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Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the Worldby Jill Jonnes
Synopses & Reviews
At the close of the nineteenth century, three visionaries strove to establish mastery over the electrification of America. Within this endeavor lay the promise of vast fortunes, but what was really at stake was the chance for one of these men to make his mark on history.
As Thomas Alva Edison struggled to introduce his radical new direct current technology to New York City, George Westinghouse, the innovative and ruthless businessman, and Nikola Tesla, a mercurial dreamer, teamed up to challenge Edison's dominance with their alternating current. Through bold strokes and odd twists, this extraordinary trio raced for the right to change the very way men and women lived, and sometimes how they died, as in the controversy over which current would surge through condemned criminals in the electric chair.
Set against the backdrop of America's Gilded Age and populated with characters ranging from J.P. Morgan to Joseph Pulitzer, Empires of Light is nothing short of electrifying.
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, three brilliant and visionary titans of Americas Gilded Age—Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse—battled bitterly as each vied to create a vast and powerful electrical empire. In Empires of Light, historian Jill Jonnes portrays this extraordinary trio and their riveting and ruthless world of cutting-edge science, invention, intrigue, money, death, and hard-eyed Wall Street millionaires. At the heart of the story are Thomas Alva Edison, the nations most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the worlds first direct current electrical light networks; the Serbian wizard of invention Nikola Tesla, elegant, highly eccentric, a dreamer who revolutionized the generation and delivery of electricity; and the charismatic George Westinghouse, Pittsburgh inventor and tough corporate entrepreneur, an industrial idealist who in the era of gaslight imagined a world powered by cheap and plentiful electricity and worked heart and soul to create it.
Edison struggled to introduce his radical new direct current (DC) technology into the hurly-burly of New York City as Tesla and Westinghouse challenged his dominance with their alternating current (AC), thus setting the stage for one of the eeriest feuds in American corporate history, the War of the Electric Currents. The battlegrounds: Wall Street, the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair, Niagara Falls, and, finally, the death chamber—Jonnes takes us on the tense walk down a prison hallway and into the sunlit room where William Kemmler, convicted ax murderer, became the first man to die in the electric chair.
Empires of Light is the gripping history of electricity, the “mysterious fluid,” and how the fateful collision of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse left the world utterly transformed.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Jill Jonnes is an author and historian with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. She has received awards from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is the author of South Bronx Rising and Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams. She lives with her family in Baltimore, Maryland.
Please visit www.empiresoflight.com
From the Hardcover edition.
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Engineering » Engineering » History