Empires of Light

  • by Jill Jonnes
  • Narrated by Chris Sorensen
  • 16 hrs and 51 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the final decades of the 19th century, three brilliant and visionary titans of America's Gilded Age - Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse - battled as each vied to create a vast and powerful electrical empire. In Empires of Light, historian Jill Jonnes portrays this extraordinary trio and their riveting and ruthless world of cutting-edge science, invention, intrigue, money, death, and hard-eyed Wall Street millionaires. At the heart of the story are Thomas Alva Edison, the nation's most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the world's first direct current electrical light networks; the Serbian wizard of invention Nikola Tesla, an eccentric dreamer who revolutionized the generation and delivery of electricity; and the charismatic George Westinghouse, Pittsburgh inventor and corporate entrepreneur, an industrial idealist who in the era of gaslight imagined a world powered by cheap and plentiful electricity and worked heart and soul to create it. Empires of Light is the gripping history of electricity, the "mysterious fluid", and how the fateful collision of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse left the world utterly transformed.


What the Critics Say

"A very accessible and informative historical account that will be fascinating reading for a general audience as well as those with a more specialized interest." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Instead of writing about one of these great titans Edison, Tesla or Westinghouse, Jill Jonnes chose to write about all three in one book. Jonnes focused on the race to control electricity delivery to the country. The battle between Edison and Tesla was whether electricity should be delivered and put to use as direct or alternating current. Edison backed direct and Tesla alternating current. Westinghouse jumped into the fray to control the delivery to business and homes throughout the country. Westinghouse and Tesla teamed up to harness the Niagara Falls in 1895 to deliver electricity. According to Jonnes electricity unleashed a Second Industrial Revolution.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The book covers a broad-spectrum picture of the race to electrify the nation. The book is well organized. The book covers everything from the biographies of the three men to the science of electricity, to business and finance. Of the three men, it is Tesla that has fascinated me since I studied him in college.

Jill Jonnes has her degree in history from John Hopkins University. In this book, she demonstrates the ability to portray the broad picture of history in the style of the late Stephen Ambrose. She is definitely an author to watch.

The book is almost seventeen hours long. Chris Sorensen does a great job narrating the book. Sorensen is a screenwriter, playwright and award-winning audiobook narrator.

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- Jean

History is amazing

It is hard to imagine life before electricity. I didn't know how Westinghouse got Tesla to hand over his patents but now I do. A little eccentricity mixed with arrogance. And it was too bad Edison got mixed up in the War of Currents. I'd have appreciated him more if he skipped the electrocution experiments. A must read for history buffs.
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- Brandon Ulwelling

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-31-2017
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio