Prokop Diviš

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Dom Prokop Diviš, O.Praem.
Jan Vilimek - Prokop Divis.jpg
Born(1698-03-26)26 March 1698
Helvíkovice u Žamberka, Kingdom of Bohemia, Habsburg Empire
Died 21 December 1765(1765-12-21) (aged 67)
Přímětice u Znojma, Kingdom of Bohemia, Habsburg Empire
Education University of Salzburg
Occupation Praemonstratensian canon regular and scientist
Plaque of Prokop Divis by Jan Tomas Fischer (1912-1957) at the former Jesuit gymnasium on Jezuitske Square in Znojmo Prokop Divis plaque.jpg
Plaque of Prokop Diviš by Jan Tomáš Fischer (1912–1957) at the former Jesuit gymnasium on Jezuitské Square in Znojmo
The "machina meteorologica" invented by Prokop Divis worked like a lightning rod. Prokop Divis rodny domek edit.jpg
The "machina meteorologica" invented by Prokop Diviš worked like a lightning rod.
Bust of Prokop Divis by Jan Tomas Fischer in front of the former Jesuit gymnasium on Divisovo Square in Znojmo. Prokop Divis bust detail.jpg
Bust of Prokop Diviš by Jan Tomáš Fischer in front of the former Jesuit gymnasium on Divišovo Square in Znojmo.
Family home of Prokop Divis, "machina meteorologica" on the right. Prokop Divis rodny domek.jpg
Family home of Prokop Diviš, "machina meteorologica" on the right.
Plaque on Prokop Divis' family home Prokop Divis plague.jpg
Plaque on Prokop Diviš' family home
Prokop Divis Theatre in Zamberk with "machina meteorologica" on the top. Divisovo divadlo zamberk.jpg
Prokop Diviš Theatre in Žamberk with "machina meteorologica" on the top.

Dom Prokop Diviš, O.Praem. (Czech pronunciation: [ˈprokop ˈɟɪvɪʃ] [1] ) (26 March 1698 [2] – 21 December 1765) was a Czech canon regular, theologian and natural scientist. In an attempt to prevent thunderstorms from occurring, he inadvertently constructed one of the first grounded lightning rods.

Lightning rod metal rod or metallic object to protect from lightning

A lightning rod or lightning conductor (UK) is a metal rod mounted on a structure and intended to protect the structure from a lightning strike. If lightning hits the structure, it will preferentially strike the rod and be conducted to ground through a wire, instead of passing through the structure, where it could start a fire or cause electrocution. Lightning rods are also called finials, air terminals or strike termination devices.


Early life

He was born Václav Divíšek [3] on 26 March 1698 in Helvíkovice, Bohemia (now Ústí nad Orlicí District, Czech Republic). As a child, he began his studies at the Jesuit gymnasium in the town. In 1716, at the age of 18, he entered a gymnasium run at the Premonstratensian abbey located in the village of Louka, where he completed his basic studies in 1719.

Helvíkovice village in Ústí nad Orlicí District of Pardubice region

Helvíkovice(Helkovice) is a village in the Ústí nad Orlicí District, Pardubice Region of the Czech Republic. It used to be part of Žamberk. It has around 430 inhabitants.

Bohemia Historical land in Czech Republic

Bohemia is the westernmost and largest historical region of the Czech lands in the present-day Czech Republic. In a broader meaning, Bohemia sometimes refers to the entire Czech territory, including Moravia and Czech Silesia, especially in a historical context, such as the Lands of the Bohemian Crown ruled by Bohemian kings.

Ústí nad Orlicí District District in Pardubice Region, Czech Republic

Ústí nad Orlicí District is a district (okres) within Pardubice Region of the Czech Republic. Its capital is city Ústí nad Orlicí. The district has borders with Pardubice District to the west, Svitavy District to the south and Chrudim District to the southwest.

