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SPARKING CONTROVERSY: JEAN ANTOINE NOLLET AND MEDICAL ELECTRICITY SOUTH OF THE ALPS

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<title> ABSTRACT </title>The paper considers a significant episode in the history of eighteenthcentury electricity: the controversy over the "medicated tubes". Invented by the Italian erudite Gianfrancesco Pivati, the tubes were said to produce instantaneous cures. Jean Antoine Nollet was one of the main actors of the controversy. In 1749, after touring Italy to see for himself the Italian tubes and their effects, he published a report, discrediting Pivati's accounts. This study shows that the report, which has since been the main source for interpretations of the controversy, hides the key role of the Bologna Istituto delle Scienze in promoting Pivati's invention. Relying on manuscript sources, I propose a change of perspective on the controversy that illuminates the world of Italian experimental philosophy during the Enlightenment and its place in the Republic of Letters. I also analyze the reasons for Nollet's silence over the involvement of the Istituto delle Scienze in the controversy and the relevance of medical electricity in the wider context of contemporary electrical experimental philosophy.

Affiliations: 1: This paper has greatly benefited from the intellectual generosity of Marta Cavazza and Paula Findlen, who have spent a lot of their time giving me useful suggestions. For fruitful com- ments on earlier drafts I wish to thank Marie-N6efle Bourguet, Giuliano Pancaldi, Jessica Riskin, audiences at the Stanford Humanities Center, Maison Franchise d'Oxford, Modern History Fa- culty, Oxford. I am grateful to the University of Bologna, whose Marco Polo program has al- lowed me to complete the paper during my Visiting Fellowship at Stanford University, and to Roger Hahn who welcomed me at the Office for the History of Science and Technology at Ber- keley soon afterwards. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees for Nuncius.

10.1163/221058705X00767
/content/journals/10.1163/221058705x00767
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2016-09-24

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