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Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques

Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th–21st C.)


Edited By Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier and Stéphanie Le Gallic

What interpretation(s) do today’s historians make of electrification? Electrification is a process which began almost a hundred and fifty years ago but which more than one billion men and women still do not have access to. This book displays the social diversity of the electric worlds and of the approaches to their history. It updates the historical knowledge and shows the renewal of the historiography in both its themes and its approaches. Four questions about the passage to the electrical age are raised: which innovations or combination of innovations made this passage a reality? According to which networks and appropriation? Evolving thanks to which tensions and alliances? And resulting in which transition and accumulation?

Quel(s) regard(s) les historiens d’aujourd’hui portent-ils sur l’électrification, processus engagé il y a près de cent cinquante ans mais auquel plus d’un milliard d’hommes et de femmes restent encore étrangers ? Le présent volume rend compte de la diversité des mondes sociaux électriques et des manières d’enquêter sur leur histoire. Il actualise les connaissances et témoigne du renouvellement de l’historiographie, dans ses objets et ses approches. Quatre points d’interrogation sur le basculement des sociétés dans l’âge électrique jalonnent le volume : moyennant quelles créations ou combinaisons créatrices ? En vertu de quelles circulations et appropriations ? Selon quelles tensions et alliances ? Et produisant quelles transitions et accumulations ?

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Stathis Arapostathis is Assistant Professor in the History of Science and Technology in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. He holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford on the history of British electrical engineering consultants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since then he has published in the history and sociology of engineering, history of electrical technologies, history of intellectual property and historically informed science and technology policy. His recent publications include Patently Contestable: Electrical Technologies and Inventor Identities on Trial in Britain (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 2013) an award winning book (Pickstone 2014 BSHS Prize) co-authored with Graeme Gooday. He teaches graduate and postgraduate modules in: History of Technology; Science, Technology and Society; Science and Technology Policy; History of Science and Technology Policy; Law, Science and Technology.

Alain Beltran est directeur de recherche au CNRS. Spécialiste de l’histoire de l’énergie dans la France et l’Europe contemporaine, il est président du Comité d’histoire de l’électricité et de l’énergie.

Ana Cardoso de Matos is Professor at the Évora University (Department of History) and member of Research Centre CIDEHUS/UE. Her research interests are focussed on history of gas and electricity, urban history and on the history and heritage of technology, engineering and industry. She had coordinated the projects: “Portuguese engineering and engineers – 18th-20th centuries” and “Networked Cities: Urban infrastructures in Portugal 1850-1950,” both financially supported by FCT-Portugal. She was Visiting Professor at the EHESS-Centre Mauric Halbwachs (2010) and Centre Koryé (2012). She is member of: Comité d’Histoire de l’électricité et de l’énergie, Fondation EDF; International Railways History Association (IRHA), among others. She is also member of editorial or scientific board of the six journals. She publishes regularly both in national and international journal and she is author or co-author of five books and participated in some collective books. She is co-editor of several books, namely Les enjeux indentitaires des ingénieurs: entre la formation et l’action (Lisbon, 2009) et Expositions universelles, musées techniques et société industrielle (Lisbon, 2010). ← 595 | 596 →

Casey Cater is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Cater’s research focuses on the environmental, cultural, business, and political history of the electrification of the U.S. South from the late-nineteenth to the late-twentieth century. His dissertation, titled “Regenerating Dixie: Electric Energy and the Making of the Modern South,” demonstrates that the development of electric power – in its physical manifestations and in the imagination – was fundamental to the creation of the modern South. Cater has published articles on the confluence of race, religion, and reform in the Progressive Era South and is currently at work on an article that investigates the connections between discourses of race and class and the onset of state-level regulation of southern utilities. Cater is a 2015-16 Lemelson Center/Smithsonian Institution Fellow and wishes to thank the IEEE, whose 2014-15 Life Members’ Fellowship in Electrical History offered crucial support in the research and writing of this piece.

