Bolt of Fate is a story about invention, fraud, colonialism, electricity, revolution and revenge.Benjamin Franklin is an undisputed hero of the United States, and indeed of Western democracy. The son of a candle-maker, he used his talents and abilities to rise in colonial American society and became a politician, philanthropist, scientist, author, newspaperman, inventor - and a master hoaxer. Bolt of Fate deals with one of the most far-reaching of these hoaxes, one that until now had not even been suspected of being a hoax. It is generally believed that Benjamin Franklin flew a kite during a thunderstorm in the summer of 1752. Electricity from the clouds above travelled down the kite's twine and threw a spark from a key that Franklin had attached to the string. He thereby proved that lightning and electricity were one.What no one has successfully proven until now, and what few have suggested, is that Franklin never flew the kite at all. Told by the Royal Society in London that his communications were not wanted, Franklin then discovered they had stolen his ideas on electricity and passed them off as their own. He vowed to have his revenge and his kite hoax was both his triumph over
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(230mm x 140mm x 20mm)
Sutton Publishing Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
By 1746 electricity had really arrived on the international party circuit. Sparks flew as beauties suspended aloft by silken chords were charged with electrons. Spoons full of brandy burst into flames and whole crowds joined hands in demonstrations of mass electrocution. These scenes would become common in the parties of the European elite. From Berlin to Paris and across to London, Kings, Dukes, celebrities, princesses and even the Pope were being dazzled by the tricks of the new scientific craze. This must have been a far cry from the world of Benjamin Franklin: a teenage runaway who worked as a printer in Quaker Pennsylvania; a far outpost of the British Empire. It took six weeks for Franklin's first letter to reach the famous Royal Society of London. Enclosed were the intricate details of his thoughts and recent experiments concerning electricity. It didn't take nearly as long for William Watson, the society's leading electricity spokesman to steal Franklin's ideas and announce them as his own. It is here that Tom Tucker's well conceived and carefully crafted account of Franklin's story begins. The book provides a thoughtful account of Franklin's struggle for recognition. Tucker leads us into the world of Boswell and Johnson, through the coffee houses of Eighteenth century London, past the statues of Isaac Newton and Robert Hooke and finally into league with Quaker allies in London who agree to see his work published in the notorious Gentleman's Quarterly magazine. Tucker takes time to show us other aspects of Franklin. The printer who wrote articles in favour of sexual liberation, the editor who spoke out against slavery and the man who, having escaped the English army, returned home and was asked to help draft the constitution of fledgling America. Recognition brings Franklin plaudits from all over continental Europe. Catapulted to celebrity status as far away even as Moscow he is now the darling of the civilised world. In the midst of all this Tucker examines the infamous Philadelphia experiment asking if Franklin ever did fly his kite in a thunderstorm. Or did he publish in haste and then secretly wait for a later opportunity? The nobility of Europe didn't seem to mind. Neither did the historians. And it won't make much difference to Tucker's readers. Tucker writes with a gentle style, his plot is engaging and his knowledge of his subject is mature. With ease he is able to embellish Franklin's character. And the man whole stole thunder from the Gods is truly cast into the light. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Tom Tucker
Tom Tucker is an award winning author who writes often about the history of invention. His most recent publication The Eclipse Project was issued by NASA, the result of a fellowship administered by NASA Dryden Flight Research Center and Stanford University. He lives in Rutherfordton, North Carolina, with his family.