An Entertainment for Angels: Electricity in the Enlightenment
Electricity was the scientific fashion of the Enlightenment, 'an Entertainment for Angels, rather than for Men'. Lecturers attracted huge audiences to marvel at sparkling fountains, flaming drinks, pirouetting dancers and electrified boys. Flamboyant experimenters made chains of soldiers leap into the air, while wealthy women titillated their admirers with a sensational electric kiss. Enlightenment optimists predicted that this new-found power of nature would cure illnesses, improve crop production, even bring the dead back to life.
Benjamin Franklin, better known as one of America's founding fathers, played a key role in developing the new instruments and theories of electricity during the eighteenth century. Celebrated for drawing lightning down from the sky with a kite, Franklin was an Enlightenment expert on electricity who introduced rods to protect tall buildings, treated paralysed patients, and developed one of the most successful explanations of this mysterious phenomenon.
Using contemporary illustrations, Patricia Fara vividly portrays how Franklin and his colleagues struggled to understand the strange and exciting effects that their experiments were producing. By demonstrating their control of the natural world, Enlightenment philosophers hoped to gain authority over society. And their stunning electrical performances provided dramatic evidence of their special powers.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Noted science historian Patricia Fara details the history of electrical discoveries and innovations from Newton to Volta, threading together the lives of Benjamin Franklin, Mary Shelley, Henry Cavendish, and many other "natural philosophers" of the 18th and 19th centuries. Her writing is fun and interesting enough, but there's no ground-breaking thesis here, no earth-shattering revelation. Of note are the many ways that American and European scientists tried to use electricity to heal diseases. A quick read.
Review: An Entertainment for Angels: Electricity in the EnlightenmentUser Review - Goodreads
Unlike most history of science books, this one is enough to make one laugh aloud. Science at one point was an entertainment opportunity, where people hired folks to perform experiments. My favorite was the electrical boys, with Mesmer ranking a close second.
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Electricity and Enlightenment
Francis Hauksbee and
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