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Talk, Wed 14 Jun 2017

Lichtenberg’s Remarkable Figures

Lichtenberg’s Remarkable Figures


Hill Road,
Lyme Regis,


Georg Christoph Lichtenberg in the eighteenth century, and Étienne Leopold Trouvelot in the nineteenth, worked on the same subject and published scientific papers on it, but lived a century apart and never met. Their work is called to this day 'Lichtenberg figures' – the strange, beautiful, almost organic shapes formed when a pulse of high-voltage electricity passes over the surface of an insulator.

Lichtenberg was the first to describe these figures, with Trouvelot (famous as an astronomical illustrator and notorious as an accidental environmental vandal) one of the first to record them photographically. Kirlian Photography and Aura Photography are related phenomena, which some people still explore.

John Marriage has researched the history of these two men who were interested in both science and art. His talk is illustrated by examples of their work, and of Lichtenberg figures created by himself.

Although they and others approached the subject for scientific purposes, there was in the end little important scientific outcome. But the visual force of their images has continued to attract artists. The 2015 'Revelations' exhibition in London’s Science Museum was but the latest in a series of public explorations showcasing this confluence of art and science.

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Event details

Dates Times
Wed 14 Jun 2017 11:00 to 12:00
11.00 for talk. Coffee available from 10.00


Free to U3A members. Suggested £2 donation for non-members



See location of Woodmead Halls on Google mapsSee location on Google maps

Map reference: ND 340233  Lat: 50.72691 Long: -2.93636


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