Happy birthday, Edison, Lincoln, and Darwin!

This weekend, we’re celebrating the birthdays of three great figures in history: Thomas Edison, Charles Darwin, and Abraham Lincoln. Edison was born 165 years ago this Saturday, and Sunday marks the 203rd anniversary of the births of both Lincoln and Darwin.

Did you know that Edison wasn’t the first to develop an incandescent light bulb? His invention, though, was the most successful of all the competing inventions. Drawing from the documents in the Edison archives, Robert Friedel and Paul Israel explain how this came to be in Edison’s Electric Light: The Art of Invention. (Nearly a hundred years ago, Edison predicted that another of his inventions, the motion picture camera, would render books in schools obsolete within 10 years; while that hasn’t happened yet, you can read Edison’s Electric Light via Project MUSE.)

And for more on the Wizard of Menlo Park that might spark some of that 1 percent of your own genius that’s inspiration, check out The Papers of Thomas A. Edison, Vol. 5, Vol. 6, and Vol. 7.

For an ambitious way to observe the Great Emancipator’s birthday, you could set out to achieve “Ultimate Lincoln Knowledge” by reading Michael Burlingame’s
masterpiece, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, which Christopher Hitchens called  “magnificent” and William Safire “magisterial.” If you read this 2,000-page biography from cover to cover (and then cover to cover again, as there are two volumes) by the next 12th of February, I will get my hands on a stovepipe hat just so I can tip it to you.

If you prefer your biographies to be more succinct, try Tim M. Berra’s Charles Darwin: The Concise Story of an Extraordinary Man. As the Library Journal says, readers “who want a quick, no-frills but still authoritative read on Darwin’s life couldn’t find a better source.” For some historical insight into the current debates on evolution and religious belief, check out Negotiating Darwin: The Vatican Confronts Evolution, 1877–1902, by Mariano Artigas, Thomas F. Glick, and Rafael A. Martínez. Another book by Glick on the father of evolution is What about Darwin? All Species of Opinion from Scientists, Sages, Friends, and Enemies Who Met, Read, and Discussed the Naturalist Who Changed the World, which Michael Ruse of the Quarterly Review of Biology called “a splendid compilation of opinions of the great (and not so great) who read Darwin’s works.” Ruse goes on to say, “Like Tennyson, get two copies; one for yourself and one to put on the side table in the guest bedroom.”

And you can do this for any of the books we’ve mentioned with a 40 percent discount when you purchase them through our website and enter the code HELD at checkout. Happy Edison-Lincoln-Darwin birthday weekend!

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Filed under American Studies, Biography, Biology

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