The Russians launched a satellite into space, and the sudden realization that we were falling behind galvanized Americans into action. -- Bill Powell, Newsweek, October 9, 1989
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Luigi Galvani was an Italian physician and physicist who, in the 1770s, studied the electrical nature of nerve impulses by applying electrical stimulation to frogs leg muscles, causing them to contract. Although Galvanis theory that animal tissue contained an innate electrical impulse was disproven, the Italian word "galvanismo" came to describe a current of electricity especially when produced by chemical action. English speakers borrowed the word as "galvanism" in 1797; the verb "galvanize" was introduced in 1802. Charlotte Brontë, in 1853, used the verb figuratively in her novel Villette: "Her approach always galvanized him to new and spasmodic life." These days, "galvanize" also means to cover metal with zinc or a zinc alloy to protect from rust (as in galvanized carpentry nails).
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