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The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolutionby Henry Schlesinger
Synopses & Reviews
What began as a long-running dispute in biology, involving a dead frog's twitching leg, a scalpel, and a metal plate, would become an invention that transformed the history of the world: the battery. From Alessandro Volta's first copper-and-zinc model in 1800 to twenty-first-century technological breakthroughs, science journalist Henry Schlesinger traces the history of this essential power source and demonstrates its impact on our lives.
Volta's first battery not only settled the frog's leg question, it also unleashed a field of scientific research that led to the discovery of new elements and new inventions, from Samuel Morse's telegraph to Alexander Graham Bell's telephone to Thomas Edison's incandescent lightbulb. And recent advances like nanotechnology are poised to create a new generation of paradigm-shifting energy sources.
Schlesinger introduces the charlatans and geniuses, paupers and magnates, attracted to the power of the battery, including Michael Faraday, Guglielmo Marconi, Gaylord Wilshire, and Hugo Gernsback, the publisher and would-be inventor who coined the term "science fiction." A kaleidoscopic tour of an ingenious invention that helped usher in the modern world, The Battery is as entertaining as it is enlightening.
"Obscured by the handheld electronic devices that pervade our high-tech culture is the battery that powers them all. Technology journalist Schlesinger provides an illuminating historical account of a device whose enormous influence has been downplayed or misunderstood. The term 'battery' is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who arranged Leyden jars in a manner akin to a battery of cannon. But possible early electrochemical batteries — the centuries-old Baghdad batteries — discovered by archeologists in the 1930s remain controversial, as the appendix details. Schlesinger (Spycraft) discusses the battery's evolution from the Italian Alessandro Volta's early 19th-century copper and zinc model through 21st-century advances in nanotechnology. In 1800 Volta constructed his famous 'pile' of metal discs; touching each end generated a shock that could then be repeated. Yet the process remained mysterious for decades. While electric outlets replaced batteries in much of the 20th century, that process has recently been reversed, as laptop users surely appreciate. Combining enormous learning with a lively and entertaining style, this book deserves a wide general readership. 30 b&w line drawings." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
Despite the publisher's comparison of this book to Mark Kurlansky's Cod and other "object biographies", Schlesinger's volume is actually an anecdote-heavy history of the development of batteries and associated technologies. Taking readers from the Leyden Jar and Galvani's twitching frog legs to modern laptop batteries, the author shows how the development of battery technology was frequently a matter of luck rather than inspiration or scientific rigor. An appendix discusses the 2000-year old "Baghdad batteries," maintaining the element of mystery while thoroughly debunking any connection to UFOs or space aliens. Making a convincing argument that batteries are essential to our modern world, this lively book should interest a wide range of readers. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
In the tradition of Mark Kurlansky's "Cod" and "Salt" comes the first popular history of the technology which harnessed electricity and powered the greatest scientific and technological advances of the modern era. Line drawings throughout.
“Henry Schlesinger is playful and intelligent and obscenely well read.” — Richard Zacks, author of The Pirate Hunter
"Henry Schlesingers fascinating and superbly researched history of the battery is the story of civilization as we know it." — Michael Belfiore, author of The Department of Mad Scientists
Henry Schlesingers The Battery is the first popular history of the technology that harnessed electricity and powered the greatest scientific and technological advances of our time. If you like Wired Magazine and popular science books, you'll love the "hidden history" of The Battery.
About the Author
Henry Schlesinger is a journalist and author specializing in science and emerging technologies. He is the coauthor of Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda, and lives in New York City.
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Engineering » Engineering » History