Geek Trivia

If You Have A Lichtenberg Scar You’ve Been?

Injured By Frostbite
Struck By Lightning
Stricken With Polio
Burned By Acid
In The Early 20th Century, What Strangely Modern Sounding Fad Swept Rural Britain?

Answer: Struck By Lightning

In the late 18th century, German physicist Georg Lichtenberg discovered a rather interesting and beautiful thing. Dust settling onto electrically charged plates he was using in his research would create lovely patterns that looked like tiny tree branches.

The figures, now understood to be created by high voltage electrical discharges passing along the surface of or through insulated materials, are named Lichtenberg figures in his honor.

Although it’s relatively rare to see Lichtenberg figures outside of a laboratory, they can sometimes be found around the site of a lightning strike (such as in a pattern on the grass of a golf course, sports field, or meadow). Even more rarely than that, you can find them on human beings in the form of a Lichtenberg scar or “lightning flower” as they are sometimes called. In very rare cases when a person is struck by lightning, it will pass just along the surface of their body and in doing so may rupture surface capillaries and burn skin in a Lichtenberg pattern (as seen in the photo of the man’s shoulder here), leaving the same branching tree-like lightning pattern that was first observed on Lichtenberg’s plates over two centuries ago.