Posts tagged ‘Thomas Edison’


Electrifying America: From Thomas Edison to Climate Change

Written by I. David Rosenstein

The author is an engineer and lawyer who has spent more than forty years in the industry. Rosenstein begins his story in the mid-nineteenth century. He reminds readers that everyday tasks were time-consuming, back-breaking tasks before the advent of electricity. Soon electricity would transform life in the home, on the farm, in the office, in the factory, and on construction sites. Before that energy could be utilized, someone needed to invent the electric light bulb.


Thomas Edison already possessed a long list of inventions before tackling electricity. His work with the telegraph, telephone and phonograph had great potential. Unfortunately, Edison was a lot better at inventing than implementing his ideas in the business world. The fatal flaw in Edison’s direct current could be found in its limited ability to deliver electricity at any distance from a dynamo.


Nicholas Tesla had left his native Hungary to work with Edison in his lab. Edison’s insistence on using direct current led to a break when Tesla failed to convince him to consider using alternating current. Tesla left in 1885 to work independently. George Westinghouse had been experimenting with transformers to increase the voltage of alternating current over greater distances from dynamos. Westinghouse invited Tesla to use his facilities to develop a motor to use his system in factories and businesses. During the 1880’s and 1890’s, the two competing systems of AC and DC battled for supremacy in “The War of the Electric Current.”


After presenting the early history, Rosenstein moves on the powerful monopolies of the 1920’s, and the Golden Age of Electricity after World War II when the world turned back to business development on the home front. He talks about the failures of the industry in the Great Blackout in the Northeast in 1965 and traces the crises of the Oil Embargo of 1973 and the difficulties in California during the 90’s.


By the end of the 1900’s retail electric companies had begun to access electricity through a system of independent suppliers. Then the author discusses recent history and the issues leading up to climate control and the Paris accord. He ends the book by stating his opinion that a reconsideration of the concept of energy supply responding to public sentiments will likely lead to substantial changes in the future.


This story is an interesting study written by an expert in the field in layman’s terms. The concise book contains less than 150 pages and is easy to follow. Students who have an interest in history, electrical engineering and inventions would find this book a good resource. Recommended for anyone age ten or older.


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Little Miss Sure Shot: Annie Oakley’s World

Written by Jeffrey Marshall

Annieoakley,picI picked up this book not really knowing what to expect. Of course I had heard of Annie Oakley, but I did not expect to find there was so much more than a wild, undisciplined sharpshooter. Sure got a surprise when I started reading this account which is not a biography but rather a colorful portrait of the highlights in Annie’s illustrious career and her fifty year marriage with Frank Butler.

Annie was born in 1860 to a poor Quaker farm family living in Ohio who named her Phoebe Ann Moses. One of seven children, at the age of six her life soon became even more difficult when her father died. By the age of eight, Annie had learned to shoot small game which she sold to help support her family. Before Annie hit her teens she was competing with men in shooting competitions. During one of these she met sharpshooter Frank Butler; Annie won the competition by one point. Fifteen year old Annie promptly fell in love and married the man with whom she would soon perform in the vaudeville circuit.

A few years later the couple would join Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Bill Cody. They traveled throughout the country and later on to Europe. Annie wanted her name to match her frontier image; the name Oakley actually was taken from a town near her farm. When it became clear that Annie was the star feature, Frank graciously decided from that point on he would be her manager instead of her shooting partner.

Marshall does a good job of describing their whirlwind life on the tour circuit, They witness the construction of the Statue of Liberty on Bedloe Island, attend the fiftieth anniversary celebration of Queen Victoria, meet General Sherman, P.T. Barnum, and Kaiser Wilhelm. The couple sail the canals in Venice and walk the streets of Paris. Annie appears in stage plays and gets invited to participate in one of Thomas Edison’s first moving picture ventures.

After an unfortunate train wreck in 1901and a bad automobile accident in 1907, Annie and Frank open up sharpshooting training centers to teach their skills to others. Though they never had children, Annie and Frank gave generously to orphanages and children’s hospitals. Ironically, Annie died of pernicious anemia, which may have been cause by her constant exposure to the lead of the bullets that she used to shoot. Frank lived less than three weeks after her passing.

The author weaves an exciting story depicting Annie’s strong pioneer spirit of determination and stubbornness, a love story, history, adventure, and travel. Annie presents a strong female character well ahead of her time willing to take on the challenges of one whose life spanned the era from the Civil War through the end of World War I. This book can be enjoyed by readers ten and older. Teachers can certainly use it as a tool as a window to life during that era as well as a woman ahead of her time.

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