Lincoln book hits #1 on Barnes and Noble

My newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, recently hit #1 on the Barnes and Noble website in its subcategory.

Lincoln bestseller on Barnes and Noble

This is no small achievement. The book has benefited from a wide public interest in Abraham Lincoln, and although it has slipped back to a few spots since then, the book continues to be received well.

Most gratifying is that so many of my fellow Lincoln scholars and aficionados have found the book appealing. My goal was to maintain scholarly integrity while making Lincoln’s story accessible to the a broad, general audience. Based on the response, it seems I have achieved that objective.

There is plenty of other Lincoln book related news in the wings, most of which I can’t yet talk about. But I hope to have some updates in the not too distant future.

Preview the book here, and click on the links below to purchase.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Irma’s Wreckage: Remembering Barbuda and St. Maarten

Hurricane Irma caused irretrievable damage to the very islands in the Caribbean we had spent many wonderful days on last year. We had met some amazing people on the trip and the devastation is hard to imagine.

Our first and last stops on an 8 day sailing cruise were St. Maarten, the Dutch side of the island. Watching the news and seeing how badly the French side was damaged was heartbreaking. I nearly lost it when I saw the photos of the St. Maarten airport. My preview of the trip included this article about how low the planes fly over the beach to land.

Now that famous beach looks like this.

St. Maarten airport after Irma 2017

The area to the right is the ocean, the left is the approach to the runway. We had drinks at the bar where the shoreline meets those red-roofed buildings. The bar itself is no longer there. All that sand on the left side of the road, sprayed up on the end of the runway; that sand used to be a beach on the right side of the road. Now only rocks remain. Over in the central town, much of the area where we stayed in a small hotel along a restaurant-lined boardwalk and beach has been destroyed, or at least ravaged.

Another island we visited was Barbuda. It has an amazing frigate bird rookery, which I wrote about here. Before the storm the frigates outnumbered the human population of Barbuda. Today, Barbuda is uninhabited by people. Every single one of the 1800 people have been evacuated, mostly to Antigua.

Barbuda after Irma 2017

Virtually every building was damaged; most were destroyed. At this point I haven’t been able to find out how the frigate bird sanctuary fared.

Other islands we visited were also severely damaged by Irma. Hurricane Jose, following along right behind Irma, seemed at first headed for St. Maarten and Barbuda, but luckily veered north and spared them a second direct hit. It will be years before the islands are restored. For Barbuda, it might be never.

As heartbreaking as this is, I have fond memories of these islands. Once they recover I would like to visit again. I hope I have that chance.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Reflections of a Science Traveler

Kotor, MontenegroToday marks the fourth anniversary of resigning my consulting job to pursue a career science traveling. Recently I caught up with a former colleague who still works at the old firm. We hadn’t spoken in a long time so she asked me whether I had any regrets about my decision. Without a moment’s hesitation, I replied: “No regrets whatsoever.” I left with my eyes open and have never once looked back on that former life.

My new life has given me plenty to behold, including more time to travel and write.

I generally add a few new countries to my list each year. This year had fewer trips but farther destinations. I was in Seoul, South Korea during the election of a new president (to replace the one impeached and indicted), all while North Korea was haphazardly tossing around missiles. Then on to Beijing, China, which was hosting over 30 world leaders (including Vladimir Putin) for the One Belt One Road Summit. Soon I’ll be in roaming around Australia and New Zealand. The 12-hour drive to and from New England squeezed in between these two exotic locations seems tame in comparison. Another New England trip and Gettysburg are likely in the fall.

Writing has included the release of my newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. This is my third book with Fall River Press, all now in Barnes and Noble stores. I also have two e-books available on Amazon.com (see links at end). My first book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, is going into its 8th printing this fall and has been translated into several foreign languages. Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World is still in stores and may also get a new printing soon.

Meanwhile, I’m working on two new books – one on a specific area of Abraham Lincoln’s interests, and the other a travel memoir (like Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson). By January I might have a third book in progress.

My former colleague also asked a second question: do I get to read a lot? In fact, that has been one of the unanticipated benefits. I’ve increased the number of books read from maybe 50 to over 100 books per year, and broadened my reading interests considerably. Traveling helps. While I don’t read much while I’m on the ground (where my time is spent exploring), the long flights and airport time are ideal for finishing off the latest novel or taking notes on various science, Lincoln, or biography books.

