World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000238033
Reproduction Date:

Title: Electrocution  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Electric shock, Insulating link, Bug zapper, Frank Silvera, James Cumming
Collection: Causes of Death, Electricity, Injuries
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Electrocution is death caused by electric shock, electric current passing through the body. The word is derived from "electro" and "execution", but it is also used for accidental death.[1] The word is also sometimes used to describe non-fatal injuries due to electricity.[2] The term "electrocution," coined about the time of the first use of the electric chair in 1890, originally referred only to electrical execution (from which it is a portmanteau word), and not to accidental or suicidal electrical deaths. However, since no English word was available for non-judicial deaths due to electric shock, the word "electrocution" eventually took over as a description of all circumstances of electrical death from the new commercial electricity. The first recorded accidental electrocution (besides lightning strikes) occurred in 1879 when a stage carpenter in Lyon, France touched a 250-volt wire.[3]


  • Medical aspects 1
  • Execution by electrocution 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Medical aspects

The health hazard of electric current flowing through the body depends on the amount of fibrillation in the heart, which is reversible via defibrillator but can be fatal without help. Currents as low as 30 mA AC or 300-500 mA DC applied to the body surface can cause fibrillation. Large currents (> 1 A) cause permanent damage via burns, and cellular damage. The voltage necessary to create current of a given level through the body varies widely with the resistance of the skin; wet or sweaty skin or broken skin can allow a larger current to flow. Whether an electric current is fatal is also dependent on the path it takes through the body, which depends in turn on the points at which the current enters and leaves the body. The current path must usually include either the heart or the brain to be fatal.

Execution by electrocution

Execution by electrocution, using an electric chair, has been employed as an official method of capital punishment in only two countries, the United States and the Philippines, and is now almost obsolete. It was developed throughout the 1880s and first implemented by the state of New York because it was thought to be a more humane alternative to hanging.

The adoption of electrocution as the official method of execution in the United States came after the introduction of very high voltage Edwin F. Davis, the first "state electrician" (executioner) for the State of New York.[10]

The first person to be executed by electrocution was William Kemmler in New York‍ '​s Auburn Prison on August 6, 1890; 1000 volts was applied to his body for 17 seconds, but he was found still to be breathing after it and a second shock of 2000 volts was required to kill him. Westinghouse funded appeals of prisoners on grounds that electrocution was "cruel and unusual punishment", but the state won the appeals.

The electric chair became the dominant method of execution in the United States around 1900, and remained so until the 1980s, when lethal injection became widely accepted on the grounds that it was more humane. Today in the United States electrocution is allowable in only six states (Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia) and then only as a secondary method, which a condemned prisoner may choose as an alternative to lethal injection. The last use of the electric chair was on January 16, 2013, when Robert Gleason elected to be executed with it in Virginia.[11] The Philippines adopted electrocution in 1924 under US occupation, and used it until 1979.

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary of the English Language"Electrocute" from the , 2009
  2. ^ "electrocute". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2015-08-22. 
  3. ^ Lee, R.C.; Rudall, D. (1992). "Injury Mechanisms And Therapeutic Advances In The Study Of Electrical Shock". Proceedings of the Annual International Conference of the IEEE 7: pp.2825–2827.  
  4. ^ Randall E. Stross, The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World, Crown/Archetype - 2007, page 171-173
  5. ^ Craig Brandon, The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History pages 14-24
  6. ^ Craig Brandon The Electric Chair: An Unnatural American History page 24
  7. ^ Richard Moran, Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group - 2007, pages 102-104
  8. ^ Richard Moran, Executioner's Current: Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and the Invention of the Electric Chair, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group - 2007, page 4
  9. ^ Mark Essig, Edison and the Electric Chair: A Story of Light and Death, Bloomsbury Publishing USA - 2009, pages 152-155
  10. ^ Stuart Banner, The Death Penalty: an American history, Harvard University Press - 2009, pages 194-195
  11. ^
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.