The verb galvanize is an eponym. It derives from the name of Italian physician and physicist Luigi Galvani (1737-1798).

The word is used with two very different meanings:

galvanize: to apply a protective metallic coating to an underlying piece of metal,

galvanize: to stir into life, as with an electric shock.

The idea of stirring into life was the original meaning:

According to popular version of the story, Galvani dissected a frog at a table where he had been conducting experiments with static electricity. Galvani’s assistant touched an exposed sciatic nerve of the frog with a metal scalpel, which had picked up a charge. At that moment, they saw sparks and the dead frog’s leg kick as if in life. —Wikipedia

Galvani experimenting with animal electricity
Galvani experimenting with “animal electricity”

We’ve all seen the scenes in Frankenstein movies in which Dr. Frankenstein and his assistant harness the electricity generated by a thunderstorm to galvanize the lifeless body of the monster.

Dr. Frankenstein harnesses electrical energy to galvanize a corpse
Dr. Frankenstein harnesses electrical energy to galvanize a corpse

This sense of galvanize to bring to sudden life is used in various contexts:

Restricting freedom after Tucson shooting will galvanize gun owners

I really believe in the end this entire story came at a great time for this team and will galvanize them…

Obama Presidency Will Galvanize 30 Million American Idealists and Reformers…

The other sense of galvanize, to apply a protective coating to metal, derives from an electrical plating process. What we refer to as “galvanized metal,” iron coated with zinc to protect it from rusting, is more commonly produced by means of a dipping process.

Metal being “galvanized” by the hot dip method

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