“There are people who think that
everything one does
with a serious face
– Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
The youngest of seventeen children, his intelligence and wit became obvious at a very early age. He wanted to study mathematics, but his family could not afford to pay for lessons.
As a physicist, today he is remembered for his investigations in electricity, for discovering branching discharge patterns on dielectrics now called Lichtenberg figures. By discharging a high voltage point near an insulator, he was able to record strange tree-like patterns in fixed dust. These Lichtenberg figures are considered today to be examples of fractals.
In 1777, he built a large electrophorus in order to generate static electricity through induction. One of the largest ever made, it was 6 feet in diameter and could produce 15 inch sparks. With it, he discovered the basic principle of modern copy machine technology.
He was one of the first to introduce Benjamin Franklin’s
lightning rod to Germany by installing such devices to his house in Göttingen and his garden sheds. He also proposed the standardized paper size system used all over the world today (except in the US and Canada), which has A4 as the most commonly used size.