J. Y. Yeh of the Village Voice has published an excellent book review of The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World by Jenny Uglow. You might think it’s about space or astronomy, but it’s not. In 18th century England five friends, amateur scientists all, would gather at one another’s houses to eat, drink, and conduct experiments. They would meet each Sunday nearest the full moon to have light on their path for the late-night horseback ride home. They changed the world when studies of electronics were inconceivable; when studies in electricity were little more than watching sparks after rubbing one’s feet on a carpet; and when the greatest discoveries of all lay in fire, water and that magic substance the two together could create : steam.
From Yeh’s review: “…[At] the Soho metalworks.. Matthew Boulton and James Watt are manufacturing the world’s first commercial steam engines. James Boswell, always on the lookout for greatness… visit[s] the massive factory, which sprawls across 13 acres and employs 700 men… ‘It was a scene which I should have been glad to contemplate by [Johnson’s] light. The vastness and the contrivance of some of the machinery would have ‘matched his mighty mind’. I shall never forget Mr Bolton’s [sic] expression to me. ‘I sell here, sir, what all the world desires to have POWER.'”