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.
What people are saying - Write a review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - NielsenGW - 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 ... Read full review
Electricity and Enlightenment
Francis Hauksbee and
6 other sections not shown
Other editions - View all
aethers air-pump Aldini animal electricity apparatus artificial attracted battery became behaviour Benjamin body Boyle brass Cambridge University Library Cavendish claims Cleonicus Cohen Coulomb current electricity demonstrated Descartes devised discoveries dramatic Dufay effects eighteenth century elec electric charge electric fluid electrical experiments electrical machine electrical matter electrical medicine electrical research electrical theories electrical therapy electricians electricity and magnetism electricity's electrified England Enlightenment electricity Enlightenment philosophers entertainment Europe Europe's experimental explain explore famous Faraday fascinated Francis Hauksbee Franklin Franklin's Experiments French frogs Galvani Gray Gustavus Katterfelto Hauksbee Hauksbee's Illustration instrument invention investigations jEpinus Katterfelto lecturers letter Leyden jar light London mathematical metal modern natural philosophers Newton Newtonian Nollet Paris particles patients perform Peter Collinson Philosophical Transactions physicians Pieter van Musschenbroek plates political Priestley prime conductor produced Rackstrow religious rods Royal Society scientific scientists Shelley shock sparks theoretical torpedo torsion balance tricity tube University Press Volta's pile wire wonders