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

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

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  • Title: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World
  • Author: Jill Jonnes
  • ISBN: 9780375758843
  • Page: 458
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 scieIn 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.

    One thought on “Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World”

    1. 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 companies had stopped bothering to release anything on the format; and back home, in a cupboard somewhere, my family still has the old Betamax player that I remember trying to get excited about while all my friends had gone with VHS. It was better, I'm telling you!!So I sympathise with those on the wrong [...]

    2. 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. About a year ago I read a novel about these three individuals. It incorporated factual events but also turned their lives into a melodramatic soap opera, so of course it was sold to Hollywood. I wanted to know the real story behind the spread of electricity and these brilliant, ambitious and driven [...]

    3. Instead of writing about one of these great titans Edison, Tesla or Westinghouse, Jill Jonnes chose to write about all three in one book. Jonnes focused on the race to control electricity delivery to the country. The battle between Edison and Tesla was whether electricity should be delivered and put to use as direct or alternating current. Edison backed direct and Tesla alternating current. Westinghouse jumped into the fray to control the delivery to business and homes throughout the country. We [...]

    4. INTERESTING AND INFORMATIVE“No more will men be slaves to hard tasks. My motor will set them free, it will do the work of the world.” [—Nikola Teslar] (Kindle Locations 1578-1579)Although reading Empires of Light: Edison, Teslar, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, by Jill Jonnes was a bit of a slog at times, its wealth of interesting anecdotes and solid information makes it a four-star read. From Thomas Edison’s promotion of his competitor’s, George Westinghouse’s, hi [...]

    5. The book describes the battles and struggles that had led to the electrifying of America. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, had discovered direct current electricity. However, a genius working for Edison Nikola Tesla had discovered alternating current. Edison viewed alternating current as dangerous. As a result, a man with a great business acumen, George Westinghouse lured Tesla to his company in Pittsburgh. Tesla also developed the induction motor which needed alternating current t [...]

    6. I am disappointed and would not recommend this book. It was a real chore to complete.Disappointed because author Jill Jonnes picked a topic that should have been a sure thing. She obviously immersed herself in the lives of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse and knows the science at least well enough to write about it.The problem with this book boils down to the author. The writing, book organization, and length are dreadful. First, the organization. It helps with a non-fiction book like this one to [...]

    7. This book was fantastic, an entertaining look into the early advent of electricity. Part of the strength of the book was in little non-sequiturs like this one:They would share the nighttime streets with the city’s denizens of the dark, including the great army of rag pickers and their dog-pulled wooden carts, each licensed to root through the daily refuse for salvageable cloth.which generally made me want more information about some unrelated but fascinating topic.Here's a favorite quote from [...]

    8. Empires of Light is less a history of how the United States became electrified and more a biography of three electrical titans – Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse -- as they pursued their own electrical projects in cooperation and bitter conflict. All three were passionate, heedless inventors who loved plowing their money in money into new ideas, sometimes at the cost of bankruptcy. They differed sharply on the best way to distribute electricity. Edison preferred the safe, expensive, and density [...]

    9. This is a great read, entertaining and certainly educational. I love how Jonnes wraps in historical details of the time, and paints a picture of what life was like at the time that the electricity war raged. The book took me a long time to get through though. While it was interesting, I think the density of it led me to distraction pretty quickly. But in the end I loved getting to know the main characters in such a drastic technological time.

    10. I’ve been sitting on writing this review for the last couple weeks because my thoughts were all over the place with it, but that hasn’t seemed to have changed with time. I think it’s a sign.Empires of Light covered every base that you can likely think of within the realm of electricity and how it evolved into an everyday convenience. While the scope is narrowed, in theory, to the contributions and legacies of Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse, the fact that these were th [...]

    11. I discovered this book in the gift shop of Edison's winter home in July during a torrential downpour. At the time, lightning was crackling above a truly immense tree standing on the grounds, which was perhaps fortuitous.If you've ever plugged in a lamp or an appliance, if you've ever had power go out in your neighborhood due to an overly exploratory squirrel, especially if you've ever shocked yourself changing out an outlet or a light fixture and wondered, "Why the hell did that happen," you sho [...]

    12. In a way Jill Jonnes has accomplished what the principal subjects of her book did for the world; she sheds light on the evolution of the harnessing of electricity. What a fascinating tale it turns out to be! She identifies three main protagonists. They are Thomas Edison, Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse. Numerous others precede them, like Galvani, and Benjamin Franklin, and there is an assortment of bit players in the history of electricity. Jonnes gives them their due. But Edison, Tesla and [...]

    13. Jonnes takes a fascinating look at what is known as the War of Electric Currents--an all out corporate, scientific, patent, and journalistic battle between the likes of Edison (who wanted Direct Current Power), Tesla (who wanted Alternate Current Power), and dozens of other players, most notably Westinghouse, a fascinating scientist who may not have had the flair of Tesla but had the business acumen to bring Tesla's visions to the world. Did you know that there were seven years of patent battles [...]

    14. I loved this book! I bought it hoping to learn, more than anything, about Tesla. I ended up learning an incredible amount about Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse--and a lot about the time period they lived, as well. Each of the three men came to life in this book! The vast majority of the book is really interesting. There are a few parts where it seemed to bog down a little bit with unnecessary detail, and a little bit of repetitiveness in parts. Overall, though, Jill Jones has done an excellent jo [...]

