Arsonval, Jacques Arsène d'

SUBJECT AREA: Medical technology
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b. 8 June 1851 Boric, France
d. 31 December 1940 Boric, France
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French physician and physicist noted for his invention of the reflecting galvanometer and for contributions to electrotherapy.
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After studies at colleges in Limoges and later in Paris, Arsonval became a doctor of medicine in 1877. In 1882 the Collège de France established a laboratory of biophysics with Arsonval as Director, and he was Professor from 1894.
His most outstanding scientific contributions were in the field of biological applications of electricity. His interest in muscle currents led to a series of inventions to assist in research, including the moving-coil galvanometer. In 1881 he made a significant improvement to the galvanometer by reversing the magnetic elements. It had been usual to suspend a compass needle in the centre of a large, stationary coil, but Arsonval's invention was to suspend a small, light coil between the poles of a powerful fixed magnet. This simple arrangement was independent of the earth's magnetic field and insensitive to vibration. A great increase in sensitivity was achieved by attaching a mirror to the coil in order to reflect a spot of light. For bacterial-research purposes he designed the first constant-temperature incubator controlled by electricity. His experiments on the effects of high-frequency, low-voltage alternating currents on animals led to the first high-frequency heat-therapy unit being established in 1892, and later to methods of physiotherapy becoming a professional discipline.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
Académie des Sciences, Prix Montyon 1882. Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur 1884. Grand Cross 1931.
Bibliography
1882, Comptes rendus de l'Académie des Sciences 94:1347–50 (describes the galvanometer).
1903, Traité de physique biologique, 2 vols, Paris (an account of his technological work).
Further Reading
C.C.Gillispie (ed.), 1970, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. 1, New York, pp. 302–5.
D.O.Woodbury, 1949, A Measure for Greatness, New York.
GW

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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