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Lightning Man - The Accursed Life of Samuel F. B. Morse

Tác giả: Kenneth Silverman
Thể loại: Lịch Sử
Language: English
Giới thiệu

From Publishers Weekly

The New York Herald may have eulogized the inventor of the telegraph in 1872 as "perhaps the most illustrious American of his age," but Samuel Morse may have concluded otherwise: he thought his life a failure. Hence the subtitle of this painstakingly researched, gracefully and soberly told life. Silverman, who won the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes for his 1984 biography of Cotton Mather, presents us with a fool's progress of sorts. Morse seems to have fallen into inventing by way of a mediocre painting career. He was a disappointment to his pious Protestant parents, who envisioned a respectable career for their son but got a dreamer instead. By the age of 41, Morse was still dreaming of a commission from Congress to be hung in the Capitol dome and still undecided as to his calling in life. He dabbled in inventing, considered a career as a minister, became an art teacher at New York University, ran unsuccessful candidacies for mayor and for Congress on anti-immigration platforms and wrote screeds against Catholic conspiracies to undermine the American republic. He dabbled in a new technology, photography, and of course, promoted his electromagnetic telegraph, battling domestic and foreign competitors and, after finally achieving commercial success, a tide of lawsuits. Silverman's vivid portrait is of a naive, restless man who stays a dreamer all his life and dies disappointed. The author writes in a narrative style as staid and temperate as the Protestant bourgeoisie he writes about. This should appeal as both history of science and stolid biography. 49 photos and illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Silverman has proved himself a masterful biographer in his books on Cotton Mather and Edgar Allan Poe and continues the tradition with this biography of the putative inventor of the electric telegraph. Silverman homes in on Morse's sui generis claim that he produced the telegraph on his own in 1832. This assertion was disputed by a gallery of litigious sharpers thirsting for wealth from telegraphy. It is also a question that Silverman sensibly consigns to the category of the insoluble. Indeed Silverman's great talent lies in the way he refrains from expostulating directly, allowing Morse's habits and actions to speak through his own words. Even the author's use of the acidic adjective accursed in his subtitle leaves readers unsure about whether bad luck or odium is implied. Morse's letters to his children, whom he dumped on relatives, indicate he neglected them to pursue his lifelong dream to become a painter. On the other hand, Silverman portrays Morse as easily depressed, vexed by the business disputes to which his artistic, pious, and overly trusting nature was ill suited. Set in his times, the man in full arises in Silverman's exemplary biography. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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