A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders

A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America

Hardback (29 Sep 2006)

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Synopsis

Benjamin Franklin's invention of the lightning rod is the founding fable of American science, but Franklin was only one of many early Americans fascinated by electricity. As a dramatically new physical experience, electricity amazed those who dared to tame the lightning and set it coursing through their own bodies. Thanks to its technological and medical utility, but also its surprising ability to defy rational experimental mastery, electricity was a powerful experience of enlightenment, at once social, intellectual, and spiritual.

In this compelling book, James Delbourgo moves beyond Franklin to trace the path of electricity through early American culture, exploring how the relationship between human, natural, and divine powers was understood in the eighteenth century. By examining the lives and visions of natural philosophers, spectacular showmen, religious preachers, and medical therapists, he shows how electrical experiences of wonder, terror, and awe were connected to a broad array of cultural concerns that defined the American Enlightenment. The history of lightning rods, electrical demonstrations, electric eels, and medical electricity reveals how early American science, medicine, and technology were shaped by a culture of commercial performance, evangelical religion, and republican politics from mid-century to the early republic.

The first book to situate early American experimental science in the context of a transatlantic public sphere, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders offers a captivating view of the origins of American science and the cultural meaning of the American Enlightenment. In a story of shocks and sparks from New England to the Caribbean, Delbourgo brilliantly illuminates a revolutionary New World of wonder.

About the Publisher

Harvard University Press

Harvard University Press

Founded in 1913, Harvard University Press is the publisher of such classic works as John Rawls’s A Theory of Justice, E. O. Wilson’s On Human Nature, and Helen Vendler’s Dickinson. The Press continues to be a leading publisher of convergent works in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, while also taking bold steps in exciting new directions, from innovative partnerships, to a diverse translation program, to an expanded commitment to facilitating scholarly conversation around the globe.

Book information

ISBN: 9780674022997
Publisher: Harvard
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Pub date:
DEWEY: 303.483097309033
DEWEY edition: 22
Language: English
Number of pages: 367
Weight: 578g
Height: 217mm
Width: 149mm
Spine width: 33mm