Hollis Clayson (B.A., Wellesley College; M.A., Ph.D., UCLA), a historian of nineteenth-century art, is Professor of Art History and Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, USA. She has published widely on Paris-based art practices and those of the transatlantic world. Her books include, Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era (1991, 2003 & 2014), and Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege (1870-71) (2002). Her current book project is Electric Paris: The Visual Cultures of the City of Light in the Era of Thomas Edison. In 2013-14, she was the Samuel H. Kress Professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. In 2014, she was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques.

Julie A. Cohn, M.A., Ph.D. is a Research Historian with the Center for Public History at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. She holds an M.A. in Anthropology from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in History from the University of Houston. Her research interests include energy and environmental history in general and electrification of North America in particular. She is currently completing a book project titled The Grid: Biography of an American Technology.

Prof. Ph.Dr. Marcela Efmertová, CSc.-CV is a history graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy (Arts) of the Charles University in Prague in 1984. One year later she was awarded the title Ph.Dr., in 1991 the scientific degree CSc. (equivalent to Ph.D.) in the Institute of History and in the Institute for the Theory and History of Science of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic for her work on the development of the research base of the Czechoslovak electrical engineering sector in the ← 596 | 597 → years 1945-1970. In 1999 she received the title of associate professor of the Charles University in Prague after defending her work called The Electrical Engineering Branches and Their Development in the Czech Lands and in Czechoslovakia from the Second Half of the 19th Century to 1938. In 2005 she received professorship in Czech history at the Charles University in Prague. Her main subject of study is 19th and 20th century Czech history, specializing in economic and social Czech history and the history of science and technology, primarily the historical developments of electrical engineering and its individual branches in the Czech lands as compared with worldwide developments in the 19th and 20th centuries. She also specializes in the concept of teaching the history of science and technology at technical universities within the European Union. She has been engaged in long-term cooperation with her French colleagues – she is a member of the Comité de l’histoire d’électricité et d’énergie, Espace Fondation EDF Paris, cooperating with the EHESS Paris, MSH Paris, EP Paris, and Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. Here in the Czech Republic she founded a Historical Laboratory of Electrical Engineering at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Prague and, as part of its activities, she organized two international conferences (2010: Le monde progressivement connecté – Les électrotechniciens au sein de la société européenne au cours du 19e et 20e siècles and in 2014: Le monde progressivement connecté – Le développement des sociétés électrotechniques en Europe du 19e et 20e siècles). In the autumn of 2011 she received accreditation for a doctoral study program called History of Technology at the Czech Technical University in Prague, part of the Paris-based international doctoral program in the history of technology.

Mauro Elli, Ph.D., is a research fellow at Centre for Foreign Policy and Public Opinion Studies – University of Milan, and member of UMR IRICE “Identités, Relations internationales et civilisations de l’Europe”. He currently holds a senior research grant at the University of Padua. His work principally deals with the history of nuclear energy and cooperation in the aviation industry.

Sebastian Vincent Grevsmühl is postdoctoral research fellow and lecturer at the Observatoire des Sciences de l’Univers – Ecce Terra, Pierre and Marie Curie University, Paris. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS). From May 2013 to September 2014 he was postdoctoral fellow of the ERC-funded research project TEUS (The Earth Under Surveillance: Geophysics, Climate Change and the Cold War Legacy). He is the coordinator of the research programme Global environmental images funded by GIS Climat, Environnement, Sociétés and he is the author of La Terre vue d’en haut: L’invention de l’environnement global (The Earth Seen from Above: The ← 597 | 598 → Invention of the Global Environment), published by the Editions du Seuil in 2014. His current research interests include the history and geopolitics of science during the Cold War, particularly involving the Earth sciences, along with the past and futures of the polar regions. He has a particularly strong interest in visual cultures of science and environmental history.

