Edison & the Electric Chair
A Story of Light and DeathBook - 2004
Thomas Edison stunned America in 1879 by unveiling a world-changing invention - the lightbulb. A decade later, despite his lifelong opposition to the death penalty, Edison threw his laboratory resources and reputation behind the creation of a very different device - the electric chair. Edison championed the electric chair for reasons that remain controversial. In the mid-1880s, as he wired Manhattan and other cities with his direct-current lines, his rival, George Westinghouse, was undercutting his business with a less expensive alternating current system. The battle for electrical dominance raged just as New York's legislators were seeking a more humane alternative to the gallows. Called on for his expertise, Edison helped persuade state officials to reject the guillotine and lethal injection in favour of electricity. But there was a catch: Edison insisted that his own direct current was perfectly safe - only Westinghouse's alternating current could cause certain death. Was Edison concerned about the suffering of the condemned? Or was he waging a campaign to smear alternating current and boost his own system? Deftly exploring this chapter in American history, Mark Essig delivers a vivid portrait of a nation on the cusp of modernity and a new examination of Edison himself.
Publisher: Toronto : M&S, 2004.
Characteristics: 358 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm.
Alternative Title: Edison and the electric chair