A “meticulously researched” (The New York Times Book Review) examination of energy transitions over time and an exploration of the current challenges presented by global warming, a surging world population, and renewable energy—from Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes.
People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. “Entertaining and informative…a powerful look at the importance of science” (NPR.org), Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.
In his “magisterial history…a tour de force of popular science” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Rhodes shows how breakthroughs in energy production occurred; from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.
Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw energy from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further challenges, and through such transformations, we arrived at where we are today. “A beautifully written, often inspiring saga of ingenuity and progress…Energy brings facts, context, and clarity to a key, often contentious subject” (Booklist, starred review).
Pulitzer- and National Book Award winner Rhodes (The Making of the Atom Bomb) offers a sweeping history of the diverse sources of energy from wood to wind in all its miraculous, destructive glory. Rhodes delivers brilliantly on the inner workings of steam engines and reactors, and his lively narrative takes readers on thrilling side trips. In Great Barrington, Vt., in 1886, 27-year-old inventor William Stanley Jr. discovers how to apply alternating current to long-distance transmission, bringing the miracle of light to the joyous town. In Los Angeles in the mid-20th century, no one knows what's causing the horrific smog until a Dutch organic chemist, Arie Haagen-Smit, identifies L.A.'s real problem: a half-million cars burning 12,000 gallons of gasoline daily. Rhodes includes lesser-known footnotes to the energy saga: the gunpowder engine; wagons propelled by sails; fish heads, whose phosphorescence provided a man "light by which to read his pocket watch"; and the 1679 invention of the pressure cooker, paving the way for the steam engine. Rhodes firmly backs nuclear power as "the most promising single energy source available to cope with 21st-century energy challenges." His fascinating tale will delight technology wonks and particularly appeal to inventors and discoverers.