An Entertainment for Angels, rather than for Men, one observer called electricity, and it proved to be the most significant scientific discovery of the Enlightenment. Lecturers attracted huge audiences who marveled at sparkling fountains, flaming drinks, pirouetting dancers, and electrified boys. Flamboyant experimenters made chains of soldiers leap into the air, while wealthy women titillated their admirers with a sensational electric kiss. Optimists predicted that this strange power of nature would cure illnesses, improve crop production, even bring the dead back to life. An Entertainment for Angels tells the story of how electricity charged the eighteenth-century imagination. With contemporary illustrations and engaging prose, Patricia Fara vividly portrays the struggles to understand the unusual and exciting effects that electrical experiments were producing.
One of the heroes of the story is Benjamin Franklin, renowned on both sides of the Atlantic as an expert on electricity, who introduced lightning rods to protect tall buildings, pioneered techniques to treat paralyzed patients, and developed one of the most successful explanations of this mysterious phenomenon. Others include Luigi Galvani, whose electrical research on frogs and animals makes for grisly reading but led to the discovery of direct current electricity; and Alessandro Volta, who?with Napoleon's enthusiastic support?became one of Europe's leading scientific practitioners and invented the world's first battery.