Fleet Fire: Thomas Edison and the Pioneers of the Electric Revolution.
Before Benjamin Franklin's famous kite-flying experiment, electricity was a misunderstood force commonly called fleet fire. Franklin abandoned the study of electricity because of its seeming lack of practicality. This is where Davis' story begins, as he chronicles a host of printers, poets, watchmakers, and a couple of scientists--most notably, Thomas Edison--whose individual efforts forged the electrical world we know today. The author weaves together stories of invention by Edison, Alessandro volta (who invented the storage battery), Joseph Henry (who developed the electromagnet), Cyrus Field (who created the transatlantic cable), and others, showing how simple devices combined into the revolutionary achievement of commercial electricity. In many cases, these individuals, like Franklin, didn't see the big picture. Georg Simon Ohm was one such character, He postulated that the power of electricity derives from the resistance of the wire down which it travels; however, he did not live to see the running of miles of electrical cables around the world. A full third of Davis' text is devoted to Thomas Edison and others vied to bring electrical service to the masses. Here Davis conveys the motivation behind many of the inventions detailed: the venerable quest for money. Arcade, 2003, 350 p., hardcover, $27.95.