Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753

Ball lightning kills Richmann, 1753

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Credit: SHEILA TERRY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: 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 Franklin's proposals to use metal rods to investigate lightning, several such experiments had been carried out, including one by Dalibard in France (May 1752) and Franklin's 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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