Georg Wilhelm Richmann

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Richmann dies in the presence of his assistant (who survived the incident) when his apparatus is struck by lightning during one of their electrical thunderstorm experiments in Saint Petersburg. The incident caused a sensation in Europe and reinforced the opponents of the lightning rod in their conviction of the dangerousness of the new technology. The picture shows a dramatized representation of this 19th century incident.

Georg Wilhelm Richman (* July 11 . Jul / 22. July  1711 greg. In Pernau (now Pärnu , Estonia), † July 26 jul. / 6. August  1753 greg. In Saint Petersburg ) was a Baltic German physicist .


Richmann studied mathematics and physics at the Universities of Halle and Jena with Georg Erhard Hamberger before moving to Saint Petersburg in 1735, where he was the tutor of Count Ostermann's sons . In 1741 he became an associate professor for physics at the Academy of Sciences there and in 1745 a full professor as the successor to Georg Wolfgang Krafft . He also became director of their physics laboratory.

Richmann researched the laws of nature that were used in refrigeration technology. The mixing rule he found experimentally became the starting point for the later discovery of specific and latent heat . Inspired by Benjamin Franklin , he and Mikhail Lomonossow researched the causes of static electricity . Richmann developed an electrometer with which he determined that the force exerted by a charged body depends not only on its mass, but also on its shape. He examined the electrical charge in the atmosphere before and during a thunderstorm with the help of an iron rod installed at his house with an electrometer installed at the end. When he tried to read the device during a thunderstorm on July 26, 1753, lightning struck the iron rod and killed him.