Sandy Isenstadt teaches the history of modern architecture at the University of Delaware. His writings range from postwar reformulations of modern architecture to topics such as picture windows, refrigerators, automobile headlights, landscape views, and real estate appraisal. Spatial perception in the built environment is the subject of The Modern American House: Spaciousness and Middle Class Identity, recipient of the 2009 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. He has co-edited two volumes: Modernism and the Middle East. Politics of the Built Environment (2008) and Cities of Light. Two Centuries of Urban Illumination (2015). He is currently completing a book manuscript, “The Architecture of Artificial Light,” which examines the novel luminous spaces introduced by electric lighting.

Arthur Jobert is expert researcher at EDF R&D. His main subject of research is controversies in the field of energy projects, with a focus on institutional and organisational responses to these issues. He is research fellow at ESSEC Business School CONNECT research centre.

Serkan Karas is an adjunct lecturer of Science, Technology and Society (STS) studies at Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey). He has an electrical and electronics engineering background, and has recently finished a Ph.D. at the University of Athens. His Ph.D. dissertation is about the history of infrastructures and technopolitics in colonial Cyprus. He was born in Cyprus and speaks Turkish, Greek and English.

Léonard Laborie est chargé de recherche au CNRS (UMR Sirice, Paris). Ses recherches portent sur l’histoire de la construction technique de l’Europe, en particulier dans le domaine des communications. Il est secrétaire scientifique du Comité d’histoire de l’électricité et de l’énergie.

Pierre Lanthier is a professor at the Department of Human Sciences of the Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières and a member of the Centre interuniversitaire d’études québécoises. He defended his doctoral dissertation in 1988 at the Université de Paris-X (Nanterre). His research deals with business history (more specifically in the fields of electricity and aluminium) and with regional history (in Québec).

Stéphanie Le Gallic est maître de conférence à l’Université Bordeaux-Montaigne (CEMMC). Elle a soutenu en 2014 sa thèse sur l’histoire de la ← 598 | 599 → publicité lumineuse à Paris, Londres et New York depuis la fin du XIXe siècle (sous la dir. du Pr Pascal Griset, Paris IV-Sorbonne), pour laquelle elle a été lauréate de la 7e édition du concours de thèses du Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques (CTHS). Elle y abordait des thématiques très larges telles que la globalisation de la communication, les processus d’appropriation technique et la circulation des savoirs.

Claire Le Renard is a social researcher at EDF Research and Development division, Energy Technology Society Research Group. Since October 2015, she also is a Ph.D. student dealing with “Sodium-cooled Fast Breeder Reactors in France (1945-1998): a STS analysis,” with a joint supervision at LinX (Polytechnique) and LISIS (Université Paris Est-INRA). In the last years, her research has dealt with innovative energy technologies, rooted in a STS approach (nuclear, renewables energies, SmartGrids). She was trained as an environmental engineer.

Robert Lifset is the Donald Keith Jones Associate Professor of Honors & History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author of Power on the Hudson: Storm King Mountain and the Emergence of Modern American Environmentalism and the editor of American Energy Policy in the 1970s. He is also the founding web and list editor of H-Energy.

Fanny Lopez est docteur en histoire de l’art, chercheur au Liat à l’Ensa Paris-Malaquais, et enseignante titulaire à l’Eavt de Marne-la-Vallée Université Paris-Est. Fanny Lopez est l’auteur d’un ouvrage consacré à l’autonomie énergétique : Le Rêve d’une déconnexion, de la maison autonome à la cité auto-énergétique (Éditions la Villette, 2014).

Alain François Loukou est docteur en géographie et enseignant-chercheur à l’Université de Bouaké (Côte d’Ivoire). Ses recherches portent sur la dimension spatiale des technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) ainsi que sur la problématique « TIC au service du développement ». Il enseigne l’intégration des TIC dans les stratégies de développement.

