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A Short Bright Flash


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About the Author

Theresa Levitt held the McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of History of Science at the University of Mississippi and is associate professor of history there. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, she has a master's degree in history from Iowa State University and a PhD from Harvard University. She was the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant and a Fulbright IIE Graduate Research Fellowship, among other honors. She is the author of numerous articles and papers on a variety of scientific subjects.


"Theresa Levitt interweaves the personal triumph of the French physicist Augustin Fresnel with his pathbreaking work on the nature of light in her fascinating recounting of how the coasts of the world were made safe for the world's seafaring vessels through a mix of genius, ingenuity, and perseverance. The story has a fascinating American coda." -- Joyce Appleby, professor of history emerita, UCLA, and author of The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism
"It is rare that we see a lighthouse-related book, historical in nature, with the level of research that was put into A Short Bright Flash. Theresa Levitt's superior work has illustrated the genius and ongoing legacy of Augustin Fresnel, whose brilliance not only saved lives but had an everlasting impact on the development of world trade, and whose advanced ideas are still implemented in today's modern culture." -- Jeffrey S. Gales, executive director, U.S. Lighthouse Society
"With his frantic pace of invention and early death, "he's just like those romantic heroines of 1830s Paris burning themselves up through their passions," said the historian Theresa Levitt, whose new book is A Short Bright Flash: Augustin Fresnel and the Birth of the Modern Lighthouse." -- Eva Kahn - New York Times
"Fresnel indeed lit up his country and the world." -- Joanne Baker - Nature
"[F]ascinating book...Levitt's writing captures the mix of scientific rigor and cultural shifts in a way that mirrors the sea voyages of the day-a journey fraught with uncertainty, but in the end, guided to success by Fresnel's lighthouse lenses." -- Matthew Tiffany - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"University of Mississippi history professor Levitt details the birth and golden age of a maritime icon in this fascinating book." -- Publishers Weekly
"Homage to the man who turned feeble-and-far-between harbor lights into a global multitude of brilliant beacons. ...Levitt's scrupulous scholarship and contextual setting serve readers well." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Combin[es] matters of biography, science, engineering, technology, art, history, economics and politics seemingly effortlessly and definitely seamlessly. An excellent book and a joy to read." -- Henry Petroski - The Wall Street Journal

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