Category: Alumni at Work, Alumni Stories, Community Health, Health Magazine

Title:A fresh look at electricity

Author: By Karen Doss Bowman
Date Published: June 1, 2022

Electricity isn’t just the energy that powers our home appliances, smartphones, and computers. It is the foundation of all life on Earth.

In his new book, Spark: The Life of Electricity and the Electricity of Life, Georgetown’s Timothy Jorgensen, PhD, MPH, tells the story of electricity from a biological perspective. He shares engaging anecdotes about the key players in electrical discovery—from Benjamin Franklin to Elon Musk—to illustrate how the world’s views of electricity and the nervous system evolved together. He hopes these stories will shed light on the ways electricity enables the body’s essential functions of sight, hearing, touch, and movement.

“Scientists aren’t always good at portraying how science is done and the benefits of science,” says Jorgensen, a professor of radiation medicine and director of the Health Physics and Radiation Protection Graduate Program. “Readers can painlessly absorb a tremendous amount of technical information, and retain it when the information is conveyed within a human interest story.”

After the publication of his first critically acclaimed and award-winning book about the risks and benefits of radiation—Strange Glow: The Story of Radiation—Jorgensen’s publisher encouraged him to write a sequel.

“But I felt I’d said all I needed to say about radiation,” says Jorgensen, adding that the first book did mention some facts about electricity.

Months later, when Natural History magazine published an excerpt from “Strange Glow,” Jorgensen thought it odd that the chosen selection was all about electricity—not radiation. His wife, Helen, suggested he write a book about electricity. Jorgensen’s publisher liked the idea.

Jorgensen wrote for about an hour a day and completed the manuscript in three years—a year earlier than expected, thanks to the pandemic lockdowns. “It’s the only good thing that came out of the pandemic,” he quips.

A member of Georgetown’s faculty since 1988, Jorgensen values the university’s focus on caring for the whole person. He also enjoyed sharing the Georgetown experience with his daughter, Anna Jorgensen (C’19).

“Anna lived on campus, but she stopped by my office frequently,” Jorgensen says. “I valued being at the same institution at the same time with my daughter and having that shared experience for the four years that she was here.”

He hopes these stories will shed light on the ways electricity enables the body’s essential functions of sight, hearing, touch, and movement.

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