Empires Of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, And The Race To Electrify The World

Front Cover
Random House LLC, 2004 - Science - 424 pages
63 Reviews
In the final decades of the nineteenth century, three brilliant and visionary titans of America’s Gilded Age—Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse—battled bitterly as each vied to create a vast and powerful electrical empire. In Empires of Light, historian Jill Jonnes portrays this extraordinary trio and their riveting and ruthless world of cutting-edge science, invention, intrigue, money, death, and hard-eyed Wall Street millionaires. At the heart of the story are Thomas Alva Edison, the nation’s most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the world’s first direct current electrical light networks; the Serbian wizard of invention Nikola Tesla, elegant, highly eccentric, a dreamer who revolutionized the generation and delivery of electricity; and the charismatic George Westinghouse, Pittsburgh inventor and tough corporate entrepreneur, an industrial idealist who in the era of gaslight imagined a world powered by cheap and plentiful electricity and worked heart and soul to create it.

Edison struggled to introduce his radical new direct current (DC) technology into the hurly-burly of New York City as Tesla and Westinghouse challenged his dominance with their alternating current (AC), thus setting the stage for one of the eeriest feuds in American corporate history, the War of the Electric Currents. The battlegrounds: Wall Street, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Niagara Falls, and, finally, the death chamber—Jonnes takes us on the tense walk down a prison hallway and into the sunlit room where William Kemmler, convicted ax murderer, became the first man to die in the electric chair.

Empires of Light is the gripping history of electricity, the “mysterious fluid,” and how the fateful collision of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse left the world utterly transformed.

From the Hardcover edition.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

interesting and educational - Goodreads
And the writing is fairly engaging. - Goodreads
The book was well-researched and not overly technical. - Goodreads

Review: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World

User Review  - Ruth - Goodreads

As much as adore the subject matter (Edison! Tesla! Westinghouse! Current wars! Conspiracies! The Chicago World's Fair! Niagara Falls! Victorian silliness!) I could hardly stomach the florid prose and therefore crept through at a turtle pace. Read full review

Review: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World

User Review  - Mle Morrow - Goodreads

Jonnes did a great job making a potentially dull story very vibrant and enjoyable and was very successful in bringing depth to the characters. As other reviewers have mentioned, one of the ... Read full review

Related books


List of Scientific Diagrams
Endeavor to Make It Useful
The Wizard of Menlo Park
Our Parisian
He Is Ubiquitous
Edison Declares War
Constant Danger from Sudden Death
The Horrible Experiment
The Electricians Ideal City 247
Yoked to the Cataract 301
Photograph Credits

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

\Jill Jonnes is an author and historian with a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. She has received awards from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and is the author of South Bronx Rising and Hep-Cats, Narcs, and Pipe Dreams. She lives with her family in Baltimore, Maryland.

Please visit www.empiresoflight.com

From the Hardcover edition.

Bibliographic information