Divíšek then entered the novitiate of the abbey, taking the name Prokop (or Procopius). He completed this period of probation the following year and professed his religious vows in the Order. He then proceeded to study philosophy and theology in preparation for ordination to the Catholic priesthood, which occurred in 1726. From 1729-1735 he taught philosophy at the abbey gymnasium. [4] During this period, he was sent by his abbot to the Paris Lodron University in Salzburg (now the University of Salzburg) to pursue advanced studies in theology. In 1733 he completed his doctoral dissertation, and was granted the degree of Doctor of Theology. [5]


The novitiate, also called the noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a Christian novice monastic, apostolic, or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether he or she is called to vowed religious life. It often includes times of intense study, prayer, living in community, studying the vowed life, deepening one's relationship with God, and deepening one's self-awareness. It is a time of creating a new way of being in the world. The novitiate stage in most communities is a two-year period of formation. These years are "Sabbath time" to deepen one's relationship with God, to intensify the living out of the community's mission and charism, and to foster human growth. The novitiate experience for many communities includes a concentrated program of prayer, study, reflection and limited ministerial engagement.

Profession vocation founded upon specialized educational training

A profession is an occupation founded upon specialized educational training, the purpose of which is to supply disinterested objective counsel and service to others, for a direct and definite compensation, wholly apart from expectation of other business gain. The term is a truncation of the term "liberal profession", which is, in turn, an Anglicization of the French term "profession libérale". Originally borrowed by English users in the 19th century, it has been re-borrowed by international users from the late 20th, though the (upper-middle) class overtones of the term do not seem to survive retranslation: "liberal professions" are, according to the European Union's Directive on Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC) "those practiced on the basis of relevant professional qualifications in a personal, responsible and professionally independent capacity by those providing intellectual and conceptual services in the interest of the client and the public".

Religious vows promises made by members of religious communities

Religious vows are the public vows made by the members of religious communities pertaining to their conduct, practices, and views.

Diviš then returned to his abbey and resumed the monastic life of a canon regular, serving as sub-prior of the abbey. In 1736 he was appointed as pastor of a parish in Přímětice (now part of Znojmo) which was served by the abbey. He served in that capacity for five years, before being recalled to the abbey in April 1741, where he served as its prior. During the spring of the following year, in the course of the First Silesian War, the abbot, Antonin Nolbek, was arrested by the forces of the Kingdom of Prussia and taken to a prison in Prussia. The payment of a large ransom by Diviš for the abbot's release incurred his displeasure, leading him to return Diviš to the parish in Přímětice. [5]

Prior Ecclesiastical title

Prior, derived from the Latin for "earlier, first", is an ecclesiastical title for a superior, usually lower in rank than an abbot or abbess. Its earlier generic usage referred to any monastic superior.

Pastor ordained leader of a Christian congregation

A pastor is an ordained leader of a Christian congregation. A pastor also gives advice and counsel to people from the community or congregation.

Znojmo Town in Czech Republic

Znojmo is a major town in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic, the administrative capital of the Znojmo District. It is the historical and cultural centre of southwestern Moravia.


Back at the parish, Diviš became responsible for the management of farmland belonging to it. He undertook the construction of water conduits on the property. As a result, he became interested in a popular new interest in the scientific community of his day, electricity. He began a series of experiments over the next years, mostly on plant growth and therapy with small electrical voltage. He published the results and allegedly demonstrated at the Imperial Court in Vienna. [5] Diviš also constructed the Denis d'or, which allegedly imitated the sounds of various musical instruments. [5] This instrument is dated to 1753, though only one prototype was built, and it vanished soon after Diviš death. The novelty instrument produced electrical shocks as practical jokes on the player. It is disputed whether the Denis d'or sounds were also produced by electricity or if it was an otherwise acoustical instrument. [6]

The Denis d’or was, in the broadest sense, possibly the first electric musical instrument in history.

The news of the death of Georg Wilhelm Richmann, a professor in St. Petersburg, who was killed by lightning in 1753 during his attempt at measuring the intensity of the electric field in the atmosphere, caused Diviš to become interested in atmospheric electricity. [5] In letters, he proposed to several physicists (among them the Academies of Science in St. Petersburg and Vienna, as well as Leonhard Euler) to construct a "weather-machine" - a device that would suppress and prevent thunderstorms and lightning by constantly sucking atmospheric electricity out of the air. His theories were already in his time recognized as fringe science, and thus ignored. When Diviš didn't receive answers, he took it up on himself to build such a machine in his own parish. [7]

Georg Wilhelm Richmann Russian physicist

Georg Wilhelm Richmann, was a Baltic German physicist. He proved that thunder clouds contain electric charge.

