It seems that Mary Shelley, for the writing of her famous “Frankenstein”, took inspiration from real events, and in particular from some experiments conducted by the Bolognese Giovanni Aldini, professor and researcher of Physics of the University of Bologna.
We are between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Aldini, nephew of the famous Luigi Galvani, decided to continue the studies started by his uncle and dedicated to the effects of electrical stimulation on corpses (the so-called galvanism).
He was in fact convinced that it was possible to resurrect the bodies thanks to electricity, and he used to conduct macabre experiments, during which he made open eyes and mouth to heads of animals or contract the limbs to beheaded bodies.
To continue with his studies, however, he had to find a whole body in good condition; Aldini then went to London, where death sentences were carried out by hanging (as opposed to other European states in which they were beheaded). Having chosen the prisoner that best suited to his purposes, he awaited his death sentence (rumors say that Aldini also influenced the judgment of his guilt) and started his public experiments.
Thanks to numerous electrodes applied in various parts of the body, Aldini raised arms and legs of the corpse, made him open his mouth and eyes, even was able to raise his chest as in a deep breath.
He failed to revive the heart, which is why the experiment was considered a failure, but most of the public really believed that the corpse was resurrected, and it is said that his assistant died of a heart attack that same night.