Electrotherapy for melancholia: the pioneering contributions of Benjamin Franklin and Giovanni Aldini

J ECT. 2009 Mar;25(1):15-8. doi: 10.1097/YCT.0b013e318191b6e3.


The electrical induction of seizures with a therapeutic aim began in 1938, but the history of electric currents to relieve mental illness began 2 centuries earlier with the pioneering work of the Italian Giovanni Aldini and the American Benjamin Franklin.These early experiments are described demonstrating that the electrical force encouraged hopeful applications. This history emphasizes the unique contribution in the induction of grand mal seizures as the therapeutic basis rather than the role of electricity alone.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depressive Disorder / history*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy / history*
  • Electrophysiology / history*
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Neurophysiology / history*
  • United States

Personal name as subject

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Giovanni Aldini