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Vaclav Prokop Divis

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Title: Vaclav Prokop Divis  
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Vaclav Prokop Divis

Dom Prokop Diviš, O.Praem.
Born (1698-03-26)26 March 1698
Helvíkovice u Žamberka, Kingdom of Bohemia, Hapsburg Empire
Died 25 December 1765(1765-12-25) (aged 67)
Přímětice u Znojma, Kingdom of Bohemia, Hapsburg Empire
Education University of Salzburg
Occupation Praemonstratensian canon regular and scientist

Dom Prokop Diviš, O.Praem. (Czech pronunciation: [ˈvaːtslaf ˈprokop ˈɟɪvɪʃ][1] (26 March 1698 – 25 December 1765) was a Czech canon regular, theologian and natural scientist, who invented the first grounded lightning rod.

Early life

He was born Václav Divíšek[2] 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.

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[4]


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 with great success, which he demonstrated at the Imperial Court in Vienna.[4]

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, and to the decision to construct a "weather-machine" at Přímětice.[4]

As a consequence of his research, Diviš became the inventor of the first grounded lightning rod. Benjamin Franklin had invented the lightning rod in 1752 in the United States, but it did not work well, because it was not grounded, while Diviš's apparatus in 1754 was. Therefore it worked perfectly, and was constructed six years before Franklin's invention.[5][6]

Diviš also constructed the first electrified musical instrument in history, the Denis d'or, which imitated the sounds of various musical instruments, dated to 1753.[4]


Diviš died on 25 December 1765 in Přímětice.

See also

  • List of Roman Catholic scientist-clerics



  • Reinhard Breymayer. "Bibliographie zu Prokop Diviš". from Friedrich Christoph Oetinger's Die Lehrtafel der Prinzessin Antonia. Hrsg. von Reinhard Breymayer und Friedrich Häußermann. Teil 2. Anmerkungen. Berlin, New York 1977, pp. 431–453
  • Luboš Nový (Ed.): Dějiny exaktních věd v českých zemích do konce 19. století. Prague 1961
  • Wolfgang Grassl: Culture of Place: An Intellectual Profile of the Premonstratensian Order. Bautz, Nordhausen 2012.

External links

  • (Divis died December 25, not December 21 as claimed there)
  • Prokop Diviš Memorial.

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