Among the improvements we often take for granted is the brilliant flash of safety lights…the row of lights along a runway, beacon lights to warn planes away from radio towers, and, of course, lighthouses. Even though there were lighthouses dating back to ancient Greece, the modern “flash” we think of was the brainchild of Augustin Fresnel. Augustin’s life was forged in the aftermath of the French Revolution and his position as a civil engineer provided him with an opportunity to pursue his passion…light.
Just at a time when Science and Industry raced to keep pace with one another, this delicate, young man threw himself into proving his theory of light and his design for a lens that would change the face of shipping forever. Theresa Levitt details the long history of the Fresnal lens in “A Short, Bright Flash.” Well researched and meticulously fleshed out, this book provides not just the history of the lens design but the political, social and scientific climates that both permitted and nearly prevented it becoming reality. Levitt has reassembled and brought to light the history of a man and an invention that changed the world as we know it. “A Short, Bright Flash” will be of great interest to history buffs but also to anyone who takes joy in a well told story.
This book was provided to me by W.W. Norton & Company for this review but the opinions are entirely my own!