Monday, April 30, 2018

Georg Wilhelm Richmann (1711-1754)

Professor Georg Wilhelm Richmann, an eminent scientist born in Estonia. He then living in St. Petersburg, Russia, had become a member of the Petersburg Academy of Sciences in 1741.

Richmann was one of the first to undertake systematic studies of atmospheric electricity. He had already made fundamental contributions to thermometry theory and believed, long before many others, that heat resulted from the motion of minute particles.

He had studied electrical phenomena a good deal, was evidently inspired by Dalibar’s experiment, and determined to give a try.

In his studies of physics he devoted his time especially to the observation of electrical phenomena during thunderstorms. He had set up a device called a gnomon or electrometer for measuring the strength of electrical currents in the air. The device consisted of a glass vessel containing brass filings attached to an iron rod that extended from the vessel to the roof of Richmann’s house.

When on July 26, 1763, he heard distant thunder, Richmann hurried to his apparatus to measure the atmospheric electricity. When he bent over the terminal of the metallic conductor leading from the roof to his room, a whitish-blue ball of fire jumped the distance of one foot from the wire to Richmann’s head and he fell to the gorund, dead. He was the first scientist killed studying artificially induced lighting.
Georg Wilhelm Richmann (1711-1754)
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