Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/373

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THE INVENTOR OF THE LIGHTNING-ROD.

upon natural sciences. After a year had passed, Divis was obliged to change his subject and lecture on theology. He distinguished himself also in this new field, and accordingly, on the 5th of August, 1733, the University of Salzburg conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity.

He had been longing for an opportunity to devote himself to scientific research. His wishes seemed to be fulfilled when he was ordained parson of the parish of Prendice (Pren'dyitsch), a small village in southern Moravia, near the city of Znojmo (Znaim on English maps). Here all his leisure was given to physical experiments; with especial care he studied the properties of water and fire (oxidation). In 1741 he became prior of the Lukan Convent, and consequently had to discontinue his scientific labors for a few years, as the duties of the new office required all his time. Besides, the Austro-Prussian War had just broken out,[1] and a double care devolved upon the shoulders of the new prior. Throughout the war Divis faithfully performed his duties, but as soon as peace was restored to Moravia he resigned his dignity and returned to Prendice to resume his favorite work. His parish was a small one, and thus Divis was enabled to spare time enough for scientific inquiries. He now entered upon an examination of electricity. Pursuing the safe empiric method, Divis based all his conclusions and estimates upon careful experiments. His observations of thunderstorms led him soon to a discovery that lightning was but an electrical spark—that in his laboratory he could imitate thunder and lightning on a small scale—and he resolved to try if it were possible to make thunderbolts harmless. How thorough his studies were, may be gathered from the fact that he worked out a complete theory of atmospheric electricity, a treatise on which was published from his papers after his death.

Another important discovery followed soon after. Divis found out that metallic points would both attract and discharge electricity more speedily than anything else, and proceeded to make a practical application of the newly discovered truth. About the same time Franklin, on this side of the Atlantic, was receiving his first lessons in electricity from Dr. Spence.

The fame of the electrical experiments of Divis soon reached the imperial court of Vienna, and the Emperor Francis Stephen, who was somewhat of an amateur naturalist himself, invited Divis to Vienna, to repeat his experiments in the halls of the


  1. Charles VI, King of Bohemia and Hungary and Emperor of Germany, died in 1740, leaving his dominions to his daughter Maria Theresa. Frederick the Prussian thought this a good opportunity to rob the queen of some of her territories, and he immediately, without any right, and without even a declaration of war, invaded Silesia.