Frankenstein's children : electricity, exhibition, and experiment in early-nineteenth-century London /
Iwan Rhys Morus.
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1998.
xiv, 324 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
0691059527 (acid-free paper)
More Details
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, c1998.
0691059527 (acid-free paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [295]-316) and index.
A Look Inside
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"A fine book. . . . [It] adds substantially to our understanding not only of the history of electricity but also of a seminal period in the emergence of modern science and technology."--Bruce J. Hunt
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1999-04:
This detailed, readable account of early-19th-century science digests and extends previous research on London's electrical experimenters. The first half compares the abstract, gentlemanly lectures of Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution with the instrumental, artisanal presentations of William Sturgeon and other skilled electricians at public exhibition halls frequented by the working public. Lacking Faraday's social status and resources, the electricians' loose-knit, often contentious community represented a different path and purpose for knowledge; their heirs would be the skilled electricians and professional engineers of later 19th-century industry. By comparing the places where experiments occurred, the actual apparatus used, and experimental strategies and modes of exhibition, Morus shows how they fashioned the production of knowledge. Even the character of the audience mattered. Science was no objective search for truth but an arena of contested identities and conflicting purposes. The second half explores how electricity was commodified in the industrial Britain of the 1840s. Electrometallurgy, telegraphy, and medical electrotherapy exemplify the Victorian quest for self-regulation and discipline in both machines and workers. Copious quotations lighten this important monograph. Extensive bibliography, some (not enough) illustrations. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. D. H. Porter; Western Michigan University
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, April 1999
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Main Description
During the second quarter of the nineteenth century, Londoners were enthralled by a strange fluid called electricity. In examining this period, Iwan Morus moves beyond the conventional focus on the celebrated Michael Faraday to discuss other electrical experimenters, who aspired to spectacular public displays of their discoveries. Revealing connections among such diverse fields as scientific lecturing, laboratory research, telegraphic communication, industrial electroplating, patent conventions, and innovative medical therapies, Morus also shows how electrical culture was integrated into a new machine-dominated, consumer society. He sees the history of science as part of the history of production, and emphasizes the labor and material resources needed to make electricity work. Frankenstein's Childrenexplains that Faraday, with his colleagues at the Royal Society and the Royal Institution, looked at science as the province of a highly trained elite, who presented their abstract picture of nature only to select groups. The book contrasts Faraday's views with those of other practitioners, to whom science was a practical, skill-based activity open to all. In venues such as the Galleries of Practical Science, electrical phenomena were presented to a public less distinguished but no less enthusiastic and curious than Faraday's audiences. William Sturgeon, for instance, emphasized building apparatus and exhibiting electrical phenomena, while chemists, instrument-makers, and popular lecturers supported the London Electrical Society. These previously little studied "electricians" contributed much to the birth of "Frankenstein's children"--the not completely benign effects of electricity on a new consumer world.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
The Places of Experimentp. 1
Introduction: Electricity, Experiment, and the Experimental Lifep. 3
The Errors of a Fashionable Man: Michael Faraday and the Royal Institutionp. 13
The Vast Laboratory of Nature: William Sturgeon and Popular Electricityp. 43
Blending Instruction with Amusement: London's Galleries of Practical Sciencep. 70
A Science of Experiment and Observation: The Rise and Fall of the London Electrical Societyp. 99
The Right Arm of God: Electricity and the Experimental Production of Lifep. 125
Managing Machine Culturep. 153
Introduction: From Performance to Processp. 155
Ch. 6p. 164
To Annihilate Time and Space: The Invention of the Telegraphp. 194
Ch. 8p. 231
Coda: The Disciplining of Experimental Lifep. 257
Notesp. 263
Bibliographyp. 295
Indexp. 317
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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