England · Executions

Man hanged, body “reanimated” with electricity

January 18, 1803
London, England
George Forster is executed and his body given to a scientist to be used in a reanimation experiment

George Forster (or Foster, depending on the source) was hanged for the drowning of his wife and youngest child. Minutes after his death, his body was given to Giovanni Aldini, a scientist who wished to experiment with Galvanism (pictured). Essentially, Galvanism is the stimulation of muscles using electricity. Aldini hoped to discover a way to resuscitate drowning victims, which is somewhat ironic considering who his experiment was performed upon.

The experiment led Forster’s body to animate, with a quivering jaw, an eye opening, a hand rising and clenching in a fist, and legs “set in motion.” Some witnesses believe Forster brought back to life (he most definitely had not been brought back as his body had been drained of blood and his spinal cord cut), and one man died of shock soon after leaving. This fascinating and new form of science helped inspire the classic novel Frankenstein.

Also somewhat ironic, the man who died shortly after witnessing this display is theorized by some to have coerced the court to wrongly convict Forster in order to obtain his body for Aldini’s research. Those who agree with this theory point out Mrs Forster had been suicidal shortly before her death and had even mentioned numerous times her wish to kill herself and her daughter.

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