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The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World

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In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned and given life, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light—and run—the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned and given life, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light—and run—the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged in a brutal battle with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, the inventors of alternating current (AC). There would be no ties in this bout—only a winner and a loser. The prize: a nationwide monopoly in electric current. Brimming with action, suspense, and rich historical and biographical information about these inventors, here is the rousing account of one of the world's defining scientific competitions.


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In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned and given life, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light—and run—the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged In the mid-to-late-nineteenth century, a burgeoning science called electricity promised to shine new light on a rousing nation. Inventive and ambitious minds were hard at work. Soon that spark was fanned and given life, and a fiery war was under way to be the first to light—and run—the world with electricity. Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of direct current (DC), engaged in a brutal battle with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, the inventors of alternating current (AC). There would be no ties in this bout—only a winner and a loser. The prize: a nationwide monopoly in electric current. Brimming with action, suspense, and rich historical and biographical information about these inventors, here is the rousing account of one of the world's defining scientific competitions.

30 review for The Electric War: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Light the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kath (Read Forevermore)

    i found this to be a really intriguing account of how electricity came to be in our world. this book definitely satisfied my inner history buff and it was a nice and easy read (that i surprisingly finished while waiting for my world history final to be over). **an arc of this book was sent to me by macmillan (fierce reads).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    ARC provided by the author, E ARC from Edelweiss Plus While I've been trying to find books about Tesla because he comes up every year as a National History Day subject, I had no idea how contentious and intriguing the "war" between Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse had been! The Electric War first introduces us to our main players, with all of their talents, foibles, and eccentricities, and frames them against the glittering backdrop of the Gilded Age. Edison was a self-made genius, selling newspaper ARC provided by the author, E ARC from Edelweiss Plus While I've been trying to find books about Tesla because he comes up every year as a National History Day subject, I had no idea how contentious and intriguing the "war" between Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse had been! The Electric War first introduces us to our main players, with all of their talents, foibles, and eccentricities, and frames them against the glittering backdrop of the Gilded Age. Edison was a self-made genius, selling newspapers on a train route at the age of 12 and becoming a telegraph operator not long after. He had a vivid imagination that led to lots of ideas for inventions, but he also had a startling business acumen and an uncanny ability to market ideas to people. He was also tenacious to the point of pugnacity, and a hard task master for his employees. Tesla was a troubled but brilliant soul who had flashes of ideas that were both revelatory but also troublesome. He had an unfortunate business sense, and would rather sacrifice material gain for the name of science. Given his volatile nature, he didn't set up his own company and had difficulty staying on a stable path. Westinghouse was a fantastic example of moderation in all things; he was a solid inventor, a capable and shrewd business man, a fair employer, and a tireless worker. The qualities of these three inventors are crucial in understanding the place that each ended up taking in history. In a gripping narrative style that had me avidly turning pages, Winchell sets the stage for all three inventors to grapple with their own inventions of businesses after tantalizing us with this innovation: the first electric chair. Once I read that Edison was persuaded to be involved with it's invention if the chair used the alternating current favored by his competitor, and even posited that perhaps the process of death by electrocution be termed "being Westinghoused", I was hooked! We all learn about Edison's attempts to develop the light bulb, and all of the combinations of elements he tried before he reached success, but it was never clearly pointed out that even once he perfected the light bulb, there was really no way to operate it on a large scale. No fixtures in which to use the bulbs and no wide spread electrical grid to provide power! Not only did Edison have to produce bulbs, but he had to create lamps and develop a system of electric substations to send out current. That he was able to do this in an area as already built up and crowded as New York City is amazing in itself. We take electricity so much for granted that it was fascinating to travel back to a time when it was not only new, but extremely controversial. Electricity could lead to fires and even death! While it was, of course, extremely helpful to society, it took the 1893 Colombian Exhibition, which was Westinghouse's biggest marketing triumph, to show people that electricity could be useful as well as safe. Complete with period photographs and some invention schematics, as well as an informative timeline and complete bibliography, The Electric War is powerful reading for fans of riveting, literary nonfiction such as Louire's Jack London and the Klondike Goldrush, Jurmain's The Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing, Borden's Ski Soldier or Martin's In Harm's Way: In Harm's Way: JFK, World War II, and the Heroic Rescue of PT 109.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Teenreadsdotcom

