6. Georg Wilhelm Richmann Got Struck In The Center Of His Head By Lightning
Georg Wilhelm Richmann was a Swedish scientist and a major fan of Benjamin Franklin, or at least reckless kite flying. Eager to use a lightning rod to confirm for himself Franklin’s theories, Professor Richmann unleashed his inner Bill Paxton and raced a storm home to his lab. He was accompanied by an academic engraver named Sokolov, who ended up seeing (and later engraving) what happened next.
Sokolov used words as well, and what he described is downright ghoulish:
[A] palish blue ball of fire, as big as a fist, came out of the rod without any contact whatsoever. It went right to the forehead of the professor, who in that instant fell back without uttering a sound.
An anonymous engraving of a 1755 medical report would also eventually surface:
There appeared a red spot from the forehead from which spirted[sic] some drops of blood through the pores, without wounding the surrounding skin. The shoe belonging to the left foot was burst open. Uncovering the foot at that place they found a blue mark, by which it is concluded that the electrical force of the thunder, having forced into the head, made its way out again at the foot.
So a few lessons to take from that. 1) No matter how cool it looks, one should never stand near a conductor during a thunderstorm. And 2) a blue ball of fire to the forehead does not give you superpowers. Still, this was a guy excited about science, and who died doing it. That’s rad, and we’re sorry to see you go, Professor Georg Richmann. And also sorry about the lack of superpowers thing, because that would have made the latter half of the century a lot more interesting and given us a couple more articles.