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This book tells the story of the scientific talent and technological prowess of two nations that joined forces to connect themselves with a communications cable that would change the world. In 1855 an American visionary named Cyrus West Field, who knew nothing about telegraphy, sought to establish a monopoly on telegraphic revenues between North America and Europe. Field and the wealthy New Yorkers who formed the first Atlantic cable-laying company never suspected that spanning the vast and stormy Atlantic would require 11 years of frustration and horrific financial sacrifice. The enterprise would eventually engage some of the most brilliant minds in England, Scotland, and the United States, attracting men of science, men of wealth, and men of curiosity. Message time would be cut from more than four weeks to about two minutes. Such a feat would not have been possible without the massive ship the Great Eastern, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Britain's foremost engineer, or the financial backing of Thomas Brassey, the era's greatest builder of railroads.
Despite four failed attempts and the enmity that developed between the Union and Great Britain during America's Civil War, Field never stopped urging his British friends to perfect a cable that could function in water as deep as two and a half miles. Without the unified effort of this small cadre of determined engineers, decades may have passed before submarine cables became reliable. This is the story of these men, their ships, and the technology that made it all possible. Behind the scenes were tough and worthy competitors who tried to beat them to the punch, adding a sense of urgency to their monumental task. Some called the Atlantic cable the greatest feat of the 19th century—with good reason. It perfected transoceanic communications and connected the world with circuits in the sea.
- Table of Contents
Illustrations among the Manuscript Pages, Listed before Page 1
Preface and Acknowledgments
Harnessing the Knowledge
A Man without a Mission
The Learning Curve Begins
The British Alliance
In the Deep Bosom of the Ocean
An Affair to Remember
Jubilations before Death
Accusations and Inquest
Other Schemes and Other Routes
Time Out for War
Of Dollars and Pounds
The Ship to Lay Your Cable
So Close and Yet So Far
Acts of Desperation
An Elephant Stretching a Cobweb
The Summing Up
General readers; graduate students; faculty and researchers.
This new account by Chester G. Hearn tells the story from the point of view of Cyrus W. Field, the American businessman and entrepreneur whose energy and perseverance drove the project through numerous disappointments and disasters to ultimate triumph....[t]he story is well told, providing the basic technical details in a heroic narrative of one of the greatest adventures of modern science and technology.
[R]elates the technological and cooperative efforts of two nations that joined forces to create the first transatlantic communication cable. From the efforts of wealthy new Yorkers who formed the first Atlantic cable-laying company to the participation of England's best, chapters detail failures, enmity, cooperation and 11 years of hard effort....[a] unique history.
This volume is most appropriate for the college classroom. It clearly illustrates the dynamic balance between science, technology, and society, and how developments in one influence applications in the other. It also shows how the advancement of a technology sometimes depends on the personalities of those involved and their ability to persuade others to work toward its development. The almost obsessive drive that some of the protagonists exhibit could be illustrative of the good and the bad in all personality-driven endeavors. This would be a good book to read and analyze--especially in terms of how the parallel development of wireless communications ultimately made this monumental undertaking obsolete. It could easily serve as a cautionary tale for all the blind optimism that may exist around any particular technology today....[a] welcome addition to the literature. For those students interested in history of technology, I highly recommend this book.
For the researcher, each chapter has many notes giving the source of information and quoted material, and the book also has an extensive list of sources and a comprehensive bibliography.
An exciting and dramatic story that pits the challenges of advancing technology with dynamic personalities to produce the energy that was the mid-19th century!
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