As soon as it was shown that thunderstorms were due to electricity, it became obvious for many physicists that earthquakes, which, as Pliny said, were subterranean thunderstorms, must be electrical phenomena. Despite some opposition, the ‘system of electricity’ became the fashionable theory of earthquakes, in the second half of the 18th century. Its proponents insisted on the idea that only electrical discharges could explain that earthquake shocks propagated instantaneously over large distances. A majority of the Italian philosophers attributed the disastrous 1783 Calabrian earthquake to electricity. When electrostatic machines and Leiden jars gave way to Voltaic piles, in the beginning of the 19th century, the ‘system of electricity’ rapidly disappeared.

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