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Little Brown and Company

Edison's Ghosts: The Untold Weirdness of History's Greatest Geniuses

Edison's Ghosts: The Untold Weirdness of History's Greatest Geniuses

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Publishers Weekly Best Summer Reads

Overturn everything you knew about history's greatest minds in this raucous and hilarious book, where it turns out there's a finer line between "genius" and "idiot" than we've previously known. "As Albert Einstein almost certainly never said, everyone is a genius - but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." So begins Katie Spalding's spunky takedown of the Western canon, and how genius may not be as irrefutably great as we commonly understand. While most of us may never become Einstein, it may surprise you to learn that there's probably a bunch of stuff you can do that Einstein couldn't. And, as Spalding shows, the famous prodigies she explores here were quite odd by any definition. For example:
  • Thomas Edison, inventor of the lightbulb, believed that he could communicate with the undead and built the world's very first hotline to heaven: the Spirit Phone.
  • Marie and Pierre Curie, famous for discovering radioactivity, slept next to a lump of radioactive material for years and strapped it to their arms to watch it burn them in real-time.
  • Lord Byron, acclaimed British poet, literally took a bear with him to university.
  • Isaac Newton discovered the laws of gravity and motion, but he also looked up at the sun without eye protection. The result? Three days of blindness.
  • Tesla, whose scientific work led to the invention of the AC unit, fell in love with a pigeon.

Edison's Ghosts is filled with examples of the so-called best of humanity doing, to put it bluntly, some really dumb shit. You'll discover stories that deserve to be told but never are: the hilarious, regrettable, and downright bafflingly lesser-known achievements that never made it into our history books, until now.

Author: Katie Spalding
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
Published: 05/16/2023
Pages: 352
Binding Type: Hardcover
Weight: 1.15lbs
Size: 9.30h x 6.30w x 1.20d
ISBN: 9780316529525

Review Citation(s):
Publishers Weekly 02/27/2023
Kirkus Reviews 04/01/2023
Booklist 04/14/2023

About the Author
Katie Spalding spent ten years of her life studying maths, which is just about the upper limit on how much maths you can do before people start actively avoiding you at parties. She was awarded her PhD in 2018 for a thesis titled "Growth and Geometry in Multi-Valued Dynamics", which is a particularly mathematical way of saying she drew a lot of pictures and pointed at them while saying "look, see?" and hoping nobody asked any follow-up questions.

After leaving the world of academia, Katie worked at IFLScience where she mixed scientific explanation and news with humor to an audience of hundreds of thousands. She has supplied research for the TV show QI and its sister podcast No Such Thing As A Fish; her articles have also been seen in HuffPost, PoliticsMeansPolitics and the Maths in Schools journal, among others.


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