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Medieval Bell Ringers Struck Down


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  • Location: Camborne
  • Location: Camborne

    It is well known that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity in clouds. One day flying a kite high up to the thunderclouds he saw a small spark jump from the kite, and in so doing discovered electricity in the clouds and confirmed his hunch that lightning was electrical. Little did he realise how perilously close he had come to electrocuting himself; at least one later attempt to repeat the experiment ended in tragedy.

    From these early experiments lightning rods earthed to the ground became a standard protection from lightning strikes, and Franklin was established as a great scientist. One group who particularly benefited from Franklin's discoveries were church bell ringers. In medieval Europe, it was common for church bells to be rung during thunderstorms in a vain attempt to break up thunderclouds and keep lightning from striking tall church spires. Ringing damp ropes in wet belfries cost the lives of quite a few ringers. Between 1753 and 1786, lightning strikes down bell ropes killed 103 French bell ringers.

    Dodgy business campanology. Or at least it was.

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