“I sing the body electric” wrote Walt Whitman in his 1885 Leaves of Grass, but what was he referring to? It was obviously not the the electric current that would later be used to provide light and radio communication. Nor was it the electric shock from certain fish that had been known since antiquity. Egyptian papyri from 2750 B.C. had alluded to these as the “Thunderers of
the Nile”, suggesting that they believed this force was in some way similar to the energy in a bolt of lightning. Greek and Roman physicians later used the shock from torpedo fish (electric rays) to treat headache and other pains.

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