Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World

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Random House Publishing Group, Aug 19, 2003 - History - 432 pages
6 Reviews
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, three brilliant and visionary titans of America’s 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 nation’s most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the world’s 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 World’s 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.
 

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User Review  - fhudnell - LibraryThing

This was the story of Thomas Alva Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla , who collectively and individually did so much to change the economic and physical conditions of everyone in the world ... Read full review

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User Review  - Widsith - LibraryThing

I seem to have a bad track record in picking technology. I was one of those who plumped for HD-DVD instead of the now-ubiquitous Blu-Ray; I was obsessed with my MiniDisc player long after music ... Read full review

Contents

The Horrible Experiment
Fear Everywhere of Worse to Come
The Electricians Ideal City
What a Fall of BrightGreen Water
Yoked to the Cataract
Afterward
Bibliography
Photograph Credits

Constant Danger from Sudden Death

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About the author (2003)

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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