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The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  98 ratings  ·  11 reviews
The dramatic story of the "power revolution" that turned America from an agrarian society into a technological superpower, and the dynamic, fiercely competitive inventors and entrepreneurs who made it happen—a riveting historical saga to rival McCullough's The Great Bridge or Larson's Thunderstruck.
Maury Klein, author of Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929, is one of America'
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published May 27th 2008 by Bloomsbury Press
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Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an unexpected but highly informative detour on my trip through the late 19th century, brought on by a recently-read Edison biography. This period was full of innovation in general, and in no other area was this more prevalent than in power creation and distribution. Many of the familiar names are present - Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla, et al - but many lesser-known but equally important inventors and entrepreneurs are chronicled, from the early days of steam engines to the evolution of e ...more
Mike Parkes
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Hands-down the best, most engaging, history of the development of steam power and electricity generation one can imagine. I've read biographies of Watt, Edison, and Tesla, along with many other energy books, but this one pulls all the threads together to show how the technologies for producing, distributing, and making use of electricity aligned and made possible our modern electrical grid. ...more
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you’re interested in such stuff, I highly recommend this thick book presenting the history of the inventions and innovations that gave us steam power and commercial electricity which, ultimately, enables Access Hollywood to invade my living room and cause my eyes to gloss over. Basically broken into two parts – the development of steam engines and the mostly subsequent history of innovation and distribution of electrical power – Klein covers all these guys who make my day-to-day societal cont ...more
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book
Ned, with nine years old gets to visit the first of three World Fairs that he is lucky enough to experience in his lifetime.
Philadelphia 1876 sets the scene for this fascinating book, that takes the reader on an exciting historical odyssey of mankind's constant technical innovations.
Starting with the first tender steps with steam engines, going through an ever increasing understanding of science with all the big names and ending with the fascinating story of how electric "came of age" and its b
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book is exactly what you would expect from the title and a good overview of the evolution of steam and electrical power systems in the United States. I borrowed this from the library, but am thinking about buying a copy to have it on hand for easy reference (job-related). Still a good read (some parts are skimable depending on your knowledge of this history) if you are interested in history of science or just curious about everyday technologies we take for granted.
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
First third is largely about the development of steam power as a prime mover and is really cool. The entire remainder is about development of electricity, the Edison/Westinghouse conflict, and a whoooooooooole lot of detail about the financial interactions of the two companies. That's interesting, but not *as* interesting, and wasn't quite what I was wanting. ...more
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The ball got rolling slowly here in the steam power part of the book, which is only maybe the first 15% or so, but picked up. Very good brief histories of the scientific study of heat and electromagnetism in the 19th century.

The business-focused majority of the book is very detailed, very well written but maybe too detailed to be everyone's cup of tea.
May 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting history of steam, & in greater detail electricity, from a business & technological perspective. Needs more diagrams of devices, and a glossary.
Jan 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Well-researched, erudite, and fascinatingly detailed. Read and learn things you've never thought about ... ...more
Tish Wells
Jun 13, 2008 marked it as to-read
Looking forward to this.
Jul 13, 2008 marked it as to-read
Received as an ARC
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Maury Klein is renowned as one of the finest historians of American business and economy. He is the author of many books, including The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America; and Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929. He is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Rhode Island. He lives in Saunderstown, Rhode Island. ...more

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