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Edison
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Random House Publishing Group 2019
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
    Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world—already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices—that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven't heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine.
    One of the achievements of this staggering new biography, the first major life of Edison in more than twenty years, is that it portrays the unknown Edison—the philosopher, the futurist, the chemist, the botanist, the wartime defense adviser, the founder of nearly 250 companies—as fully as it deconstructs the Edison of mythological memory. Edmund Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, brings to the task all the interpretive acuity and literary elegance that distinguished his previous biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven. A trained musician, Morris is especially well equipped to recount Edison's fifty-year obsession with recording technology and his pioneering advances in the synchronization of movies and sound. Morris sweeps aside conspiratorial theories positing an enmity between Edison and Nikola Tesla and presents proof of their mutually admiring, if wary, relationship.
    Enlightened by seven years of research among the five million pages of original documents preserved in Edison's huge laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, and privileged access to family papers still held in trust, Morris is also able to bring his subject to life on the page—the adored yet autocratic and often neglectful husband of two wives and father of six children. If the great man who emerges from it is less a sentimental hero than an overwhelming force of nature, driven onward by compulsive creativity, then Edison is at last getting his biographical due.
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    Street Date:
    10/22/2019
    Language:
    English
    ISBN:
    9780679644651
    ASIN:
    B07NCMDWZD
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    APA Citation (style guide)

    Edmund Morris. (2019). Edison. Random House Publishing Group.

    Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

    Edmund Morris. 2019. Edison. Random House Publishing Group.

    Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

    Edmund Morris, Edison. Random House Publishing Group, 2019.

    MLA Citation (style guide)

    Edmund Morris. Edison. Random House Publishing Group, 2019. Web.

    Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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    Date Added:
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        • bioText: Edmund Morris was born and educated in Kenya and attended college in South Africa. He worked as an advertising copywriter in London before immigrating to the United States in 1968. His first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1980. Its sequel, Theodore Rex, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography in 2001. In between these two books, Morris became President Reagan's authorized biographer and wrote the national bestseller Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. He then completed his trilogy on the life of the twenty-sixth president with Colonel Roosevelt, also a bestseller, and has published Beethoven: The Universal Composer and This Living Hand and Other Essays. Edison is his final work of biography. He was married to fellow biographer Sylvia Jukes Morris for fifty-two years. Edmund Morris died in 2019.
        • name: Edmund Morris
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    shortDescription
    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
    Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world—already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices—that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven't heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine.
    One of the achievements of this staggering new...
  • isOwnedByCollections
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    title
    Edison
    fullDescription
    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edmund Morris comes a revelatory new biography of Thomas Alva Edison, the most prolific genius in American history.
    NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME AND PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
    Although Thomas Alva Edison was the most famous American of his time, and remains an international name today, he is mostly remembered only for the gift of universal electric light. His invention of the first practical incandescent lamp 140 years ago so dazzled the world—already reeling from his invention of the phonograph and dozens of other revolutionary devices—that it cast a shadow over his later achievements. In all, this near-deaf genius ("I haven't heard a bird sing since I was twelve years old") patented 1,093 inventions, not including others, such as the X-ray fluoroscope, that he left unlicensed for the benefit of medicine.
    One of the achievements of this staggering new biography, the first major life of Edison in more than twenty years, is that it portrays the unknown Edison—the philosopher, the futurist, the chemist, the botanist, the wartime defense adviser, the founder of nearly 250 companies—as fully as it deconstructs the Edison of mythological memory. Edmund Morris, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, brings to the task all the interpretive acuity and literary elegance that distinguished his previous biographies of Theodore Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, and Ludwig van Beethoven. A trained musician, Morris is especially well equipped to recount Edison's fifty-year obsession with recording technology and his pioneering advances in the synchronization of movies and sound. Morris sweeps aside conspiratorial theories positing an enmity between Edison and Nikola Tesla and presents proof of their mutually admiring, if wary, relationship.
    Enlightened by seven years of research among the five million pages of original documents preserved in Edison's huge laboratory at West Orange, New Jersey, and privileged access to family papers still held in trust, Morris is also able to bring his subject to life on the page—the adored yet autocratic and often neglectful husband of two wives and father of six children. If the great man who emerges from it is less a sentimental hero than an overwhelming force of nature, driven onward by compulsive creativity, then Edison is at last getting his biographical due.
  • sortTitle
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    crossRefId
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    reviews
        • premium: True
        • source: Publisher's Weekly
        • content:

