The Wizard of Menlo Park: How Thomas Alva Edison Invented the Modern World [Paperback]
Biographies abound of inventor Thomas Edison, so Stross distinctively positions his book under the theme of Edison’s celebrity. The publicity apparatus of Edison’s day, quaint compared with today’s multimedia conduits to the public and its tabloid appetites, still served to elevate Edison into the realm of the famous. Stross, who frequently writes about contemporary techno-idols (Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing, 1993), recounts the onset of Edison’s celebrity with several articles published in 1877-78 about his phonograph. Soon trainloads of curiosity seekers, from hustlers to those already famous, such as actress Sarah Bernhardt, descended on Edison’s laboratory to gawk at the inventor. With this loss of privacy, Edison learned the difficulty of controlling one’s fame. As Stross’ narrative explains, Edison attempted to exploit his name to attract attention to his business projects and succumbed to other temptations, such as pontificating on subjects outside his expertise–executions by electrocution, for example. Stross’ Edison, capitalizing on his prominence but coping with the importunities of the multitude, becomes a human-scaled character grasping the honeyed thorns of fame. Gilbert Taylor
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From Publishers Weekly
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