Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. vii-9

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

I began to envision a project on eighteenth-century electrical technology sometime in 1992. In search of the earliest motors for my 1994 book on electric automobiles, I came across a reference to Benjamin Franklin’s “electrical jack,” an electrostatic motor. I tracked down the original source...

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1. THE FRANKLIN PHENOMENON

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pp. 1-11

The name of Benjamin Franklin resonates with most Americans. Not only is Franklin prominently mentioned in high-school and college history texts, but many cities and towns also have a Franklin Avenue, Franklin Insurance Company, or Ben Franklin Crafts store. His face is familiar—on postage...

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2. IN THE BEGINNING

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pp. 12-32

The first technologies we recognize as “electrical” arose in the activities of natural philosophers who, today, might be called physicists. What distinguishes their works from scholastic philosophy, with its unresolvable debates, and from other systems of knowledge, like religion, is a reliance on...

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3. A COMING OF AGE

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pp. 33-66

Prior to the mid-1740s, the electrophysicist’s involvement in the process of generating charge was rather intimate. An investigator like Gray or du Fay began most experiments by vigorously rubbing a glass tube with his own hand. Those who used electrical machines required an assistant to turn the...

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4. GOING PUBLIC

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pp. 67-90

With effects so startling and unexpected, the use of electrical technology did not for long remain the exclusive preserve of physicists in the laboratory. During the 1740s a sizable and enthusiastic group of disseminators quickly picked up electrical technology and adapted it, giving lectures on...

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5. POWER TO THE PEOPLE

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pp. 91-106

In Cornelius Tiebout’s 1801 engraving of Thomas Jefferson, the new president was placed in the company of a globe, a bust of Benjamin Franklin, and a plate electrical machine.1 This juxtaposition was no accident, for it alluded to the Jefferson unknown to most present-day Americans. Jefferson was...

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6. LIFE AND DEATH

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pp. 107-132

Beginning in the mid-1740s, public lectures as well as reports in newspapers, magazines, and society journals had alerted scientists of all stripes to the novel effects produced in electrophysics laboratories. Not surprisingly, a handful of people interested in botany, physiology, and chemistry saw in...

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7. FIRST, DO NO HARM

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pp. 133-160

Nestled on a knoll near the majestic Potomac River in Virginia, the Mount Vernon estate was home to George and Martha Washington. From their porch the couple could gaze across the river to the Maryland shore, watch squirrels cavort, or spy bald eagles soar. In spring they sawtrees leaf out, the...

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8. AN ELECTRICAL WORLD

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pp. 161-183

From the very beginnings of sustained electrical experimentation in the early eighteenth century, investigators noted a marked similarity between lightning and the sparks created by friction. For example, when Hauksbee rotated a glass vessel against a dry woolen cloth, he “observ’d the Light to...

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9. PROPERTY PROTECTORS

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pp. 184-205

Sudden, searingly bright, lightning inspires awe in most societies. Perhaps because lightning had no obvious mechanical cause, most people before Franklin’s time ascribed its action to supernatural powers. Countless pantheons across the globe have lightning gods. Greek myths held the god...

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10. A NEW ALCHEMY

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pp. 206-225

The recognizably modern chemistry that emerged in the last decades of the eighteenth century was an amalgam of many ingredients, one of which was alchemy. Building on traditions of Islamic chemistry, alchemists—Isaac Newton was one—did more than seek ways to turn base metals into gold....

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11. VISIONARY INVENTORS

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pp. 226-256

Benjamin Franklin was in many ways the Thomas Edison of the eighteenth century. Like Edison, Franklin was a prolific inventor who created products—the lightning conductor, a wood stove, and bifocals—that he hoped might improve people’s lives. Like Edison, Franklin lived to witness the...

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12. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER: A BEHAVIORAL FRAMEWORK

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pp. 257-270

The preceding chapters have presented a panorama of eighteenth-century electrical artifacts in relation to specific activities and the communities that carried them out. Although this technology had its beginnings as the laboratory apparatus of electrophysicists, from the mid-1740s onward a host...

Notes

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pp. 271-331

References Cited

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pp. 333-364

Index

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pp. 365-383

Production Notes

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pp. 384-399