          Starred review from July 29, 2019
          Inspiration and perspiration prodigiously unite in this sweeping biography of one of America’s greatest inventors. Pulitzer-winning biographer Morris (Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan) tells Thomas Alva Edison’s story backward, opening with the creator of the first long-lasting light bulb, the phonograph, and other electromechanical marvels in lionized, imperious old age and presenting each decade of his life in reverse order, back to his boyhood spells of intense, isolated concentration. The ordering is something of a gimmick—the book reads nicely back to front—but along the way Morris vividly fleshes out Edison’s extraordinary intellect and industry as he devoured stacks of scientific treatises, incessantly brainstormed ideas with complex, elegant diagrams, and spent a lifetime of 18-hour days perfecting his designs in the laboratory, where he ate and slept on the floor. (His paternal absenteeism, Morris notes, got a tragicomic comeuppance from two resentful wastrel sons who exploited his name to perpetrate frauds.) Writing in amusing, literate prose that’s briskly paced despite a mountain of fascinating detail, Morris sets Edison’s achievements against a colorful portrait of his splendid eccentricity—mostly deaf, he was given to biting phonographs and pianos to divine their acoustics—whose visionary obsessions drove his businesses near to bankruptcy. The result is an engrossing study of a larger-than-life figure who embodied a heroic age of technology. Photos.

        • premium: True
        • source: Kirkus
        • content:

          August 1, 2019
          One of history's most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world's greatest biographers. Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, "genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration," and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world's first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison's innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others' work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell's telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison's carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison's inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works. Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

          COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

        • premium: True
        • source: Booklist
        • content:

          Starred review from September 1, 2019
          Morris (Colonel Roosevelt, 2010) takes a risk with his new biography of Thomas Edison?he runs the inventor's life backwards like a film in reverse, finding fresh truths in the story of a genius of almost metaphysical proportions. Edison seems to have almost singlehandedly ushered in the modern age, with his breakthroughs in the recording of sound (the phonograph), lighting (the incandescent lightbulb), moviemaking, and electric generation and communications. Morris shows that besides an immense intellect and ability to survive on little sleep, two aspects of the inventor's makeup were key. To Edison, failure was good: he typically regarded every failure as a step towards success, Morris writes. And his almost total deafness wrapped Edison in his own cocoon: I live in a great, moving world of my own, Edison wrote. He was a man capable of great kindness, but oblivious to the feelings of family and friends; a wealthy man heedless of the demands of his creditors and investors. This absorbing biography, Morris' last (he died in May 2019), has flaws, notably an excess of scientific and engineering detail. Its life-story-told-backwards technique demands attention, but at the end the reader sees Edison fully revealed, a small child about to transform the world.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2019, American Library Association.)

        • premium: True
        • source: Library Journal
        • content:

          September 1, 2019

          Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times best-selling biographer Morris rescues Thomas Edison from haloed history by taking seven years to wend his way through the five-million-page archive of papers preserved under a bombproof shell at the inventor's laboratory in West Orange, NJ.

          Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

        • premium: True
        • source: Library Journal
        • content:

          Starred review from September 1, 2019

          In his last piece of scholarship, the late award-winning author Morris (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt) hones in on one of the world's greatest inventors: Thomas Edison (1847-1931). Anyone expecting a straightforward biography, from cradle to grave, is implored to look elsewhere, perhaps to Matthew Josephson's often-cited Edison: A Biography. This work by Morris follows Edison's life backward by decade in chapters titled after his subject's passions, such as "Magnetism," "Light," and "Sound." Morris presents Edison's life in such detail, it's as if readers are with him in his laboratory or trying out a new invention. The author reviewed millions of pages of archives and had access to Edison's family papers, to produce more than 100 pages of endnote citations. What results is the magnum opus for a biographer who always looked at his subjects from unique angles. From his showmanship to his scientific imagination, Edison is captured in a supremely intimate way. VERDICT This biography is the new standard for scholarship on the Wizard of Menlo Park and is a work that will long sustain Morris's legacy. [See Prepub Alert, 4/15/19.]--Keith Klang, Port Washington P.L., NY

          Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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