Energy: A Human History

Reviewed on , book by Richard Rhodes

I couldn’t put this down. A fantastic account of our transition from organic energy sources (horses, mules, oxes, ..) to fossil fuels to electricity. Taking detours at each level into lighting (which takes you into whaling, and the Canadian invention of kerocene), a deep account on the steam engine (and the insidious effects of patents), why we ended up with combustion engines when steam and electrical engines seemed just as likely at the time (it’s hard to imagine that the technologies weren’t far from each other at the time, because after 100-years of innovation, of course the combustion engine is far ahead). The last few chapters on the energy crisis we have today as a function of climate change. A book that appealed to me with the right mix of biographical content of innovators, inventions, science, and using history as context to talk about the present and future.