The illustrated guide of the ’30s that explained how not to die electrocuted.3 min read
Some of the pictures from the German book Elektroschutz in 132 Bildern illustrate totally plausible ways one might die of electrocution, for instance touching a lamp while in the bathtub or using a hair dryer over a sink.
In 1931 the Anglo-Austrian doctor Stefan Jellinek wrote a book entitled “Elektroschutz a 132 Bildern” (Electrical Protection in 132 Images) published in 1933, in which he showed, through a series of illustrations, how simple it was to die electrocuted by electricity, a technological novelty for many people of the western world which risked tragedies related to non-knowledge of electricity.
Stefan Jellinek, who lived in Vienna at the time, through his work as a pathologist and after seeing bodies coming in as the result of electrical accidents, he dedicated himself to the dark side of electrical engineering, by examining the effects of electricity on the human body.
Stefan Jellinek as the first holder of the first chair in electropathology, an are of study that he invented. He proposed the theory of electrical suspended animation, which proposed that electricity should continue to be used to reanimate a body until signs of postmortem lividity appear. He understood, at a time when the powers and dangers of electricity were just beginning to be realised, the dichotomy of electricity’s power to both kill and bring back to life.
The proof of Jellinek’s theory came about after an incident in August 1924. A 30-year-old woman was with her little daughter in Kaisersteinbruch, (a small town on the Lower Austrian/Burgenland border), were struck by lightning.
The proof of Jellinek’s theory came about after an incident in August 1924. A 30-year-old woman was with her little daughter in Kaisersteinbruch, a small town located on the Lower Austrian border, were struck by lightning. They were brought into the morgue, and declared dead by a visiting doctor, Dr. Warecha. He had heard of Jellinek’s theory, and attempted resuscitation on the mother. After an hour both victims were revived, literally brought back to life. The incident caused a tremendous sensation and made the Jellinek Method a widely known theory of resuscitation.
Of course, 80 years ago there was no life saving or other security systems that today prevent death by lightning, and the electric shock was easy to take even in the absence of obvious errors.
The illustrations in the book are designed to alarm users, making clear the real danger of electric current, not yet completely perceived as a proponent of death. The cases faced are innumerable, some to the limits of reality (such as that of the current transmitted through a cow during milking) but had the purpose, perfectly achieved, to alarm and make fear electricity.