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An Entertainment for Angels (Icon Science) Electricity in the Enlightenment

by Patricia Fara

Part of the Icon Science Series

An Entertainment for Angels (Icon Science) Electricity in the Enlightenment Synopsis

Electricity was the scientific fashion of the Enlightenment, 'an Entertainment for Angels, rather than for Men'. Lecturers attracted huge audiences to marvel at sparkling fountains, flaming drinks, pirouetting dancers and electrified boys. Flamboyant experimenters made chains of soldiers leap into the air, while wealthy women titillated their admirers with a sensational electric kiss. Enlightenment optimists predicted that this new-found power of nature would cure illnesses, improve crop production, even bring the dead back to life. Benjamin Franklin, better known as one of America's founding fathers, played a key role in developing the new instruments and theories of electricity during the eighteenth century. Celebrated for drawing lightning down from the sky with a kite, Franklin was an Enlightenment expert on electricity who introduced rods to protect tall buildings, treated paralysed patients, and developed one of the most successful explanations of this mysterious phenomenon. But the study of electricity became intertwined with Enlightenment politics. By demonstrating their control of the natural world, Enlightenment philosophers hoped to gain authority over society. And their stunning electrical performances provided dramatic evidence of their special powers. Using contemporary illustrations, Patricia Fara vividly portrays how Franklin and his colleagues struggled to understand the strange and exciting effects their experiments were producing.

An Entertainment for Angels (Icon Science) Electricity in the Enlightenment Press Reviews

Vividly captures the ferment created by the new science of the Enlightenment... Fara deftly shows how new knowledge emerged from a rich mix of improved technology, medical quackery, Continental theorising, religious doubt and scientific rivalry. New Scientist Neat and stylish... Fara's account of Benjamin Franklin's circle of friends and colleagues brings them squabbling, eureka-ing to life. Guardian Combines telling anecdote with wise commentary... presents us with numerous tasty and well-presented historical morsels. Times Higher Education Supplement

Book Information

ISBN: 9781840464597
Publication date: 5th June 2003
Author: Patricia Fara
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 160 pages
Categories: History of science, Electricity, electromagnetism & magnetism,

About Patricia Fara

Patricia Fara is a Fellow of Clare College at the University of Cambridge, where she teaches history of science. She is also the author of Newton: The Making of Genius (Macmillan) and Sex, Botany and Empire (Icon, forthcoming).

More About Patricia Fara

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