Leonhard Euler Swiss mathematician

Leonhard Euler was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, astronomer, logician and engineer who made important and influential discoveries in many branches of mathematics, such as infinitesimal calculus and graph theory, while also making pioneering contributions to several branches such as topology and analytic number theory. He also introduced much of the modern mathematical terminology and notation, particularly for mathematical analysis, such as the notion of a mathematical function. He is also known for his work in mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy and music theory.

Fringe science is an inquiry in an established field of study which departs significantly from mainstream theories in that field and is considered to be questionable by the mainstream.

On 15 June 1754, he erected a forty metres high, free-standing pole in Přímětice, on which he mounted his "weather-machine", consisting of several tin boxes and more than 400 metal spikes. A well-established theory in that time was that more pointed spikes would conduct electricity better. The pole was secured by heavy metal chains that inadvertently also grounded his construction, making it actually one of the first grounded lightning rods. He described his invention as being very effective at driving off storms: clouds formed when the pole was taken down and disappeared when erected again. He took these occasional observations as proof of his theory that the pointed spikes extracted latent electricity out of the atmosphere, deposing them safely before lightning could form. Several local newspapers and novelty papers from Southern Germany made reports on his attempts. [7]

His findings weren't well received in the scientific community that largely decided to ignore him. In 1759, a drought threatened Přímětice's farmers, who now took action against their priests' attempts to control the weather and consequently destroyed the first "weather-machine". This led to a dissent between Diviš and his "unruly flock", that only ended when the church superiors advised Diviš to stop his experiments. He was advised to unmount his second "weather-machine" which he had then for security reasons mounted on the tower of his church, and hand it over to the Louka abbey. [7]

Diviš continued to correspond with scientists and promote his own theory which he called Magia naturalis. Fricker and Oetinger, two like-minded priests from Württemberg who had visited him during the experiments, helped him publish it abroad under the German name "Längst verlangte Theorie von der meteorologischen Electricité" (Much desired theory of the metereological electricity), in the same year that Diviš died. Again, the theory was largely ignored, though Tetens reviewed them a few years after and called it a work of fantasy. [7]

Death and legacy

Diviš died on 21 December 1765 in Přímětice.

After years of obscurity, memory of Diviš was reignited in the late 19th century. Now seen as a visionary inventor, supporters saw him as the European inventor of the lightning rod, who invented the lightning rod in the same years as Benjamin Franklin, probably even independently. Despite scientific reviews of Diviš's errors (among others, German physicist Meidinger, who compared evidence about early lightning rods in 1888; and Czech scientific historians Smolka and Haubelt in 2004/05), there are still popular claims that Prokop Diviš invented the lightning rod. Indeed, his free-standing apparatus in 1754 was probably better grounded than Franklin's experimental lightning rods at that time. [8] [9] The "weather-machine" failed, however, the common purpose of lightning rods: to actually protect a building; while the grounding chains were not remotely secure.

See also


  1. German : Prokop Diwisch; Latin : Procopius Divis(ch)
  2. Church record about birth and baptization - in the list marked by red dot
  3. "The Prokop Diviš Memorial". Archived from the original on 1 June 2008. Retrieved 1 June 2008.
  4. Memorial
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Radio Praha "Prokop Divis"
  6. Peer Sitter: Das Denis d'or: Urahn der 'elektroakustischen' Musikinstrumente? (The Denis d'or - ancestor of electro-acoustic instruments?) Archived 3 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine . (german)
  7. 1 2 3 4 Christa Möhring: Eine Geschichte des Blitzableiters. Die Ableitung des Blitzes und die Neuordnung des Wissens um 1800 (German dissertation; The history of the lightning rod. Conduction of Lightning and the re-ordering of knowledge around 1800) p. 83-105
  8. Zprvu nepochopený vynálezce hromosvodu (in Czech)
  9. Vynálezce hromosvodu (in Czech)

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