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BYB Debunks Jeopardy and Un-Debunks Luigi Galvani

Written by Tim Marzullo

Jeopardy is an American institution, and we have fond memories of watching their episodes with our families during our youth. We still watch reruns to relax, and recently something caught our eye. While watching episode 8364, which originally played on March 21, 2021 (Season 37) with guest host Dr. Mehmet Oz and contestants Amal Dorai, Doug Small (local shout-out, from nearby Ypsilanti), and Lisa O’Brien, we were intrigued by the final Jeopardy category: “Literary Inspirations.” Interesting, what could it be? You can imagine our delight when this was the clue.

Jeopardy Luigi Galvani

Of course, we at Backyard Brains know this answer, having written three experiments/histories on our website about our hero Luigi Galvani:

  1. The Dancing Cockroach Leg
  2. The Galvani/Volta Debate
  3. In Search of the Spike
Jeopardy: What is Frankenstein?

The answer is, of course, the compelling novel that birthed the genre of science fiction, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.” Shelley was indeed inspired by Galvani’s experiments, even famously mentioning “Galvanism” in her preface to the novel: “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things.” If you haven’t read it, we highly recommend it. The book is often misquoted in contemporary society. No spoilers, but you will understand why. Also, feel guilty that you did invent a whole new genre of literature when you were 19 (yes, that’s how old she was when she finished the book).

However, we visibly winced at the mention of the word “debunked.” Luigi Galvani debunked! Quite the contrary.

Galvani vs. Volta debate illustrated by Backyard Brains

But wait, there’s more! When the first contestant answered correctly (pictured above), Dr. Oz responded “Correct! It is an interesting story actually, because he thought electricity was the source of all life. Volta proved him wrong, but the legend persisted.”

It is indeed an interesting story, but we are not going to let Volta continue to get the last word.