The Lightning Experiment of Georg Richmann

On August 6, 1753, Professor Georg Richmann of St. Petersburg tried with a colleague, M. Sokolaw, engraver to the Academy at St. Petersburg, to attract the lightning. He attached a wire to the top of his house and led it down to an iron bar suspended above "the electrical needle" and a bowl of water partly filled with iron filings. "The Professor," stated a letter from Moscow which Franklin published in The Pennsylvania Gazette, "judging from the Needle that the Tempest was at a great Distance, assured M. Sokolaw that there was no Danger, but that there might be at the Approach. M. Richmann stood about a Foot from the Bar, attentively observing the Needle. Soon after M. Sokolaw saw, the Machine being untouched, a Globe of blue and whitish Fire, about four inches Diameter, dart from the Bar against M. Richmann's Forehead, who fell backwards without the least Outcry. This was succeeded by an Explosion like that of a small Cannon which also threw M. Sokolaw on the Floor, feeling as it were some Blows on his Back. It has since been found that the Wire breaking, some Bits had hit him behind, and left the Marks of Burning on his Clothes," Professor Richmann was killed--  "his body [being] found in the midst of his apparatus, like an artilleryman dead under the wreck of his gun,"

From: Benjamin Franklin, A Biography, by Ronald W. Clarke. Random House (1983) p. 87.
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