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Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753


Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753


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Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753

Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753. Artwork of the German physicist Georg Wilhelm Richmann (left, 1722-1753), of Saint Petersburg, Russia, being killed in his laboratory by ball lightning during a thunderstorm on 6 August 1753. The previous year, following Franklins proposals to use metal rods to investigate lightning, several such experiments had been carried out, including one by Dalibard in France (May 1752) and Franklins kite- flying experiment (June 1752). Several attempts to replicate these experiments proved fatal. Richmann rushed home during a thunderstorm to carry out the experiment, but the force of the lightning singed his clothes, blew open his shoes, knocked out his engineer Sokoloff (right), ripped the door off its hinges, and killed Richmann, leaving a red mark on his forehead. Artwork from A Travers l Electricite (G. Dary, Paris, 1900)

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Media ID 6411594

© SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

1700s 1753 18th Century 1900 A Travers Electricite Assistant August Danger Dangerous Dary Dead Death Dying Electric Electrical Experiment Experimenting French German History Of Science Lightning Lightning Rod Physicist Researcher Researching Russia Russian Scientist St Petersburg Storm Surname R Thunder Storm Laboratory Physical


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EDITORS COMMENTS
This artwork captures a tragic moment in scientific history, depicting the fateful day when ball lightning claimed the life of German physicist Georg Wilhelm Richmann. In his laboratory in Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 6 August 1753, during a thunderstorm, Richmann sought to replicate Benjamin Franklin's groundbreaking experiments with lightning rods. As depicted in this illustration from "A Travers l'Electricite, " the force of nature proved too powerful for Richmann and his assistant Sokoloff. The intense electrical discharge singed their clothes and blew open their shoes. The door was ripped off its hinges by the sheer force of the lightning strike. Tragically, it was Georg Wilhelm Richmann who bore the brunt of this deadly encounter. A red mark on his forehead serves as a haunting reminder of his untimely demise at just 31 years old. This incident stands as a stark warning about the inherent dangers that come with pushing boundaries and exploring uncharted territories within science. Richmann's death marked one of several fatal attempts to replicate Franklin's experiments across Europe during that time period. While these endeavors ultimately led to significant advancements in our understanding of electricity and lightning protection systems, they also serve as poignant reminders of how far we have come since those early days. This artwork not only memorializes an unfortunate loss but also pays homage to those brave scientists who fearlessly pursued knowledge despite facing grave risks along their path towards enlightenment.

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