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Author to discuss electricity and invention March 21

March 8, 2013

The author of a current book on Thomas Edison will discuss how electricity fueled invention during an upcoming presentation at Indiana State University in connection with the Community Semester series.

Ernest Freeberg will discuss the revolutionary transformations electric lighting wrought upon American cities and their populations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries during the presentation "The Great Transformer: Electric Light in the Age of Debs" at 7:30 p.m. March 21 in University Hall Theater.

Freeberg is a distinguished professor of the humanities at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He specializes in the cultural and intellectual history of the United States in the 19th and early 20th century. His most recent book, "The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America," explores the impact of electric light on the development of modern American culture.

The Community Semester, which focuses on the theme "Our Town," is a way for the College of Arts and Sciences to showcase what it does best and to encourage faculty and students to share what they are learning to the community. It is also a way to bring innovative ideas in the science, humanities, liberal and creative arts to the area.

"Men and women of the nineteenth century were the first to live in a world shaped by perpetual invention," writes Freeberg in "The Age of Edison."

"One of the many pleasures of 'The Age of Edison' ... is that he captures the excitement and wonder of those early days, when 'a machine that could create enough cheap and powerful light to hold the night at bay" promised 'liberation from one of the primordial limits imposed by nature on the human will,' according to a Los Angeles Times review. "Freeberg sketches electric light's transformative effect on everything from factory work and home life to shopping and entertainment, painting vivid pictures of this brave new world in evocative prose."

Freeberg is the author of two other books. In 2008 he published "Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War, and the Right to Dissent." The book explores the trial and imprisonment of the Terre Haute socialist leader, who was given a 10-year sentence for making an anti-war speech, and the role this controversy played in promoting a civil liberties movement in post-WWI America. "Democracy's Prisoner" was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist, winner of the David J. Langum Sr. Prize in American Legal History and the Eli M. Oboler Award from the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Roundtable. Freeberg was featured in the 2011 C-SPAN production of "Eugene V. Debs, Presidential Contender."

His first book, "The Education of Laura Bridgman," explores the philosophical and religious controversies raised in antebellum America by the education of the first deaf-blind person to learn language. The book won the American Historical Association's Dunning Prize for 2002.

Freeberg is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, has served on the editorial board of the History of Education Quarterly, and has produced a number of public radio documentaries on historical themes.

A question-and-answer period will be followed by a public reception in University Hall Atrium. The event, co-sponsored by the department of history, is free and open to the public.

A complete list and description of the Community Semester's activities may be found at: .


Contact and writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or