In Brilliant, award winning author Jane Brox offers a sweeping history of our transformative relationship with lightfrom the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to LEDs embedded in fabrics of the futureand reveals that the surprising, complex story of our illumination is also the story of our modern selves Just five hundred years ago almost everyone lived at the mercy of the dark, yet today so much of life as we know itour long evening hours, our flexible working days, our feelings of safety at nightdepends upon cheap, abundant light Brox not only examines the social and environmental implications of this remarkable transformation, she tells a compelling story imbued with human voices, startling insights, and timely questions about how the light of the future will shape our lives

15 thoughts on “Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light

  1. Book Lover Book Lover says:

    I love books that show the connectedness of events, books like Bill Bryson s One Summer America 1927 and Rinker Buck s The Oregon Trail A New American Journey Brilliant shines a light on the world before and after Man harnessed fire, from stone lamps of the Pleistocene 40,000 years ago to the future of cool light and the concern today of light pollution Despite some sections heavy in technical detail, Brox has a lyrical style which capture s the reader s imagination from the pitch dark streets of a medieval city to the constant drudgery of an American farm wife before the electric grid expanded to rural areas Never before had I considered what the brightness of the night sky has done to astronomy or thought about the darker side of the TVA water project in the 1930 s This is a book that will expand your understanding and perhaps even make you ponder why the gods were outraged that Prometheus stole fire and gave it to humankind

  2. Max Jones Max Jones says:

    This is a very interesting topic and the book starts out very well, going into the history of lighting at various points But then it derails as it becomes a series of vignettes rather than an exhaustive or rigorous look at the subject matter There are entire chapters on the TVA and a world s fair, for example The book is also very US focused, and hardly mentions other counties Its also full of long quotes, which reeks of laziness The book could also really do with pictures Finally, it becomes apparent fast that the author has no real scientific background, and is a bit of a lightweight So don t expect much rigorous or thorough discussion.This subject is just begging to be addressed in a comprehensive way In sum, I would not recommend getting this book.

  3. callicles4 callicles4 says:

    Delivers a readable narrative that is also thorough in historical details An enjoyably readable but detailed account like this is something few histories manage to achieve

  4. Fairleigh Brooks Fairleigh Brooks says:

    With this sort of book an examination of an event, a process, an evolution sometimes the complaint is a lack of continuity Readers bemoan, and rightfully, what is little than a collection of facts and anecdotes In some particular order, yes, but not much of one That complaint can t be made about Jane Brox s Brilliant Brox establishes a beginning thread, then writes along it to enlighten the reader sorry, I just couldn t resist as to the role of artificial light which is to say any light after sundown other than moonlight as the reigning hallmark of civilization She successfully depicts artificial light as inextricable from the social, creative and industrial evolution that has led to our modern life.I imagine a stylized seminal moment, maybe ten thousand years ago, which might have been the beginning of the beginning of cities In my setting a lone traveler is making his way as the sun fades He spots a fire small and contained, therefore made by a human and heads toward it By good luck, he and the other human speak the same words The two spend the night in the circle of the fire glow, in some comfort given by the radiant heat from the fire Our traveler has a rabbit hanging from the cord around his waist The fire maker has gathered some berries and roots They combine their holdings, eat well and converse The anxiety and resultant depression in each human is abated Your version will likely be different, but I ll bet whatever it is it includes a flame driving back the darkness.In the movie All the President s Men Deep Throat, in the shadows of the parking garage, reveals his presence to Woodward not with a shuffle or by clearing his throat, but by striking a match The metaphor is obvious, yet so right for the moment it is also delicious As much as language maybe a gem of light within darkness defines human beings on planet Earth.Today we take electricity on demand as granted, barely giving this tool a first thought, much less a second We tend to view electricity as something almost as natural as rain One of Brox s resultant subtexts is a display of the millions of Americans who lived the nineteenth century well into the twentieth In some cases there were still rural areas in America without electricity as late as 1960, of people still living by kerosene light and unable to lighten their endless farm work by using electric motors Yes, at the dawn of the Space Age some distant farmers still lived and worked in the halo of chemical burning.Jimmy Carter contributes several anecdotes about his flame lit boyhood in southern Georgia The same Jimmy Carter, of course, who was born well into the twentieth century and who would become a nuclear engineer and President Some of the lesser reviews for this book fault Brox for technical mistakes, which are, in fact, in the text I think this shortcoming lies with the current state of publishing i.e., the demise of editors than with Brox As well, this book is about the social impact of artificial lighting much than the technical aspects, although I certainly learned a lot about the limitations, and frequent monitoring, any light with a flame required A few minutes spent on the web page for this book indicates this content.

  5. S. Pirtle S. Pirtle says:

    I really enjoyed the first part of the book, but in the later chapters the author seemed to be getting bored with the story I wish she would do another edition including the latest advances in lighting, and rewrite the parts she seemed to be bored with I put a book mark at that point so I can stop there next time I reread it.

  6. chris chris says:

    EXCELLENT BOOK Very well researched and written I truly have enjoyed reading this I rate it the full five stars It flows well and takes one through each and every path that man has taken to get us where we are today with artificial light I love this book.

  7. Erin Donaghy Erin Donaghy says:

    This book was extremely helpful in finding anecdotal information for history presentation preparation I learned so much about history and the history of lighting through this book.

  8. Paul J. Gelardi Paul J. Gelardi says:

    Brilliant sheds new light on life as we know it This fascinating little book changed how I look at the world and made me realize the extent of modern life that we now take for granted.

  9. Guy J. Clark Guy J. Clark says:

    Good book on the history of artificial light I work in the LED lighting industry LED Driver Chips and have an interest in lighting already, so book was a good read for me Well written, not dry like a textbook.

  10. Santa Barbara Yann Santa Barbara Yann says:

    My favorite book of the last 5 years This books will give you a new perspective on the life of our forebears, from the neolithic to our grandmas.

  11. C. Bush C. Bush says:

    Brilliant is indeed brilliant Lighting had such an incredible impact on history and culture and Jane Brox is the first person I have seen who reveals its impact Very engaging and entertaining while being packed with information.

  12. Les Pepl Les Pepl says:

    really enjoyed it especially enjoyed the early part, before the light bulb was invented and electricity was introduced amazing what lengths people went to, to get any kind of light at night or indoors, something we take for granted now.

  13. Tracey Wiltse Tracey Wiltse says:

    Outstanding book I highly recommend it The style is easy to follow It s a combination of history, antecdotes, stories and highlights.VERY interesting.

  14. Bobby L Wilson Bobby L Wilson says:

    Well researched and well organized description of an evolution of an essential component of the human story The content of the book is aided by the author s avoidance of longwindedness.

  15. EJ EJ says:

    This book is a topical history of artificial lighting from the early use of candles to current trends in electric lighting It includes interesting information such as the roles and perceptions of early street lighting will it encourage crime or deter it and the effect of artificial lighting on migration patterns in animals and sleep cycles in humans I found the book to be a worthwhile read for this information alone.The major problem in the book was the over reliance on block quotes when the author could have easily paraphrased the material and referenced it Instead, entire superfluous descriptions were cut and pasted into the text though they were properly referenced This led to major disruptions in flow, and I found myself skipping many of the quotes as they really weren t necessary to the overall story being told I was always advised that any piece of writing should not be comprised of greater than 10 15% direct quotations This book is a good example of why that is excellent advice.Overall 4 stars for information and 2 stars for writing It s worth a read if you d like a quick overview of lighting through history.