Draw the Lightning Down: Benjamin Franklin and Electrical Technology in the Age of Enlightenment / Edition 1

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Overview


Most of us know—at least we've heard—that Benjamin Franklin conducted some kind of electrical experiment with a kite. What few of us realize—and what this book makes powerfully clear—is that Franklin played a major role in laying the foundations of modern electrical science and technology. This fast-paced book, rich with historical details and anecdotes, brings to life Franklin, the large international network of scientists and inventors in which he played a key role, and their amazing inventions. We learn what these early electrical devices—from lights and motors to musical and medical instruments—looked like, how they worked, and what their utilitarian and symbolic meanings were for those who invented and used them. Against the fascinating panorama of life in the eighteenth century, Michael Brian Schiffer tells the story of the very beginnings of our modern electrical world.

The earliest electrical technologies were conceived in the laboratory apparatus of physicists; because of their surprising and diverse effects, however, these technologies rapidly made their way into many other communities and activities. Schiffer conducts us from community to community, showing how these technologies worked as they were put to use in public lectures, revolutionary experiments in chemistry and biology, and medical therapy. This story brings to light the arcane and long-forgotten inventions that made way for many modern technologies—including lightning rods (Franklin's invention), cardiac stimulation, xerography, and the internal combustion engine—and richly conveys the complex relationships among science, technology, and culture.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520248298
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 3/2/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 397
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author


Michael Brian Schiffer is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arizona. His many books include The Material Life of Human Beings (1999), Taking Charge: The Electric Automobile in America (1994), Technological Perspectives on Behavioral Change (1992), and The Portable Radio in American Life (1991).
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Table of Contents

List of Figures
Preface
1 The Franklin Phenomenon 1
2 In the Beginning 12
3 A Coming of Age 33
4 Going Public 67
5 Power to the People 91
6 Life and Death 107
7 First, Do No Harm 133
8 An Electrical World 161
9 Property Protectors 184
10 A New Alchemy 206
11 Visionary Inventors 226
12 Technology Transfer: A Behavioral Framework 257
Notes 271
References Cited 333
Index 365
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2004

    Like reading a Master's thesis....

    Don't get me wrong. This book has a lot of interesting info about electrical history during the 18th century, however when an author starts out writing about what he will be telling you instead of just telling you, you know he's used to writing technical journals, not books. Also, though he gives us many stories about the men and their equipment, he tells us little about the actual theory that it is all based on. Heck, I'm an electrician, I've studied basic AC and DC theory and I didn't fully understand how many of the apparatus worked. At one point, he makes a bold statement that flies in the face of other historians and backs it up with flawed reasoning, which wouldn't be so bad if he only said 'in my opinion' or 'I believe'. Then in the end, he spends the last chapter on some irrelevant diatribe about how technology is spread. If you think it would be interesting to read about electrical technology before the first electro-magnetic generator was discovered, go for it. I was certainly amazed by much of what went on in the early history of electrical science, but don't expect to learn electrical theory. BTW... about Ben Franklin... yes, you learn quite a bit about him and his accomplishments, but this is not a book about him. He comprised several chapters, no more. I think he gets in the title for name recognition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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