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John Wesley (1703-91)

The English preacher John Wesley was one of the founders of Methodism, but also an important early user of electricity for medical treatment.

Originally a reform movement within the Church of England, Methodism was named for the methodical way in which Wesley and his followers attempted to follow the teaching of the Bible. Wesley was an inspiring preacher whose sermons in open fields were attended by large crowds.

Wesley also had a strong interest in science, and became convinced that the new science of electricity could benefit humanity. He began to practice electrotherapy, and published books describing his techniques and the many cases he had treated. He employed friction machines and Leyden jars to create and store static electricity (the battery had not been invented yet). Wesley advocated electrotherapy as a treatment for diseases as diverse as tuberculosis, toothache and epilepsy.

 

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Bibliography

P Bertucci, ‘Revealing sparks: John Wesley and the religious utility of electrical healing’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 39 (2006), pp 341-362

J Wesley, Primitive Physick: Or an Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases (London: J Palmar, 1751)

J Wesley, The Desideratum: Or, Electricity made Plain and Useful by a Lover of Mankind and of Common Sense (London : Bailliere, Tindall and Cox, 1760)

Glossary:

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