Affiliations

University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha

JAMA. 1982;248(5):596. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330050078045

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This book represents the authors' provocative insights from decades of research into bioelectric effects. It begins with a historical but lively account of past research seeking to discover the vital animal or electrical forces distinguishing the living from the nonliving. Galvani's erroneous conclusions regarding animal electricity in 1786 were opportunistically diverted by Volta and others from the biologic realm into the technology of generating electricity. The discovery of voltaic electricity led to the battery-operated telegraph, the arc light, and, ultimately, to the major dominance of electricity in today's society. The difficult questions pertaining to electricity's role in complex living forms remained unanswered. Biochemical explanations of biologic control systems dominated. Any suggestion of electrical control systems within the body was promptly equated with "vital force" research and dismissed as unscientific.

Current concepts of electrobiologic controls owe more to developments in solid state physics than to biologic research. Body functions for which