by Pessimists Archive

As electricity began to light our world, resistance came from curious corners. “God had decreed that darkness should follow light, and mortals had no right to turn night into day,” wrote one German newspaper. “A lamp for a nightmare,” declared a Scottish poet. And Thomas Edison, the inventor who gave us the first commercial light bulb, tried his hardest to make people fear a competitor’s form of electricity. But here’s the strangest thing of all: Edison and his ilk failed quickly; their fearmongering just never stuck, and electricity, unlike every other innovation we’ve explored on this show, easily expanded into our world. Why? To understand that, we have go way back – to the very first spark.


• Thanks to our sponsor Coalesce, who made this great visual companion to our episode!

• Adam Allerhand’s Illustrated History of Electric Lighting

• Jill Jonnes’ Empires of Light

• Susan Spellman’s Cornering The Market

• Calestous Juma’s Innovation and its Enemies

• Matthis Krischel on Galvani and Frankenstein

• Robert Krulwich’s blog post about the reanimated squid

• Trailer for The Current War

Edison vs Westinghouse: A Shocking Rivalry, Smithsonian

• More on the Wabash, Indiana battle: Indiana University, Indiana Public Media

The New York Times’ coverage of the first electric chair death, Aug 7, 1890 

• Harold P. Brown’s insane challenge to George Westinghouse

• Music: Our theme music is by Caspar Babypants. Others were “Little Lily Swing” and “The Warbird” by Tri-Tachyon, “Breakdown” and “Small Things ~ Orchestral Music” by Art of Escapism, “Robot Dance” by Loyalty Freak Music, “Boulevard St Germain” and “SeeUSoon” by Jahzzar


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