Random. Oct. 2019. 800p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780812993110. $38; ebk. ISBN 9780679644651. BIOG
In his last piece of scholarship, the late award-winning author Morris (The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt) hones in on one of the world’s greatest inventors: Thomas Edison (1847–1931). Anyone expecting a straightforward biography, from cradle to grave, is implored to look elsewhere, perhaps to Matthew Josephson’s often-cited Edison: A Biography. This work by Morris follows Edison’s life backward by decade in chapters titled after his subject’s passions, such as “Magnetism,” “Light,” and “Sound.” Morris presents Edison’s life in such detail, it’s as if readers are with him in his laboratory or trying out a new invention. The author reviewed millions of pages of archives and had access to Edison’s family papers, to produce more than 100 pages of endnote citations. What results is the magnum opus for a biographer who always looked at his subjects from unique angles. From his showmanship to his scientific imagination, Edison is captured in a supremely intimate way.
VERDICT This biography is the new standard for scholarship on the Wizard of Menlo Park and is a work that will long sustain Morris’s legacy.
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