Energy: A Human History

Energy: A Human History

Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes reveals the fascinating history behind energy transitions over time—wood to coal to oil to electricity and beyond.

People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Ultimately, the history of these challenges tells the story of humanity itself.

Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.

In Energy, Rhodes highlights the successes and failures that led to each breakthrough in energy production; from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He addresses how we learned from such challenges, mastered their transitions, and capitalized on their opportunities. Rhodes also looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.

Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw life from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further challenges, and through such transformations, we arrived at where we are today. In Rhodes’s singular style, Energy details how this knowledge of our history can inform our way tomorrow.

Title:Energy: A Human History
ISBN:9781501105357
Format Type:

    Energy: A Human History Reviews

  • Peter Mcloughlin

    Richard Rhodes has been writing since the early 1980s and I have read most of his books. He always has a good sense of historical narrative and he is a good science popularizer. He combines both thes...

  • Dax

    A little bit of a dry read at times, but very informative. Rhodes devotes a chapter or two to each of the major sources of energy humans have used over the last several hundred years. Wood, steam, coa...

  • Peter Tillman

    2 stars might be a little harsh, but this was a disappointing book. The early chapters rehashed stuff I already know, the nuclear energy chapter, well, rehashed old stuff too. The windup was a little ...

  • Lubinka Dimitrova

    Very informative, but too dry for my taste and my mind was wandering off. Still, plenty of interesting facts....

  • Margaret Sankey

    Rhodes applies his talent for explaining science and technology to a popular audience to the modern history of energy--the deforestation of Europe and the coming of coal of increasing efficiency and q...

  • David Montgomery

    A good overview of the changes in human energy use from the Elizabethan period through to the present. Rhodes surveys the rise and fall of muscle, water, steam and electricity, of wood, coal, oil, nat...

  • Meredith

    Audiobook. I cannot say enough about this. It is completely outstanding. When I saw that it was by Richard Rhodes, I couldn’t wait to read it. This is a comprehensive, well thought out and researche...

  • Lee Woodruff

    If you love books that cover epic transformations in history this is your next non fiction read about the evolution of energy from wood to nuclear - four centuries of change and all the implications -...

  • Travis Tucker

    A good history of the progression of the history of the development of energy sources and machines to use them. My only issues were: 1) that is was bit America/Western Europe-centric. I understand tha...

  • Charlene

    I read this book at the same time as Smil's Energy and Civilization. It proved to be a good compliment to Smil's book but left me feeling pretty disappointed at the same time. I wanted more from this ...