For centuries, electricity was seen as little more than a
curious property of certain substances that sparked when rubbed. Then, in the
1790s, Alessandro Volta began the scientific investigation that ignited an
explosion of knowledge and invention. The force that once seemed
inconsequential was revealed to be responsible for everything from the
structure of the atom to the functioning of our brains. In harnessing its
power, we have created a world of wonders—complete with roller coasters and
radar, computer networks and psychopharmaceuticals.
A superb storyteller, Bodanis weaves tales of romance,
divine inspiration, and fraud through lucid accounts of scientific
breakthroughs. The great discoverers come to life in all their brilliance and
idiosyncrasy, including the visionary Michael Faraday, who struggled against
the prejudices of the British class system, and Samuel Morse, a painter who,
before inventing the telegraph, ran for mayor of New York City on a platform of
persecuting Catholics. Here too is Alan Turing, whose dream of a marvelous
thinking machine—what we know as the computer—was met with indifference, and
who ended his life in despair after British authorities forced him to undergo
experimental treatments to “cure” his homosexuality.
From the frigid waters of the Atlantic to the streets of
Hamburg during a World War II firestorm to the interior of the human body, Electric Universe is a mesmerizing
journey of discovery by a master science writer.
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