Enda Duffy


On his book The Speed Handbook: Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism

Cover Interview of May 23, 2010

A close-up

Adrenaline was isolated by Jokicki Takamine in 1901.  And it was at once described in terms of human energy, of movement, as “fight or flight,” as the source of increased alertness.  The automobile, at almost the same moment, become the technology with which one’s alert reflexes, powered by adrenaline, could be tested and exercised.

Both the new technology and the new drug (for adrenaline was synthesized and marketed soon after) were part of a new cultural interest at this moment in human energy.  In the case of the car, it was as if the new technology as prosthesis involved such a display of mechanic energy and speed that the human organism felt the need to measure up.

Both adrenaline and automobile speed thrills are symptoms of the new role of energy at this moment in the very definition of human life itself.  Just as there is a history of slowness as well as a history of speed, a history of human energy too remains to be written.  The turn of the century moment that saw the isolation and description of the role of adrenaline is a key transformative moment in that history.