Electricity was the scientific fashion of the Enlightenment, 'an Entertainment for Angels, rather than for men'. Lecturers attracted huge audiences to marvel at sparkling fountains, flaming drinks, pirouetting dancers and electrified boys. Flamboyant experimenters made chains of soldiers leap into the air, while wealthy women titillated their admirers with a sensational electric kiss. Enlightenment optimists predicted that this new-found power of nature would cure illnesses, improve crop production, even bring the dead back to life. This is the incredible story of the harnessing of nature by man - the beginnings of our technological age.
Patricia Fara is a Fellow of Clare College at the University of Cambridge where she teaches history of science. She is an expert on magnetism in the eighteenth century, and has also written and lectured widely on scientific portraits, the northern lights and international exploration. Her most recent book, Newton: The Making of Genius, examines how Newton came to be celebrated as a national hero and the world's first scientific genius.