The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb takes a broader look at power in his latest, tracing five centuries of human energy development from coal to solar and some of the lesser-known technologies that cropped up along the way.
He offers a riveting account of humanity’s 400-year quest to bend the natural world to its own purposes, for good or ill ... an easy canter through industrial history, enlivened by anecdote and unexpected detail ... He finishes by making a powerful case for regenerating the nuclear power industry ... Mr. Rhodes has scored another masterpiece, so it’s not churlish to regret a couple of omissions. On the American side in the Age of Steam was Oliver Evans, who as much as Trevithick deserves mention for the high-pressure steam engine; and the steamboats based on Henry Shreve’s designs for shallow Western rivers were as important in America as Stephenson’s locomotives were in Britain. Finally, Mr. Rhodes makes little mention of the British machine-tool makers—above all, Henry Maudslay—who created indispensable precision tools. Still, there’s more than enough energetic exposition in Energy: A Human History for anyone who cares to learn how and why we are now so richly empowered.
It's...wide-ranging and compulsively readable ... clear and informative; he's able to explain difficult concepts without patronizing the reader ... And his decision to focus his book on the people behind energy is a good one. He doesn't limit himself to obvious names ... Refreshingly, Rhodes refuses to be cynical about the future of energy and its effects on climate change ... he urges action without succumbing to fatalism ... Energy is an excellent book that manages to be both entertaining and informative, and it's likely to appeal to both science fans and those of us who only passed physics by the skin of our teeth.
Richard Rhodes’ dazzling Energy: A Human History tells a compulsively readable tale of human need, curiosity, ingenuity and arrogance. In a fast-paced narrative, he conducts readers on a journey from humanity’s dependence on wood as the primary fuel source to the use of coal and up to the development of nuclear energy and solar energy ... his exceptional book is required reading for anyone concerned about the human impact on the future of the world.