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Kinaesthesia, the sense of bodily movement, had been studied before the nineteenth century under a variety of other names, including “inner sense” and “organic” or “visceral” sensibility – all referring to those unclassifiable sensations that could not be traced accurately to one of the five known sense organs, but seemed to originate from the undifferentiated mass of the viscera. It was not until the early nineteenth century, however, that “muscle sense” was officially declared a “sixth sense” in its own right. The credit for this “discovery” is usually given to two physiologists: Charles Bell (1774-1842) and François Magendie (1783-1855). Working in England and France respectively in the mid-1820s, each independently discovered that the two sets of nerves carrying sensory impulses and motor impulses were attached to different parts of the spinal cord. Their findings suggested that if muscles were capable of receiving sensations as well as carrying out movements, they might have a sentience comparable to that of the eye or the ear.

    • From Zeynep Çelik, “Kinaesthesia” in Caroline A. Jones (ed.), Sensorium: Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2006)