Stephan F. Miescher is an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Making Men in Ghana (2005) and co-editor of six books, among them Modernization as Spectacle in Africa (2014) with Peter J. Bloom and Takyiwaa Manuh, and Gender, Imperialism, and Global Exchanges (2015) with Michele Mitchell and Naoko Shibusawa. He is completing a monograph about the history of the Volta River Project and the Akosombo Dam, Ghana’s largest development project, and co-producing the film, Ghana’s Electric Dreams, directed by R. Lane Clark. ← 599 | 600 →

Ing. Jan Mikeš (born in 1981) is a lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering of the Czech Technical University in Prague. He specializes in the study of electrical energy; as regards the history of electrical engineering he is concerned primarily with the development of technical (mostly secondary) education in the Czech lands. His research is focused on the history of the electrical engineering industry and the transfer of technical knowledge in the countries of the European Union. Together with Ms. Efmertová he participated in the international conferences in Prague (2010: Le monde progressivement connecté – Les électrotechniciens au sein de la société européenne au cours du 19e et 20e siècles and 2014: Le monde progressivement connecté – Le développement des sociétés électrotechniques en Europe du 19e et 20e siècles). They jointly published a book called Elektřina na dlani (Electricity at Your Fingertips).

Natalia Nikiforova is Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Head of the Youth Council at Peter the Great Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University, Russia. Member of the Society for the History of Technology, where she was elected International Scholar in 2013-2014. In 2011 defended dissertation entitled “The Concept of “Technology” in Cultural Researches of the Twentieth century.” The main interest was in the meanings of “technology” in connection with the problems of society and culture, in symbolical implications of technology in political rhetoric. Research interests include cultural transfers, history of concepts, cultural history of technology, imperial history.

Florence Padovani est maître de conférences à l’Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, membre du laboratoire de recherche PRODIG – UMR 8586. Ses recherches portent sur l’impact social des migrations internes en Chine, plus spécialement sur celles qui sont dues au barrage des Trois-Gorges et au développement urbain de villes comme Shanghai.

Gavin Parkinson is Senior Lecturer in European Modernism at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Reviews Editor of the Association of Art Historians flagship journal Art History and Series Editor of Ashgate Studies in Surrealism. He lectures and writes on European and American art and culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. His books are Futures of Surrealism: Myth, Science Fiction and Fantastic Art in France 1936-1969 (Yale University Press, 2015); Surrealism, Art and Modern Science: Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Epistemology (Yale University Press, 2008); and The Duchamp Book (Tate Publishing, 2008). He is also the editor of the collection of essays Surrealism, Science Fiction and Comics (Liverpool University Press, 2015). He has just completed a book on the Surrealist reception of late nineteenth-century art, titled Enchanted ← 600 | 601 → Ground: André Breton, Modernism and the Surrealist Appraisal of Fin de Siècle Painting.

Moïse Williams Pokam Kamdem est enseignant-chercheur au Département d’Histoire de l’Université de Dschang. Ses travaux portent principalement sur l’histoire de l’énergie, l’histoire des entreprises et l’histoire des politiques publiques. Il s’intéresse particulièrement aux rapports entre l’État et le capital privé dans le secteur de l’énergie au Cameroun.

Dr. Rubio Varas is an energy economist and economic historian. Ph.D. from the London School of Economics (UK), master from the same institution and graduate in Economics from the University Carlos III of Madrid. Her academic training was completed a year of stay (Fulbright funding) in the Department of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research interests focus on the long-term relationships between energy consumption and economic growth, covering also aspects of energy dependence and the transition to a low carbon economy. Recently has focused on the economic and financial history of the Spanish nuclear program. She has conducted research in countries of Europe and America. She has taken part in large research consortiums funded by the EU (Horizon2020/Euratom and 6th Framework Program) and the European Science Foundation, among others. Her more recent publications include articles in the Journal of Contemporary History, Energy Journal, Energy Policy, Economic History Review and European Review of Economic History. She is currently tenured Associate Professor at the Department of Economics at Universidad Pública de Navarra (UPNA).

Mogens Rüdiger, Dr. Phil., is Professor at Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University. His field of interest is energy history. He is currently taking part in an interdisciplinary research project on Ethics and Energy, and is also researching the impact of the Brundtland Report on Danish energy planning, and energy import strategies in the 1950s and 1960s.

