The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution
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The Battery: How Portable Power Sparked a Technological Revolution

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by Henry Schlesinger
     
 

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An eye-opening history of the technology that harnessed electricity and powered the greatest scientific and technological advances of our time.

What begin as a long-running dispute in biology, involving a dead frog's twitching leg, a scalpel, and a metal plate, would become an invention that transformed the history of the world:

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Overview

An eye-opening history of the technology that harnessed electricity and powered the greatest scientific and technological advances of our time.

What begin as a long-running dispute in biology, involving a dead frog's twitching leg, a scalpel, and a metal plate, would become an invention that transformed the history of the world: the battery. Science journalist Henry Schlesinger traces the history of this essential power source and demonstrates its impact on our lives, from Alessandro Volta's first copper-and-zinc model in 1800 to twenty-first-century technological breakthroughs. Schlesinger introduces the charlatans and geniuses, the paupers and magnates, who were attracted to the power of the battery.

Editorial Reviews

Richard Zacks
Just as a cracker-size battery powers a cell phone for days, so does Schlesigner’s wit enliven an unlikely topic—The History of the ever-shrinking, ever more potent Battery.”
Michael Belfiore
Henry Schlesinger’s fascinating and supurbly researched history of the battery is the story of civilization as we know it. The Battery illuminates in compellingly rich detail the scientists and entrepreneurs responsible for so much of the technology we take for granted today.
Publishers Weekly
Obscured by the handheld electronic devices that pervade our high-tech culture is the battery that powers them all. Technology journalist Schlesinger provides an illuminating historical account of a device whose enormous influence has been downplayed or misunderstood. The term “battery” is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who arranged Leyden jars in a manner akin to a battery of cannon. But possible early electrochemical batteries—the centuries-old Baghdad batteries—discovered by archeologists in the 1930s remain controversial, as the appendix details. Schlesinger (Spycraft) discusses the battery's evolution from the Italian Alessandro Volta's early 19th-century copper and zinc model through 21st-century advances in nanotechnology. In 1800 Volta constructed his famous “pile” of metal discs; touching each end generated a shock that could then be repeated. Yet the process remained mysterious for decades. While electric outlets replaced batteries in much of the 20th century, that process has recently been reversed, as laptop users surely appreciate. Combining enormous learning with a lively and entertaining style, this book deserves a wide general readership. 30 b&w line drawings. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
An irresistibly entertaining history of electricity from the point of view of the humble battery. A battery is a container in which a chemical reaction produces an electric current. Electricity was a mysterious but familiar phenomenon in 1800 when Alessandro Volta built his "pile," stacking dozens of metal discs, each separated by a brine-soaked cloth. Touching each end produced a shock, which was repeated with each touch. This first battery was a dazzling breakthrough, writes science writer Schlesinger (co-author: Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda, 2008), because all previous electrical phenomena only produced a single jolt. A device that produced a steady current delighted both scientists and the general public-doctors proclaimed its curative properties, Mary Shelley used it to animate Frankenstein. Improvements occurred steadily, but it was not until the 1840s that commercial success and the "technological revolution" occurred with the telegraph, which was entirely powered by batteries until the century's end. By 1900 breakthroughs transformed batteries from complex contraptions requiring constant attention to easily recharged wet cells and the universal, disposable dry cell. Beginning with the flashlight-invented in 1898-battery-powered gadgets became household necessities, but Schlesinger reminds readers that several decades of the 20th century passed before electric outlets replaced batteries in telephones, radios and phonographs. Ironically, during the past few decades, the vastly lower power consumption of integrated circuits has reversed this process, and batteries are now taking back these roles as well as powering our increasinglyminuscule computers, tools and toys. Schlesinger's modest technical explanations may not satisfy sophisticated science buffs, but he delivers high-quality popular-science writing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061442940
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/12/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
746,356
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Richard Zacks
Just as a cracker-size battery powers a cell phone for days, so does Schlesigner’s wit enliven an unlikely topic—The History of the ever-shrinking, ever more potent Battery.”
Michael Belfiore
Henry Schlesinger’s fascinating and supurbly researched history of the battery is the story of civilization as we know it. The Battery illuminates in compellingly rich detail the scientists and entrepreneurs responsible for so much of the technology we take for granted today.

Meet the Author

Henry Schlesinger is a journalist and author specializing in science and emerging technologies. He is the coauthor of Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda, and lives in New York City.

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