Dark Light: Electricity and Anxiety from the Telegraph to the X-Ray

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2005 - History - 357 pages
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A revelatory cultural history of electricity's introduction in the last half of the 19th century -- and our surprisingly strong resistance to it
The modern world imagines that the invention of electricity was greeted with great enthusiasm. But in 1879, Americans reacted to the advent of electrification with suspicion and fear. Forty years after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent bulb, only 20 percent of American families had wired their homes. Meanwhile, electrotherapy emerged as a popular medical treatment for everything from depression to digestive problems. Why did Americans welcome electricity into their bodies even as they kept it from their homes? And what does their reaction to technological innovation then have to teach us about our reaction to it today?
In Dark Light, Linda Simon offers a vivid cultural history that delves into those questions, using newspapers, novels, and other primary sources. Tracing fifty years of technological transformation, from Morse's invention of the telegraph to Roentgen's discovery of X rays, she has created a revealing portrait of an anxious age.
 

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User Review  - NielsenGW - LibraryThing

Simon’s look at scientific inventions (mainly electricity-based inventions) during the latter half of the nineteenth century reads more like War of the Worlds than like a standard history. She delves ... Read full review

Contents

Working Great Mischief
27
Beneficence
48
Wilderness of Wires
70
Nerve Juice
96
Sparks
123
The Inconstant Battery
143
Haunted Brains
168
Magical Keys
246
Dark Light
272
Appreciation
301
Bibliography
323
Index
347
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About the author (2005)

LINDA SIMON is a professor of English at Skidmore College. She is the author of four biographies, including Genuine Reality:A Life of Henry James and The Biography of Alice B.Toklas. She lives in Saratoga Springs, NewYork.

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