EDISON: The Man Who Made the Future by Ronald W. Clark

EDISON: The Man Who Made the Future

Email this review


Edison's is one of those oversized lives that lends itself to periodic retelling--assuming new evidence or a new point of view. But Ronald Clark has only details to add to the record of Edison's accomplishments chronicled by Matthew Josephson in 1959, far less to say about the man and his times, and no point of view at all. Even the youthful feats--as newboy/newsmonger on the Grand Trunk Railway, night-telegrapher, day-tinkerer across the Midwest--lose their Éclat. With mechanical regularity, Edison improves the stockticker, makes Bell's telephone audible, moves to Menlo Park, (really) invents the phonograph, perfects the incandescent lamp, devises an electrical distribution system, experiments with electric trains, loses his first wife, remarries, shifts operations to the Orange Valley, sells control of his enterprises, returns to the phonograph, tackles the movie camera, sees ""General Electric"" efface the Edison name, switches to non-electric endeavors. . . the while playing a part, failing to give others credit, holding scientists at bay, working through the night and sleeping on his feet: stock motifs all. The few references to ""recent research"" are inconsequential or misleading (e.g., the problem of dating the phonograph was aired by Josephsnon), robbing the account of its one potential asset. Indeed, readers with a mainly technological interest (and/or daunted by Josephson's breadth) will be better served by Robert Silverberg's 1967 Light for the World. There's no vision here except in the title.

Pub Date: Oct. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Putnam