Lightning in the Age of Benjamin Franklin

Facts and Fictions in Science, Religion and Art

Author: Jan Wim Buisman

About this book

Thunder and lightning have been seen from time immemorial as God’s instruments of punishment. Until the invention of the lightning rod by Benjamin Franklin in 1752. In Lightning in the Age of Benjamin Franklin. Facts and Fictions in Science, Religion, and Art Jan Wim Buisman shows how the Enlightenment and Romanticism have changed our scientific, religious and artistic image of natural violence forever. In the eighteenth century, thunderstorms are experienced less and less as a threat and more and more as something extraordinary. The image of God and the image of nature changed radically. The religion of enlightened people, for example, was more determined by joy than by fear. And nature was almost experienced as a girlfriend. That had significant consequences because those who no longer had to be afraid of the thunderstorm could play with it without hesitation. That’s what poets, painters and musicians did to their heart’s content. Never before the beauty of the storm was depicted as much in the western culture as during the transition from the Enlightenment to Romanticism.

Jan Wim Buisman (1954) wrote numerous publications about the history of the religious mentality and the feeling of nature in the Netherlands from 1750 to 1830. He is a retired University Lecturer at the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Religion.

Format: Hardback

Pages: 326

Illustrated: Colour

ISBN Print: 9789087283872

ISBN ePDF: 9789400604339

Published: 15 May 2023

Language: English

  • —Peter J. Thuesen, author of Tornado God: American Religion and Violent Weather

    The transition from a premodern fear of nature to Romanticism’s love affair with the natural sublime has been explored from many angles. But in this absorbing and erudite book, Jan Wim Buisman reveals that lightning and electricity were central to this transformation. From the premodern practice of bell-ringing to ward off lightning, to the Enlightenment’s playful use of static electricity to generate an “electric kiss,” Buisman charts the evolution of Europeans’ relationship to one of nature’s fundamental forces. He shows how scientific advances such as the lightning rod actually made the Romantic fascination with nature possible. This electrifying book is essential reading for anyone interested in nature, religion, and intellectual history.

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