    The story of THE ELECTRIC WAR is reminiscent of a movie called THE CURRENT WAR which tells the historical account of the battle between inventors to control the new industry in electricity that would eventually take over the world. THE ELECTRIC WAR begins with the harrowing story of a drunk man who has gruesomely killed his wife with a hatchet. Little does this poor immigrant man know, he will be the first person to be executed by means of the electric chair. After this gripping introduction, auth The story of THE ELECTRIC WAR is reminiscent of a movie called THE CURRENT WAR which tells the historical account of the battle between inventors to control the new industry in electricity that would eventually take over the world. THE ELECTRIC WAR begins with the harrowing story of a drunk man who has gruesomely killed his wife with a hatchet. Little does this poor immigrant man know, he will be the first person to be executed by means of the electric chair. After this gripping introduction, author Mike Winchell seemingly abandons this topic completely and describes the development of Thomas Edison's great inventions and progress in the light, electricity, and inventing industries. The source of power for his inventions was transmitted with newly developed Direct Current (DC). About halfway through the book, the second main character is introduced: Nikola Tesla, who developed the Alternating Current (AC) in order to power light and other electrical devices more efficiently. Edison, a close ally to DC electricity, strongly opposed alternating current in order to maintain credibility with the public, and with others in the industry. He used vicious tactics to make people afraid and claimed that alternating current caused many deaths and fires, for one simple reason: if AC succeeded, he stood no chance of surviving in the industry. Winchell continues to describe how Tesla won over the general public and scientists with his many accomplishments, including powering the World’s Fair exclusively by AC. That is when the story comes back to the poor immigrant who murdered his wife. Edison needed a big way to wow the public since AC had become more popular. Initially, he strongly opposed using electricity as a way of execution, but when he was approached by developers a second time, he agreed to work with them --- he needed the business. The story ends with the dramatic execution of the immigrant man, and the effect that it had on Edison and his company. At last, Winchell crowns AC as the king of the currents. I really liked Mike Winchell’s THE ELECTRIC WAR --- a lot. I enjoyed learning about the development of AC and DC. At the same time, the book had an adventurous and suspenseful tone which made it even better! Winchell perfectly combined these elements --- just the right amount of facts, and just the right amount of “adventure.” I learned a lot about the current war while reading this book and still enjoyed reading it as I would any other fiction novel. I would recommend this book to high school students --- or anyone looking for a good read who also wants to learn something interesting at the same time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    The book could be used from anything from a biography of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse as much as the innovation in science and technology where light, conductivity, and radio are concerned. But, it also showcases the wars that help innovation move forward both in this context but also a larger conversation about how "enemies" always push each other to continually think about the next step. Winchell covers all of the bases and I was particularly interested in the chapters regarding Kimmel's be The book could be used from anything from a biography of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse as much as the innovation in science and technology where light, conductivity, and radio are concerned. But, it also showcases the wars that help innovation move forward both in this context but also a larger conversation about how "enemies" always push each other to continually think about the next step. Winchell covers all of the bases and I was particularly interested in the chapters regarding Kimmel's being the first to be electrocuted and the reactions of the crowd of invited people. Likewise, it was nice to humanize people like Westinghouse in his wanting to take care of employees, but how greed plays a part, patents sometimes don't recognize the true inventor, the uniqueness of genius brains and the list goes on. But so much was included in just a small book! Niagara Falls, the Chicago World's Fair among other historical highlights. Well done and well paced the chapters flowed well and didn't get too bogged down in scientific details but highlighted the elements that were important and included diagrams where necessary.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Briony

    I decided to listen to this on a whim when it came across my Hoopla. I found the topic interesting and well-researched. I think readers who enjoy the race for the grand prize or a fascination with technology and invention will relish in this book. I, however, would say it wasn't my exact cup of tea, and I ultimately decided to release it back to the wild.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tracy Wymer

    Terrific read for those looking for nonfiction centered around science and the race to light the world with electricity. I highly recommend this book for young readers (tweens and teens) and adults. It would be an ideal addition for school libraries and for summer reading lists!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    This book reads like a mystery novel. I was fascinated by the story behind electricity and surprised by the people involved. I couldn’t take the animal cruelty and there is a graphic description of the first man executed by the electric chair. Overall though it was interesting and well done.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Good narrative nonfiction. I knew there was quite a bit of animosity between Edison and Tesla, but didn't realize that Edison was quite so vicious.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mia Orobona

  10. 4 out of 5

    Liz

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jay Gerak

  12. 5 out of 5

    PWRL

    SM

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bob Smith

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  15. 5 out of 5

    Salta

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

  17. 5 out of 5

    T.J. Burns

    I received a copy of this book from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shajeethan Peethamparam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

  21. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Sharpe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Forever Young Adult

    Graded By: Brian Cover Story: The Sexy Men of Science Drinking Buddy: Meet Me at the Club Testosterone Level: I Got the Power Talky Talk: The Gilded Age Bonus Factors: Edison and Tesla Bromance Status: Research Partner Read the full book report here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Daniel page

    this book is fantastic

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Perry

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rebel Sandwich

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  29. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jane

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