May 27, 2003
A History of the Times
Every once in a while someone with an exceptional mind is born. Unfortunately, sometimes that person is plagued with poverty and sickness and is unable to perform at their fullest. That was the case for Samuel Coleridge. Throughout most of his life he lived off of friends and small sums he collected from prose works. He lived during the times of the Napoleonic Wars and witnessed the discovery of electricity. However, medical understanding at that time was very primitive, which helped lead to his addiction to opium.
In 1784, an Italian surgeon by the name of Beccana discovered that a static electrical charge could be generated if two dissimilar metals were in contact with each other. He later proved this phenomenon by stimulating the muscles within a frog's leg. This incredible discovery incited the attention of the talented Italian scientist, Alesandro Volta.
By 1799 he developed a device which could continuously generate the same charge chemically. This device functioned by immersing two metallic plates in a weak acidic solution which would become the world's first battery. This voltaic pile, as it was called, wasn't especially useful until 1809 when Sir Humphrey Davey discovered the electrical arc. The arc was quite useful as it provided a brilliant light as well as the ability to fuse metals. Due to Davey's multifaceted technical abilities, the poet Samuel Coleridge was inspired to declare "if Davey had not been the first chemist, he would have been the first poet of his age" (Poulter 16).
At the same time of the writing of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," The French Revolution was in full force. A war which lasted from 1789 to 1809 brought about a great deal of social...