A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse

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W. W. Norton & Company, Jun 3, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 281 pages
5 Reviews

How a scientific outsider came up with a revolutionary theory of light and saved untold numbers of lives.

Augustin Fresnel (1788–1827) shocked the scientific elite with his unique understanding of the physics of light. The lens he invented was a brilliant feat of engineering that made lighthouses blaze many times brighter, farther, and more efficiently. Battling the establishment, his own poor health, and the limited technology of the time, Fresnel was able to achieve his goal of illuminating the entire French coast. At first, the British sought to outdo the new Fresnel-equipped lighthouses as a matter of national pride. Americans, too, resisted abandoning their primitive lamps, but the superiority of the Fresnel lens could not be denied for long. Soon, from Dunkirk to Saigon, shores were brightened with it.  The Fresnel legacy played an important role in geopolitical events, including the American Civil War. No sooner were Fresnel lenses finally installed along U.S. shores than they were drafted: the Union blockaded the Confederate coast; the Confederacy set about thwarting it by dismantling and hiding or destroying the powerful new lights.

Levitt’s scientific and historical account, rich in anecdote and personality, brings to life the fascinating untold story of Augustin Fresnel and his powerful invention.

  

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Review: A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse

User Review  - Judy Knight - Goodreads

Theresa Levitt has written a wonderful book. Augustin Fresnel supported the wave particle theory of light and used the mathematics of waves to design lenses that would vastly improve the brightness of ... Read full review

Review: A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse

User Review  - Hope Huntington - Goodreads

I really enjoyed this book. Maybe a bit too detailed for most folks Read full review

Contents

PREFACE
7
TWO THE FLASH OF BRILLIANCE
49
FOUR RACE TO PERFECTION
97
NOTES
235
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
265
Copyright

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About the author (2013)

Theresa Levitt held the McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of History of Science at the University of Mississippi and is associate professor of history there. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she has a master’s degree in history from Iowa State University and a PhD from Harvard University. She was the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant and a Fulbright IIE Graduate Research Fellowship, among other honors. She is the author of numerous articles and papers on a variety of scientific subjects.

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