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Dean Howarth as Ebenezer Kinnersley demonstrating electricity

This persona encompasses the science and story of early electricity as practiced by Dr. Franklin and his friend, Ebenezer Kinnersley. The performance is modeled on the “Electrical Fire” lectures commonly held at assembly halls and salons in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

The lectures included electrical demonstrations that included machines and toys that (literally) shocked and awed onlookers. Electrical generators, Leyden Jars, lightning rods, electric eels, and hair-raising electro-medical treatments were the rage from Paris to Philadelphia. As well as Kinnersley, the Natural Philosopher performs narratives on other famous (and infamous) “electricians” such as the respected Italian scientists Alessandro Volta and Luigi Galvani.

Dean Howarth at the Smithsonian as Allesandro Volta

The Natural Philosopher also recreates the Electrical Temple of Health, a salon based on the story of Dr. James Graham, the notorious quack scientist. Here one can see gentlemen challenged to kiss electrified ladies, watch hair stand on end, and be stimulated and enchanted by the latest electrical fads. Coupled with recreations of Mesmer’s antics, this show is well suited for the adult audiences or Valentine’s Day.

As “galvanists” took the electro-medical experiments to the extreme, Giovani Aldini, and Andrew Ure proposed that electric shocks could revive the dead. The macabre public experiments by these men and other “resurrectionists” would horrify audiences… and eventually inspire Mary Shelley’s famous story of the monster, Frankenstein. Dean Howarth performs "The Science of Frankenstein" lectures to commemorate the bicentennial of Shelley’s haunting work.