Electricity: The Spark of Life

An object as innocuous as a lightbulb might not interest you. The thought of an entire exhibition dedicated to lightbulbs, generators, cables, pylons, and an assortment of other electrical goods might actively bore you. This, however, is the focus of the Wellcome Collection’s latest exhibition Electricity: The Spark of Life, which brings together 100 different objects to tell the fascinating story behind the force that lights up our lives. Tracing mankind’s ancient quest to unlock and harness its power, the show emphasises the impact electricity has had on every facet of our existence. An early copy of Mary Shelley’s Gothic classic Frankenstein is on display: whilst writing the novel, she became fixated with the work of Luigi Galvani, a pioneer of bioelectromagnetics. His outlandish studies on the life-giving possibilities proffered by electricity are clearly echoed in her infamous monster. The show also reveals the linguistic legacy left by electricity: ‘galvanize’ stems from Galvani; the word ‘volt’ sparked by the inventor of the electrical battery, Alessandro Volta. At a time when we rely on electricity more than ever before, Electricity: The Spark of Life unpicks one of our most complex, constant and overlooked relationships. Lightbulbs, it transpires, aren’t boring at all. In fact, they’re very illuminating.

Electricity: The Spark of Life (February 23 – June 25) at Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE (020 7 611 2222); @wellcomecollection

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