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Frank Julian Sprague: Electrical Inventor and Engineer (Railroads Past and Present) Hardcover – September 25, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Frank Sprague... is a major historical figure who for decades lacked a significant biography. This void has been ably and engagingly filled in this book by the dean of electric traction authors, William D. Middleton, and his son, William III." ―Classic Trains, Summer 2010



"This definitive, and long-awaited, biography of the 'Father of Electric Traction' details the life and times of an exceptional engineer, maverick innovator, entrepreneur, and businessman." ―NMRA Magazine, August 2010



"Anyone interested in American history, urban affairs, and related topics will find this book very interesting." ―bookviewsbyalancaruba.blogsport.com, 12/1/2009



"The authors weave this biography through time, with technological and political details that make Sprague human, a creative soul pressing his ideas with a sports-like outcome―some wins, some losses, and some ties.... I recommend this well-written book detailing the life of the 'Father of Electric Traction' to explain the development of what we so casually take for granted." ―Trains, April 2010



"No one has previously used Sprague's personal papers in a published biography... Recommended." ―Choice, May 2010



"[By documenting] the life of the person generally considered one of the most significant leaders in the development of public transit... [this] is a welcome addition to the literature." ―James H. Graebner, author of From Small Town to Downtown: A History of the Jewett Car Company

About the Author

William D. Middleton is the author of more than 20 books and many hundreds of articles on rail transportation, engineering, and travel topics. He is editor (with George M. Smerk and Roberta L. Diehl) of Encyclopedia of North American Railroads (IUP, 2007).

William D. Middleton III is a contributor to the Encyclopedia of North American Railroads (IUP, 2007).

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Product Details

  • Series: Railroads Past and Present
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (September 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253353831
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253353832
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,689,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By David G. Wuchinich on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Sprague is mentioned in many histories of the development of mass transit, principally for his successful and first development in Chicago of a way of controlling individually powered electric cars all coupled together, from a single car in the consist, a system which today comprises all operations of subway and elevated trains all over the world. It, however, was not his only first achievement. He had previously pioneered the installation of the first large scale electric street railway in Richmond, Virginia. A very practical man grounded by basic technical training in physics and mathematics and electrical science as it was then just being developed, he was able to codify without stumbling about the important considerations in planning commercially successful applications of electric power to civil use and was, at the end of his life in 1934, accorded the recognition for such accomplishments as he deserved. His own commercial success as an entrepreneur, however, was hampered by the common affliction of inventor's pride. Refusing to acknowledge the priority of other inventors and stubbornly refusing to compromise on having his way when it was clear other methods were equally capable or even superior, he lost the market for his inventions to companies well positioned to take advantage once he had proven the technology feasible. Readers familiar with the history of, for example, electrical inventors Nikola Tesla and Edwin Howard Armstrong will find this story familiar.

This history is a very readable account of Sprague accomplishments and a little of his apparently very private life. Do not expect to understand exactly how his inventions worked as, while diagrams and photographs are present, the reader with a technical bent and interest had best consult the generous bibliography.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent piece of work about one of the US' most brilliant engineers who has been pretty much under the radar for generations. Sprague belongs on the same stage with Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse as one of those key geniuses that brought the world into the era of electricity and high speed transportation. What they did for their time was as amazing as what electronics has done for our time. And nothing they did has been obsoleted by new discovery or invention, it's only been improved on. Frank Julian Sprague: Electrical Inventor and Engineer (Railroads Past and Present)
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By JIM B. on November 6, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding book with time period pictures....well done by a noted author
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a concise and well-written book. It deals primarily with the professional life of Mr. Sprague and reasonably touches on his personal life with enough information to permit a reasonable picture of him as a human being - but - by far, most of the book is devoted to his business ventures and the tremendous contributions he made to electrical technology. If I were to compare this book to another equally good book about Mr. Sprague, The Birth of Electric Traction, I might give it a marginally higher rating as it has more diagrams and photos of the technology that he developed. I bought the book because I have always associated the name of Frank Julian Sprague with the technology of street cars and electric multiple-unit traction. His fundamental discoveries in the area from the 1890s still inform the electric traction industry of today. It was interesting to learn that he also played a major role in the development of electrically powered elevators - a most interesting aside from his great work with electric traction. Anyone with a particular interest in the development of the technology that led to street railway systems in America, and later the development of the elevated railway systems that still exist in Chicago and New York, will be quite happy with this book.
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