Francesc Salvà i Campillo


Francesc Salvà i Campillo
Barcelona, Spain
Death date


Francisc Salvá y Campillo was a prominent Enlightenment scientist and a contemporary of figures like Franklin, Kant and Goya. He is most well known for his contributions to the fields of medicine, meteorology and telegraphy.

Dr. Salva was born in Barcelona, in Spain, on the 12th of July 1751. His father was a physician at the Barcelona General Hospital and his maternal grandfather was a pharmacist. Salva showed a keen interest in health sciences and studied medicine for three years at the University of Valencia. He obtained his B.Phil degree from the University of Heusca and his PhD degree from the University of Toulouse. At the age of twenty-two he entered the Academy of Practical Medicine in Barcelona where he also started his medical practice. Salva introduced in Spain the practice of small-pox inoculation. He also carried out studies on the causes and cures of spotted fever. He started a medical school in Barcelona to train more doctors and received several awards from the Paris Society of Medicine.

Salva also made valuable contributions to the field of meteorology, collecting atmospheric variables since 1780 with self-made instruments like a thermometer, barometer and later a hygrometer. In 1783, Salva created a fiber removing machine for hemp and flax together with his friend Francisco Santponc. He also was the first to carry out experimentations with hot-air-balloons in Barcelona.

In 1795, Salva proposed an electrostatic telegraph system. Between 1803-1804, he worked on electrical telegraphy and in 1804, he presented his report at the Royal Academy of Natural Sciences and Arts of Barcelona. Salva’s electric telegraph system was very innovative though it was greatly influenced by and based upon two new discoveries made in Europe in 1800 – Alessandro Volta’s electric battery for generating an electric current and William Nicholson and Anthony Carlyle’s electrolysis of water. Salva’s model was five years before the very similar one developed by Sommerring, which is much more recognized at present. Salva left his thoughts written in a not so well known essay titled, ‘Second Report about Galvanism as applied to Telegraphy’.

In the last few years of his life, Salva carried on his medical practice and continued to deliver lectures until he died of a cerebral disease in 1828.

Further Reading

'Francisc Salvá's Electric Telegraph' By Antonio Pérez Yuste