    15. I wanted to like this book. I waited and waited to get my hands on a copy, and was beyond excited to begin reading.Unfortunately I didn't make it past five chapters.Chronology doesn't exist to this author, instead she seems more consumed with using every word in some college vocabulary list. Sentences are flowery and over complicated, the storyline follows no formula, and try as I might I could not get into it. The scientific explanations were interesting, but in the end it was not enough to kee [...]

    16. I did not realize that there was such a battle over how electricity was to be delivered and that Thomas Edison was on the wrong side of the battle. But with that said it was most interesting to see how the merger of technology and investor financing resulted in the ultimate electrification of America. I enjoyed the book.

    17. Buy this book, keep it, and reference it for the History of Electricity. The author writes the 'story' in narrative form, making it a complete history of the times as she smoothly inserted details of the Chemistry and Physics; Science of the day. There is drama around the controversies as well as the temperaments of the scientists and their families. You will discover many names of contributors to Science, Electricity and Magnetism all across the World; not just the three names in the Title of t [...]

    18. If you thought the patent wars between Apple and Samsung over smartphone design are messy and adversarial, Empires of Light documents a series of battles far more brutal, and with consequences arguably more epic. Unlike Apple and Samsung, this wasn't just about the rights to manufacture products that are technically identical to each other. This was a battle over rival technologies, personalities and competing visions of the future, fought at a time when most of the refined legal weaponry availa [...]

    19. Centered on the Gilded Age race to proliferate electricity throughout America (and the world). Empires does a good job of profiling its three main subjects - Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. Edison is by far the most well-known of the trio, but as with most heroic images in history the details of his ascent and life are obscured by space and time. The Tesla name is best know today for Elon Musk’s electric car brand which, in a small way, does homage to the first electrical [...]

    20. This book is a nice blend of biography and history. It does a good job capturing the many facets of early electrification including the individuals, the technology, and the businesses. I think the biographical parts were some of the most interesting, but it helps that they are embedded in the larger story. This properly depicts the men as important players embedded in a larger world. This gives a more balanced view of all of them and their work and avoids the pitfall some biographies fall into o [...]

    21. EMPIRES OF LIGHT. (2003). Jill Jonnes. ****.This author made a good attempt to describe the activities of three men who were key figures in the development of useful forms of electricity in America in the late 19th century. It’s amazing how ideas seem to develop in bunches. Not only did electricity come to the fore during the time period, but it also brought out the resources of three extremely different men who were fated to exploit it. The three men discussed in this study were Edison, Tesla [...]

    22. I learned a lot from this book. Of course I knew some of the story: the invention of the light bulb, the war between AC and DC power, but I never really read anything going into much detail of what happened next. That's really what this book is about. The author devotes a chapter to the Faraday, Maxwell, et al and Edison's invention of the light bulb. But the story really starts after that. While Edison is trying to deploy direct current power stations, Westinghouse enters with an alternating cu [...]

    23. The great inventor Nikola Tesla is currently riding a wave of popularity right now. Contributing to this is the advent of exciting Tesla-branded electric cars and PBS docu-dramas or assorted internet blurbs featuring incidents in the life of Mr. Tesla. However, we Americans love to put people on pedestals and we love to pull them down. Unfortunately, many of these recent internet stories, TV dramas and historical novels such as "The Last Days of Night" are all too anxious to enhance Mr. Tesla's [...]

    24. This is a fairly interesting look at the early efforts at electrification of the world, and follows the usual story of the (mostly) US competition between Tesla/Westinghouse and Edison, with some deviations and various mixing and matching. Much of it is familiar, but I do think that Jonnes does a slightly better job at dialing back the reverence for these guys that you usually see. There certainly still is a good amount of the heroic founding myths in this story as in most of the treatments you' [...]

    25. I found this history book a page turner. What an accomplishment, it should be made into a movie! I think the author is successful with her brief biographies of each of the main personalities. Each individual is interesting on their own, and the way this author weaves them together in writing this history of the competition to establish prominence in the development and delivery of electricity makes for an engaging read that is highly entertaining as well as informative. Not only does the author [...]

    26. Light for the People This is the story of three men who, by their genius, spurred innovation in the creation of electricity and, in their turn, developed a new industry. Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla are portrayed here in all of their brilliance and imperfections. In this age, where America sat at the dawn of a new century, it was American ingenuity that led the way in the creation of a new industry and an entirely new way of life. This story is well told by the author and it is well worth the [...]

    27. Loved it! One of the most fascinating, enlightening(*) books of the year! Nonfiction, well-researched, but reads like a novel as one waits for the next exciting development to unfold. It was a library book or might might have highlighted something on every page. Can you imagine sitting down to dinner and chatting with Mark Twain, Stanford White and Nikola Tesla, then taking a leisurely stroll down the street to Tesla's laboratory? Being at the 1983 Chicago Expo, or Niagara Falls when the switch [...]

    28. Required reading for electrical engineering studentsIt's a great read and should be read by electrical engineering students. It's amazing to me that local and even state governments considered outlawing alternating current which is the life blood of our electrical distribution system. It's to bad Tesla's wireless distribution of electric power has been lost. If we lived in a world with the wireless distribution of electric power, hurricanes would not be so detrimental to our existence.

    29. IlluminatingThe book provides an in-depth look at the competition of the early days of commercial electricity in the US. The strongest points were the very interesting commercial enterprises of these 3 titans, especially in their relations with New York and Boston financiars and the overall economic developments of the time. I felt the writing was often overly flowery and there were some issues of overall scientific accuracy, so I gave 4 stars even though I did thoroughly enjoy the book.

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