I also have time to do research. I spend some time at the Library of Congress and National Archives, plus make ample use of their online collections and other electronic resources. With nearly 1200 Lincoln books in my own home library, there is no shortage of background material. The travel itself is also research. I regularly incorporate in my books the knowledge gained while traveling, and future books will involve more travel-related topics.

This past several years I’ve been actively involved with the Lincoln Group of DC. As the Vice President of Programs I schedule speakers for our monthly dinner meetings and join the Board in planning – and participating in – a wide variety of other events. Next year I’ll, well, it’s still to be determined what I’ll be doing next year, but likely I’ll still be deeply involved in Abraham Lincoln.

So what will happen in 2018? My tentative plans include considerably more travel to places I’ve never been, including (I hope) to my 6th continent and beyond my 50th country. My writing goal is to finish the Lincoln science book so that it will be in stores no later than early 2019. I’m also piecing together a travel memoir tentatively titled Patagonia Summer that will combine travel, history, and science. The third possible book will likely be a compendium with my Lincoln colleagues. There is still some uncertainty in these plans as experience has taught me that “the best laid plans” often change dramatically.

One thing is for sure. No regrets whatsoever.

See my previous “Reflections” for 2014, 2015, 2016. I’ll likely do a final “reflections” next year on my fifth anniversary, after which I’ll skip to five or ten year reports. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be too famous to write by then. 🙂

[Photo is at Kotor, Montenegro]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Abraham Lincoln and the Smithsonian Institution

National Academy of Sciences founders

Joseph Henry was not initially impressed with Abraham Lincoln. Barely a month after Lincoln settled into his new office in “that big white house,” the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution made his introductory visit. Henry’s inherent misgivings about the frontier politician were reinforced as he waited impatiently in the anteroom for an hour while a steady stream of the lowermost job seekers filed in and out of the President’s office. When finally allowed to see him, Henry thought Lincoln appeared careworn. After exchanging routine pleasantries, Henry explained the new president’s official role as prime overseer of the Smithsonian and invited Lincoln to attend the next regents’ meeting. But the president seemed disinterested. Henry’s conversation with the Lincoln, with Secretary of State William Seward present, was uncomfortable and brief. Henry felt disappointed by this country lawyer from the West and walked away feeling the President was “withdrawn and ill at ease.” Was Lincoln the uneducated, uncultured boor rumors made him out to be, one who could never understand the high intellectual ambitions of the Smithsonian Institution? Was the open dislike of Henry’s family for the man who General McClellan would later call an uncouth “gorilla” justified?

Granted, Henry thought, Lincoln was preoccupied with more urgent matters. Fort Sumter had fallen on April 12th and, as longtime friend Captain Montgomery Meigs informed Henry while they both waited for an audience, Lincoln was weighing various options for quickly ending the rebellion of seceded states. Perhaps he should not be so quick to judge, thought Henry, and indeed, over time he would come to appreciate Lincoln’s folksy intellect. Lincoln himself would rapidly come to see the importance of the Smithsonian and science for the war effort…and the future of the Union.

This was the beginning of a remarkable relationship.

[The above is a work in progress.]

[Painting at the top by Albert Herter in 1924, depicting President Abraham Lincoln signing the Charter of the Academy of Sciences in 1863. Henry is third from left. Courtesy National Academy of Sciences.]

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Buenos Aires, Charles Darwin, and the Giant Ground Sloths

Darwin's giant ground slothI’m currently working on a travel memoir of a recent trip to Patagonia. Our first stop was Buenos Aires, where we toured the opera house, visited the cemetery (trust me, it’s the thing to do), and dreamed about Darwin and the giant ground sloths.

Giant ground sloths, you say?

As a scientist and historian I couldn’t help but think of Darwin as we wandered around the capital city of Argentina. I had hoped to get further south to the Mar del Plata Aquarium but weather and circumstances conspired to disappoint me. I took consolation in the knowledge that Charles Darwin, of Origin of Species fame, spent many months in the coastal areas south of Buenos Aires during his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle. After general wanderings around Rio de la Plata, the estuary of which separates Buenos Aires and Argentina to the south and Montevideo and Uruguay to the north, Darwin headed to Bahia Blanca and Punta Alta. It was in Punta Alta that Darwin really became enamored of his adventurous investigations, which up until now had been mostly at sea during the long Atlantic crossing, and a few forays into the interior of Brazil near Rio de Janeiro and across into Montevideo.