Prof. Joseba De la Torre is Professor of Economic History at the Department of Economics at UPNA. He holds a Ph.D. in History from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. His main research field is the Spanish economic policy during the Franco regime, and in particular the industrial policy and the indicative planning of developmentalism (1940s-1970s). He has been Visiting Professor at La Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris (FR) and at the Center for European and Mediterranean Studies of New York University (USA). He was Dean of Faculty of Economics and ← 601 | 602 → Business (UPNA) and he won the prize Youngest Researcher in Human and Social Sciences from Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (1999). He has published in national and international academic books and journals. Together with Dr. Rubio-Varas, he leads a research team for the study of the economic history of nuclear energy in Spain funded the Spanish Government and participates in the consortium that investigates the ‘History of Nuclear Energy and Society’ (HoNESt) – an EU Horizon2020/Euratom funded project.

Maria da Luz Sampaio graduated in History at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Porto in 1997; post-graduation in Social Museology at the University of Lusófona, Lisbon. In 2009, she finished her Master in Local and Regional Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Porto. In 2015, she obtained her Ph.D. in History of Science (specialization in Museology) at the University of Évora, with the title “From the factory to the Museum: identification, heritization and difusion of technical-industrial culture”. From 1992 she was involved in the research project Inventory of Industrial Heritage of the city of Porto. In 1996 she was involved in the plan and opening of the Museum of Science and Industry of Porto, and from 2000 to 2011 she was its Director. Long-standing interest and much experience in cultural management (especially museums), and also in the studies of industrial material culture. Since 2013 she has been Research Member of CIDEHUS – University of Évora. She is the author of books and articles about local history, conversion of Industrial buildings, museum plan, and industrial heritage.

Esther M. Sánchez Sánchez is Ph.D. in History and Associate Professor of Economic History at the University of Salamanca, Spain. She has previously worked at CSIC-Madrid and University of Barcelona. Her main research interests lies in French-Spanish relations during the Twentieth century and the role of French multinationals in Spanish socio- economic development.

Gildo Magalhães Santos is Electrical Engineer by Politechnique School and Ph.D. in History, both by the University of São Paulo, Brazil, where he is Associate Professor of History of Science and Technology. Visiting Scholar at the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC), and Fellow at the Chemical Heritage Foundation (Philadelphia, USA), he is a member of the Center for the Philosophy of Science, at the University of Lisbon. His publications include Força e Luz (Unesp), Introdução à Metodologia da Pesquisa (Ática), História e Energia (Alameda/Fapesp), and Ciência e Conflito (Book Express).

Dr Hiroki Shin is a researcher in History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and is the co-investigator of the “Material Cultures of ← 602 | 603 → Energy” project. His publications include: “Mobility under Pressure: Civilian Rail Traffic in Britain during WWII”, in H. Shin, S. Majima and Y. Tanaka (eds.), Moving Around: People, Things and Practices in Consumer Culture (Forum for History of Consumer Culture, 2015); “The Art of Advertising Railways: Organization and Coordination in Britain’s Railway Marketing, 1860–1910”, Business History (2014); (with Rebecca Wright and Frank Trentmann), From World Power Conference to World Energy Council: 90 Years of Energy Cooperation, 1923–2013 (London: The World Energy Council, 2013). ← 603 | 604 →

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Collection « Histoire de l’énergie »

La collection « Histoire de l’énergie » est née du constat de l’éparpillement des publications sur le thème de l’énergie, au moment même où le champ est en profond renouvellement. Le projet scientifique de la collection consiste à rendre compte, par la publication de thèses, d’actes de colloques ou de travaux de recherche, de la diversité des approches scientifiques. Proposer une vaste réflexion sur les différentes énergies, tant pour ce qui est de leur production que de leur consommation, étudier au plus près les acteurs (entreprises, États, consommateurs), les marchés, les modes de vie : l’ambition est de privilégier une mise en perspective historique globale dans laquelle les différentes énergies sont tout à la fois concurrentes et complémentaires. En ouvrant cette voie volontairement large, la collection « Histoire de l’énergie » entend faire circuler et se rencontrer des travaux académiques venus d’horizons variés.


