Brazil: shedding light on the matter

Osmar Pinto Junior , Iara Cardoso

Brazil is the country with the highest number of lightning in the world: more than 57 million a year. This book tells how the phenomenon was interpreted and understood at different times, from indigenous cultures, through discovery, colonial and imperial periods and the phases of Brazil Republic, to the present day.

Myths like “lightning doesn’t strike twice” or “lightning comes from clashing clouds” are deconstructed. The authors analyze the consequences of global warming, the increase in lightning incidence due to anthropic factors such as urbanization and projections for the future. The book also includes an unprecedented survey on lightning deaths in Brazil between 2000 and 2014.

This research inspired the Country of Lightning series, shown on Fantástico, a Brazilian television program in Rede Globo, as well as the documentary film Fragmentos de Paixão, screened on Cinemark and on the +Globosat channel.

Original titles
Brasil: que raio de história
Year of publication

About the authors

Osmar Pinto Junior

Osmar Pinto Junior is an electronic engineer with a degree from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), a Master’s and a PhD from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), a postdoctoral degree from the University of Washington and several internships at NASA centers. Author of more than a hundred articles in scientific journals in Brazil and abroad and two books, he has coordinated the Atmospheric Electricity Group of INPE over 25 years. In 2004, he was elected the first South American scientist to join the International Committee on Atmospheric Electricity.

Iara Cardoso de Almeida Pinto

Iara Cardoso de Almeida Pinto holds a degree in Journalism with a specialization in Scientific Journalism from the Laboratory of Advanced Studies in Journalism (Labjor) at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), in Digital Cinema from New York Film Academy/Universal Studios and in Journalism for Digital TV from NBC News/NYFA channel. She was a fellow at the Advanced Study Program of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, having specialized in scientific documentaries and scripts. She is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Cinema. She was responsible for the screenplay and production of the series Country of Lightning, shown on Fantástico, a Brazilian television program of Rede Globo. She also directed, scripted and produced the documentary film Fragmentos de Paixão, screened on Cinemark and on the +Globosat channel.



Indigenous Brazil (up to 1500)

Brazil Discovery (1501 to 1550)

Brazil Colony (1551 to 1807)

Brazil Empire of Portugal (1808 to 1821)

Brazil Empire (1822 to 1888)

Brazil Republic (1889 to 1955)

Brazil Republic (1956 to 2015)

Brazil of tomorrow (2015 and the future)


Bibliographical references


Throughout its little more than 500 years, the history of our country if full of events in which the lightnings were present, in some cases as supporting among other effects of the storms, in other as protagonists. These events are narrated in this book interspersed with relevant historical facts. Brasil: que raio de história is the result of three years of intense research in the most diverse sources within the country and even abroad.
This book is also the fruit of a passion for the phenomenon that we learn to cultivate with perseverance. If in our short lives we struggle to leave some marks, the lightnings remain austere and immortal, uniting and fragmenting cultures and weaving what we call civilization. In this sense, if understanding the past in all its complexity is a form to acquire wisdom, humbleness and a tragic sense of life, as the American historian Gordon S. Wood wrote, understanding lightning in the past is a way of acquiring a little of their immortality.
But if there are differences between us and the lightnings, there are also similarities in the fact that each lightning is unique in its form, just as we are. In the same way, if for history our lives are only an instant, for the storms the lightnings are nothing more than a flash.
The book portrays the lightnings in the past and present in the history of Brazil, from indigenous Brazil, passing through Brazil Colony, Brazil Empire of Portugal, Brazil Empire and Brazil Republic, and also reveals what may happen in the future of the country in relation to the lightnings. Beliefs, striking facts, curiosities and the main scientific discoveries are described. These facts served as the basis for the País dos Raios series, shown on Globo’s Fantástico TV show in 2013, and for the scientific documentary Fragmentos de Paixão, produced by Grupo Storm and released on Cinemark and Globosat television channel in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
The role of lightnings in the imaginary of the indigenous, slaves, Portuguese court, naturalists, as well as in wars, revolutions, tragedies, industry, electric sector, aviation and the future of a country subject to climatic changes of global warming is discussed in a text accessible to the general public.
At a moment in our history when we realize that nature is not before us to enjoy it, but to be part of a subtle balance that preserves us on the planet, to know better the lightnings throughout our history makes us more than to fear or admire them; makes us respect them as part of us.
Throughout the text it is interesting to note that the concept of lightning has evolved throughout the history of our country, from a manifestation of the gods to punish men to a manifestation of nature capable of helping men to predict the future of the climate. In a world champion country in incidence of the phenomenon, with around 50 million lightnings per year, this finding is, at least, comforting.

The authors
São José dos Campos, June 2015