Darwin's giant ground slothIt was also in Punta Alta that Darwin made one of his biggest scientific discoveries. Ranging about the landscape on horseback, sleeping in the open with guachos or staying in haciendas with local ranchers, Darwin stumbled upon the fossilized bones of, well, something. One specimen was “the head of some large animal, embedded in soft rock.” He thought it might be similar to a rhinoceros. It took a second visit several months later – FitzRoy and his crews were busy mapping up and down the coastline – to realize he had discovered a large number of large mammal fossils not previously known from previous scientific expeditions to Europe, Asia, or Africa. In all he found nine different types of “great quadrupeds.”

Dutifully shipping the fossils with the thousands of other samples collected to various collaborating scientists in Europe, these large mammal fossils ended up via a circuitous route in the hands of French scientist Georges Cuvier. Cuvier determined that these were the bones of what became known as giant ground sloths, some as big as elephants, which roamed widely in the ancient North and South American plains. Cuvier named the huge beast Megatherium, which is, appropriately enough, derived from the Latin for “huge beast.”

Darwin's giant ground slothHere is where the plot thickens. While Cuvier was working up his paper describing and naming Megatherium, workers in what is now West Virginia dug up some old bones and sent them to Virginia’s biggest paleontological expert, who just happened to be Vice President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson named these new bones Megalonyx jeffersonii, meaning “giant claw” (the jeffersonii species name is an affectation that many discoverers take when naming their new species). These too turned out to be giant ground sloths. Meanwhile, Darwin was digging up even more sloth species. Many of these ended up in the Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales “Carlos Darwin,” set up in Punta Alta by modern day Argentinian geologist Teresa Manera.

Why is the museum called Carlos Darwin instead of Charles Darwin, you might ask? The museum was established in the late 1990s, not long after the Falklands War. The Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas Islands, were a disputed territory off the coast of Argentina. The British had claimed them many years before and engaged in a war to protect their claim when Argentina tried to get them back. Not surprisingly, the museum wasn’t too keen on recognizing the English at the time so they used the Spanish form of Charles – Carlos – instead. Teresa Manera and her husband, by the way, also discovered giant ground sloth footprints on a beach near there and has been trying for decades to get it made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Darwin wasn’t finished in South America, of course; the Beagle gave him plenty of time to explore Patagonia, both in Argentina and Chile. My own travels in Patagonia included climbing up to the base of Cerro FitzRoy, the mountain in the lower Andes named after the Beagle‘s captain, with whom Charles Darwin spent five years living in a cabin not much bigger than a closet.

Meanwhile, our time in Buenos Aires was quickly coming to an end and we were headed out to Bariloche to start our big adventure. Darwin would make more appearances along the route.

For previous articles about Buenos Aires and Patagonia, this post is a good place to start.

David J. Kent is an avid science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Big News for Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity

Nikola Tesla was an eccentric genius that was born just before the U.S. Civil War and died in the middle of World War II. Since its release, my book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, has been a big reason nearly 100,000 new people have learned about him. And now there is even bigger news.

Tesla, of course, is the reason for widespread use of alternating current – after beating out Thomas Edison’s direct current in the “War of the Currents” – and also pioneered development of the radio, remote controlled robotics, and a number of other major technologies. Today’s Tesla Motors was named in honor of the great inventor.

Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity has been a great success. So much so that I just received word that it will be going to a record 8th printing this fall. In these days when most non-fiction books rarely even sell out their first printing, an 8th printing is hugely satisfying. Of course, even more satisfying will be a 9th, then a 10th, and eventually a 100th printing.

But there is even more good news. Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is not only published in English, there have been Dutch, German, and Spanish translations. At least one more is now going to be added to the list – Czech! Yes, if you’re in Prague you will shortly be able to pick up a copy translated into your home language. And if you’re in Turkey, keep your eyes open because at least two publishers have been in touch with my American publisher to negotiate putting out a Turkish edition.

All this means that the word of Tesla is spreading. And you can help. If you live in a country you think would be interested in Tesla but haven’t had access, talk to your local bookstores. Ask them if they could stock the book. If enough bookstores get requests, they will get word to publishers who can arrange translated editions. How about you, Serbia? Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is sure to be a hit in Serbian bookstores.

