Playing With Fire: Histories of the Lightning Rod (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-5, ISBN: 9781606189955)

July 4, 2010 at 1:54 am Leave a comment

Playing With Fire: Histories of the Lightning Rod
(American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-5, ISBN: 9781606189955)
by Peter Heering, Oliver Hochadel and David J. Rhees
(Paperback, 290 pages, 2009, $35.00)

Playing with FireThis collection of historical and scientific studies shows the impressive significance of the invention, development, and use of the lightning rod in the past 250 years.

The rod was a device long taken to be a symbol of enlightenment and utility, judged by some commentators the very first practical application of the experimental physical sciences to truly practical ends; opposition to its introduction was similarly taken to be a sign of obscurantism and superstition.

These essays move beyond the lightning rods’ storied revolutionary symbolism to skillfully explore the range of techniques, experiments, and publics that fashioned conductors and their varied meanings across time and space.

The superbly illustrated studies demonstrate just how contested, puzzling and dangerous these devices often proved among early experimenters and their audiences. An intriguing and entertaining secret history of one of modernity’s most cherished technoscientific objects. Illustrations.

“This interesting collection of essays examines the scientific and cultural significance of the lightning rod over the past 250 years,” writes Book News in a review. “Far from being a mere practical device, the lightning rod from its beginning took on great importance as a symbol of rationalism and the advance of science.

“Essays look at the experiences of early experimenters with lightning rods, and at the growth of what could be called the “lightning protection” industry. Especially interesting is the final essay in the book, in which the authors assert that Benjamin Franklin’s archetypal lightning rod was in reality not very effective. Including many illustrations, this book will greatly appeal to readers interested in the history of science and technology.

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Entry filed under: APS Publications. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Magnetic Fever: Global Imperialism and Empiricism in the Nineteenth Century (American Philosophical Society Transaction 99-4, ISBN: 9781606189948) Peter Collinson and the Eighteenth-Century Natural History Exchange (American Philosophical Society Memoir 264, ISBN: 9780871692641)

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