French physicist and physician, D’ Arsonval was a pioneer in electrotherapy, he studied the medical application of high-frequency currents. Among his inventions were dielectric heating and various measuring devices, including the thermocouple ammeter and moving-coil galvanometer.
These measuring tools helped establish the science of electrical engineering. d’Arsonval’s galvanometer, which he invented in 1882 for measuring weak electric currents, became the basis for almost all panel-type pointer meters. He was also involved in the industrial application of electricity.
Jaques-Arsene d’Arsonval was born on June 8, 1851 at the Pigsty, canton Saint-Germain-les-Belles, in his family house of “Borie” known from 14th century. His family had very old and noble roots. Nine children were born in the family, but only two of them including Arsene survived. Arsene d’Arsonval has studied in the Imperial College of Limoges (now LycEe Gay-Lussac).
After the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 he went to Paris where he met the famous physiologist Claude Bernard (1813-1878) and was drawn to Bernard’s lectures at Sainte-Barbe college in Paris (the College bears d’Arsonval’s name since 1959). d’Arsonval was Bernard’s prEparateur from 1873 to 1878. After Bernard’s death he assisted Charles-Edouard Brown-SEquard (1817-1894), giving the latter’s winter courses, and eventually replaced him at the College de France when Brown-SEquard died in 1894. The picture shows him as a student in 1873.
His invention in 1882 with Étienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904) and Deprez of what is now known as the Deprez-d'Arsonval galvanometer, came after he had studied muscle contractions in frogs using a telephone, which operates on an extremely feeble currents similar to animal electricity. He demonstrated how a human being could conduct an alternating current strong enough to light an electric lamp (1892).
In 1881, Arsène d'Arsonval first suggested harnessing the temperature difference in the tropical seas for the generation of electricity. His idea was given a first test by Georges Claude in Cuba in the 1920's, and this technology is now ready for producing electricity from sea solar power. In 1902 d’Arsonval worked with Georges Claude on industrial methods for the liquefaction of gases.
His contribution to medicine, now overshadowed by the antibiotic era, created a minor revolution in clinical therapeutics. D’Arsonval literally founded the paramedical field of physiotherapy. In 1918 he was elected president of the Institute for Actinology.