Galvani, the man

Much of Galvani’s personality and work was conditioned by the century in which he lived. As a scientist and man of letters, he wrote some literary works (short poems, elegies, sonnets, orations) in Italian and in Latin (fitting in with contemporary Italian culture dominated by the classics). Some of these bore the dedication : For my well-beloved wife.

Though he was deeply religious (a member of the Third Secular Order of Saint Francis), he never considered religion put a brake on his research. On the contrary, he felt that science and faith interpreted one another.

His contemporaries described him as gentle, generous and very much a family-man.

In his final years Galvani was grief-stricken at the deaths of his wife, in 1790, and other relatives. To add to his family grief, he was saddened by losing his teaching post, in 1798, because, on religious grounds and on principle, he refused to swear allegiance to the Cisalpine Republic.

He died in poverty on 4th December 1798, before he could enjoy his reinstatement as a pensioned professor emeritus because of his important contributions to science.