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The Electric Rod: Dowsing And The Freiberg Mining Academy

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Chapter Summary

Christian Hieronymus Lommer was the first professor of mine engineering and mineralogy at the Freiberg Mining Academy in Saxony. This chapter explains that Freiberg became a site for the integration of new science and prospecting tradition, notwithstanding Enlightenment rhetoric to the contrary. The famous Freiberg physicist, Ferdinand Reich, rejected Romantic science, but the Central Mining Office nonetheless asked him in the 1840s to examine a mine surveyor who claimed to experience 'galvanic excitement' with a dowsing rod. The dowser could appropriate a theory of galvanism that the physics community otherwise embraced. It begins with the Mining Academy to see how the dowser became the antithesis of the Enlightened specialist, but how prospecting defied the Enlightenment agenda. The movements of the dowsing rod, pendulum, or metal rods were equivalent at a microcosmic level of what occurred in the universe at a macrocosmic level.

Keywords: Christian Hieronymus Lommer; dowsing rod; Freiberg mining academy



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