Bonus good news: My newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is in Barnes and Noble bookstores now. You can also find copies of my earlier book, Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World, in which Nikola Tesla finally gets his due in an Edison biography.

So help spread the word of Tesla, Edison, and Lincoln. While you’re at it, check out my two e-books on Tesla and Lincoln. And as of this writing there are two more days for you to enter to win a free signed copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America on Goodreads.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Thomas Edison and the Total Solar Eclipse of 1878

Thomas Edison Total Solar Eclispse 1878Thomas Edison invented just about everything, or at least got credit for much of it. He even was involved in a total solar eclipse in 1878. Edison had developed a tasimeter to measure infrared radiation, and he wanted to use it to measure the small changes in temperature from the sun during the eclipse.

Edison had been in Washington, D.C., where he was showing off his new invention – the tinfoil phonograph – to the National Academy of Sciences, followed by a late night private presentation in the White House to President Rutherford B. Hayes. While in the nation’s capital he jumped at an invitation to join a expedition of scientists on their way out to Wyoming to see a total eclipse of the sun, which could be viewed on July 29th. Edison was keen to test his newest invention. The tasimeter, like the phonograph, was an almost accidental spinoff from Edison’s research on telephones, then in hotly contested race to beat Alexander Graham Bell, the young upstart (he was born a month after Edison) from Edinburgh. [Bell won that race]

Like most eclipses, the total solar eclipse of 1878 was a great opportunity to study celestial phenomena and travel with renowned astronomers. Once in Wyoming, Edison set up his tasimeter and recorded minor changes in the heat coming from the distant red giant star, Arcturus. When July 29th arrived, weather conditions were not optimum – a storm nearly blew over the structure protecting the tasimeter and other instruments – but cleared long enough to get a good view. Unfortunately, the tasimeter was too sensitive and the solar emissions of the sun’s corona overwhelmed the tasimeter’s ability to get accurate readings. The idea was a bust, and indeed no huge discoveries were made by any of the scientists on the expedition.

Edison did, however, take advantage of the elite scientific company and continued the trip up into Yosemite, through Nevada (where he descended deep into a silver mine), and greatly enjoyed camping under the stars he had just so scientifically observed. This trip became a prelude to his much publicized annual “camping” trips with friends Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and aging naturalist John Burroughs (plus an occasional U.S. president or two).

Returning from his western adventure, Edison dropped the tasimeter idea and shifted his attention to electric lighting, a project that would consume him for several years and set off the “War of the Currents” with Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. Someone else would have to study eclipses, Edison was on to other mysteries.

[The above is partially extracted from Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World]

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Win a Free Copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaYou now have a second chance to win a copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America on Gooreads. I’ll even sign it for you.

Entering is simple: Go here and scroll down to the “Win a Copy of this Book” section and click on the “Enter Giveaway” Button. This Giveaway ends August 27th.

Or just click here to reach the Giveaway page directly and enter to win.

Be sure to check the box for “Also Add this Book to My Book Shelf” so you will be automatically notified of the next free giveaway.

You can preview the book – check it out here.

It can also be purchased directly on the Barnes and Noble website as a hardcover book or a Nook e-book. If you don’t have a Nook e-reader, no problem; simply download the Nook App onto any smart device – iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, and all tablets, laptops, desktops – wherever you read your books.

A new first edition hardcover can also be ordered directly from me on this website. I’ll sign and inscribe it to your wishes. Check out my “Buy the Books” page to order all five of my books.

Thanks for all your support. Be sure to enter the Goodreads Giveaway, and watch out for more Giveaways coming soon.

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David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Abraham Lincoln – The Dogmas of the Quiet Past are Inadequate for the Stormy Present

Lincoln Saved America comicIn December 1862 President Abraham Lincoln was in the midst of a Civil War, his Emancipation Proclamation was due to take effect in a few weeks, and he was struggling to maintain some sense of our national meaning. What he wrote in his message to Congress (equivalent to today’s State of the Union address) gives us lessons on how we should handle our current crisis.

We can succeed only by concert. It is not “can any of us imagine better?” but, “can we all do better?”

