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Blood & Volts: Edison, Tesla and the Invention of the Electric Chair Paperback – February 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Autonomedia; First edition (February 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570270600
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570270604
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 1998
The historical development and use of the electric chair is a subject represented by only a handful of academic (or at least accurate) books. If you read only one, make it Blood and Volts.
Metzger must be congratulated for not simply pandering to the morbidly curious. Sure, there's a lot of gory detail -- necessary in describing such a technological enigma as the electric chair -- but Metzger moves beyond this. He gives us an uncannilly lucid view of the society, the people, and the politics that spawned the electric chair. He shows us not only the self-congratulatory PR of the day, but also the soul-searching criticism leveled at the electric chair by scientists, doctors, and the popular press. We assume that capital punishment advocates all hailed this new "scientific" method of killing. Not so, as Metzger shows us. After learning of the actual results of its use, many seriously proposed a return to hanging as more humane.
It takes much to explain a period of history in which most homes (and prisons) were lit by kerosene lamps, yet prisoners were executed by technology so exotic that experts had to be shipped in just to operate it (as the author points out, no one ever knew how much voltage or current actually killed the first victim of the chair, and the duration of shocks to be given had to be "guessed-at" by two physicians minutes before the execution).
If you want to truly understand how the electric chair came about, and why it remains today, Blood and Volts is a good place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on November 24, 2012
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Electrocution, as a method of execution, has only been around for a relatively short period of time. Its use started in New York State due to a number of botched hangings. The state decided that a new form of execution was needed, and put together a commission to evaluate the best possible way. Although the commission looked at several alternatives, it was known from the beginning that electrocution was considered the first choice.

This book is basically a history of how electrocution came in the use, as well as the battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over which system would be used to affect the execution of humans. Edison, as it is well known, was a huge proponent of the direct current system, while Westinghouse had employed Nikola Tesla who had invented alternating current. Both believed that the system they were utilizing was best, and each were in a hurry to prove the others system was more dangerous.

Both men, in order to prove the safety of their system, wanted the opposite system used to undertake electrocutions. If they could demonstrate that the opposing system could electrocute a human, then it would demonstrate that their system was safer. Although the logic seems a little twisted, that is what was going through their minds.

The book details several executions, as well has numerous animal experiments that were done by Edison in order to prove how lethal the alternating current system was. The book culminates with the first of several electrocutions. To put it mildly, the first several executions by electrocution did not go well. Little was known about the proper way to hook up wiring to a human, and little was known about the effects of voltage versus amps.
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Blood & Volts: Edison, Tesla and the Invention of the Electric Chair
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