Le Comité d’histoire de l’électricité et de l’énergie est l’héritier de l’Association pour l’histoire de l’électricité en France, créée en 1982 par Marcel Boiteux, alors PDG d’EDF, Maurice Magnien et François Caron, professeur à l’Université Paris-Sorbonne. Grâce au concours de la Fondation Groupe EDF, la mission qu’il se donne est double : soutenir la recherche sur l’histoire et le patrimoine de l’électricité et en diffuser les résultats.


Alain Beltran, directeur de recherche, CNRS, UMR Sirice.


Kenneth Bertrams (Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgique)

Christophe Bouneau (Université Bordeaux Montaigne)

Yves Bouvier (Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Paolo Brenni (CNR Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica Firenze, Italie)

Ana Cardoso de Matos (Université d’Evora, Portugal)

Sophie Coeuré (Université Denis Diderot Paris 7)

Anne Dalmasso (Université Grenoble Alpes)

Marcela Efmertova (Université technique de Prague, République tchèque)

Régis Ibanez (EDF Archives)

Pierre Lanthier (Université du Québec à Trois Rivières, Canada)

Giovanni Paoloni (Université de Rome Sapienza, Italie)

Serge Paquier (Université de Saint-Étienne)

Sarah Pritchard (Cornell University, États-Unis)

Catherine Vuillermot (Université de Franche-Comté)

Joseph Szarka (Université de Bath, Angleterre)

Claude Welty (Directeur du musée EDF Electropolis).

Secrétariat scientifique

Léonard Laborie (CNRS, UMR Sirice)

Renan Viguié (CEMMC, Université Bor-deaux Montaigne)

Espace Fondation EDF, Histoire, 6, rue Récamier, F-75007 Paris

tél : 01-53-63-23-46 ; e-mail :

Titres parus

Vol. 9 – Caroline Suzor, Le Groupe Empain en France. Une saga industrielle et familiale, 2016.

Vol. 8 – Alain Beltran, Léonard Laborie, Pierre Lanthier, Stéphanie Le Gallic (eds.), Electric Worlds / Mondes électriques. Creations, Circulations, Tensions, Transitions (19th-21th C.), 2016.

Vol. 7 – Marcela Efmertová et André Grelon (dir.), avec la collaboration de Jan Mikeš, Des ingénieurs pour un monde nouveau. Histoire des ensei-gnements électrotechniques (Europe, Amériques), XIXe-XXe siècles, 2016.

Vol. 6 – Yves Bouvier, Connexions électriques. Technologies, hommes et marchés dans les relations entre la Compagnie générale d’électricité et l’État, 1898-1992, 2011.

Vol. 5 – Renan Viguié, La traversée électrique des Pyrénées. Histoire de l’interconnexion entre la France et l’Espagne, 2012.

Vol. 4 – Christophe Bouneau, Yves Bouvier, Léonard Laborie, Denis Varaschin, Renan Viguié (dir.), Les paysages de l’électricité. Perspectives historiques et enjeux contemporains (XIXe-XXIe siècles), 2012.

Vol. 3 – Cyrille Foasso, Atomes sous surveillance. Une histoire de la sûreté nucléaire en France, 2012.

Vol. 2 – Yves Bouvier (dir.), Les défis énergétiques du XXIe siècle. Transition, concurrence et efficacité au prisme des sciences humaines, 2012.

Vol. 1 – Yves Bouvier, Robert Fox, Pascal Griset, Anna Guagnini (eds.), De l’atelier au laboratoire. Recherche et innovation dans l’industrie électrique XIXe-XXe siècles / From Workshop to Laboratory. Research and Innovation in Electric Industry 19-20th Centuries, 2011.