We must, as a nation, stand up to tyranny, even that from within. The recent promotion of racism and neo-Naziism by the current administration is a disgrace to the nation, and it will take all of us citizens, from all sections of the country, all parties, all colors, all religions, all socioeconomic statuses, and all beliefs, to reverse this descent.

The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.

We, all of us, must stand up to racism, bigotry, misogyny, and dishonesty. We must stand up to hatred as one, as a whole nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.

Republican leaders in Congress must act in the best interests of the nation. Democrats in Congress and across the nation have vehemently spoken up against the promotion of bigotry, but Republicans control all branches of our government. Republicans set the stage by pandering to the very elements that created this administration. Thus, Republicans must be not only outspoken against it, but take action to reverse what they have wrought.

The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility.

Without action by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, without action by we as one nation indivisible, we are in danger of losing it all. Many years before he became president, Lincoln warned in a speech to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield:

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.

The time has come to stand up against the approach of danger from within, as exemplified by the recent events in Charlottesville and the administration’s grotesque response to it. Lincoln believed in the rule of law and warned in that same Lyceum address about the dangers of mob rule. “There is no grievance that is a fit object of redress by mob law,” Lincoln said.

We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.

The time is now. If he were alive today, Abraham Lincoln would be the first to speak out against bigotry and the mobocratic rule of this administration.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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How a Cat Helped Nikola Tesla Discover Electric Current

Nikola Tesla portraitOne of the most important events of Nikola Tesla’s youth relates to Tesla’s childhood cat Mačak. As Tesla writes in a letter to a friend’s daughter, at one point during a cold snowy day Tesla “felt impelled to stroke Mačak’s back.” He notes that what he saw “was a miracle which made me speechless…Mačak’s back was a sheet of light, and my hand produced a shower of crackling sparks loud enough to be heard all over the place.” Tesla’s father explained that this must be caused by electricity, like that of lightning, and this thought convinced Tesla that he wanted to pursue becoming an “electrician.”

This experience with Mačak kept Tesla wondering how to harness the amazing electrical power of nature. But first Tesla had to overcome the tradition that required him to enter a course of study for the clergy. After all, his father was a clergyman and with Dane gone the duty of following in his father’s footsteps fell to Nikola. Doing so was also “the fondest wishes” of the mother he so adored. But to Tesla the idea was abhorrent. “This prospect hung like a dark cloud on my mind,” he later wrote in his personal recollections. It simply had no appeal to him. His mind was just too inquisitive, too demanding of deep thought, too eager to explore the development of new ideas. No, the clergy was definitely not something to which Tesla aspired.

Then he got sick. And his life, while at first in danger of being extinguished, took a whole new turn.

Cholera was a deadly disease in the 1800s, especially in villages like those where Tesla grew up. An epidemic of cholera took off in Tesla’s native land and nothing could be done to battle it. “People knew nothing of the character of the disease,” Tesla would later relate, and sanitation was nearly nonexistent. Tesla lamented the lack of understanding of the causes of the epidemic. The townspeople “burned huge piles of odorous shrubbery to purify the air,” thinking that somehow the stench would stem the horrible tide of death. Or perhaps it was merely to cover up the stench of death itself. In any case, the real problem was the water, and the people “drank freely of the infected water and died in crowds like sheep.”

Tesla at the time was away from home, just finishing his eleven years of public education. Unfortunately, rather than staying away—and against “peremptory [sic] orders” from his father—Tesla rushed home to Gospić. Stricken down with cholera almost immediately upon his return Tesla spent the next nine months struggling to stay alive with “scarcely the ability to move” and exhausted of all vitality. Despite being given up for dead by the local physicians, who must have been right most of the time given the number of people who succumbed, Tesla survived the experience “on account of my intense desire to live.” His father still wanted Nikola to join the clergy, but in an effort to stimulate the life forces of his ailing son, promised to let Tesla study engineering should he recover.

After hearing this, Tesla’s recovery was miraculous. His desire to live restored, Tesla showed amazing vitality in less than a week, something quite unexpected after nearly nine months of constant illness. Perhaps as a result of having the onus of the priesthood lifted off his shoulders (or perhaps as a result of creative memory from a resourceful man decades later), Tesla returned to health quickly with the knowledge that he was to enter engineering school within only a few months.

His childhood was over. And his long and eventful path toward becoming “the inventor of the 20th Century” was about to begin.

[Adapted from my book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity]

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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