Abraham Lincoln at City Point

On March 20, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln telegraphed Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who had invited Lincoln to visit him for a “day or two” at City Point, Virginia. Lincoln told Grant that he “had already thought of going immediately after the next rain.” I discuss this visit in a section of my forthcoming book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America.

City Point - The Peacemakers - George Healy

Lincoln at City Point and Richmond

Hearing from Washington that Lincoln looked even more worn out than usual, in March General Grant invited Lincoln to City Point (near Petersburg). Lincoln immediately accepted. He was not alone; Mary insisted on joining him, so a party including Tad Lincoln, a maid, a bodyguard, and a military aide boarded the River Queen on March 23 for the trip. Son Robert, now an adjunct to Grant’s army, met them on their arrival the next evening. Lincoln took time to visit the troops and confer with Generals Grant and Sherman and Admiral David Porter. Overall it was a restful but productive visit. That changed when Mary Lincoln flew into a jealous rage at seeing General Ord’s wife riding “too close” to her husband, after which Lincoln sent Mary back to Washington. Soon after her departure, however, the Union captured Richmond, which the Confederate leadership had abandoned. She insisted on returning, this time bringing a large entourage that included her ex-slave dressmaker, Elizabeth Keckley, who had been born in nearby Petersburg.

During Mary’s absence, Lincoln took Tad into Richmond. After landing at the docks, Lincoln and Tad walked the mile or so to the Confederate White House that had served until a few days earlier as Jefferson Davis’s office. Surrounding him along the way were hundreds of ex-slaves who wanted to see the “Great Emancipator,” while anxious white southerners stared suspiciously from their windows.

On April 8, Lincoln visited the Depot Field Hospital at City Point. Over the course of a full day he shook the hands of more than 6,000 patients, including a few sick and wounded Confederate soldiers. Feeling the pressure of business, Lincoln left City Point to return to Washington that evening. The next day, Lee surrendered his army to General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively ending the war.

The mood in Washington was euphoric. After four long years the war was essentially over.

That mood would dramatically change only a few days later as Lincoln was struck down by an assassin’s bullet. The making of Lincoln’s legacy, both myth and reality, would begin immediately.

[The above is adapted from Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due in Barnes and Noble stores in summer 2017]

David J. Kent is the author of 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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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[Daily Post]

Tesla and Edison: The War is Lost

We’ve previously looked at Tesla and Edison fighting the War of the Currents (Part I and Part II). Now we come to the final round in the battle.

Tesla vs Edison cartoon

Two events were major factors in deciding the war of the currents. In 1893 there was a competition to determine who would get the contract to light up the World’s Columbian Exposition. Also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, the six-month-long exposition was to showcase new technology from all over the world. Both the General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric Company (powered by Tesla’s alternating current technology) were among the competitors. Edison’s direct current was pitted against Westinghouse’s alternating current. Bidding was brutal as Edison and Westinghouse viciously undercut each other in an attempt to land the plum contract. Other competitors were quickly eliminated, and Westinghouse ultimately won. Tesla’s polyphase alternating current system lit up the fair.

The result was spectacular. Nicknamed the “White City” because of the white stucco buildings surrounding the central pool, the name also could have referred to the brilliant aura created by 92,000 outdoor incandescent lamps that lit the grounds for six months. Including all the interior lamps, the fair required 250,000 modified Sawyer-Mann “stopper lamps,” a competing bulb Westinghouse raced to produce because Edison refused to allow use of his patented long-life bulbs. Edison was not shut out completely, however, as he was able to display several of his own inventions in the showcase electrical building, including the dominating “Edison Tower of Light.”

Because of the success of alternating current at the Chicago World’s Fair, the team of Westinghouse and Tesla also beat out Edison for the next major contract at Niagara Falls. The Niagara River flows north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, dropping up to 188 feet over some of the most spectacular falls in North America. Engineers had made only limited use of the power of the falling water until the newly formed Cataract Construction Company (led by former Edison Electric Board member Edward Dean Adams) chose to base its new electrical power plant on a dozen Tesla patents. Tesla’s polyphase generator system beat out Edison’s direct current, but Edison won the contract to string electrical wires from Niagara to Buffalo, nearly twenty miles away.

These setbacks effectively removed Edison from the electric power generation business, a process that had already begun back in 1892, when competition and J. P. Morgan’s maneuverings forced Edison to merge his Edison General Electric Company with the Thomson-Houston Company to form the new General Electric. While somewhat bitter at how he had been treated, Edison turned to other pursuits, including iron ore milling and the development of motion picture projectors. Edison was about to become a movie mogul, albeit a reluctant one. Tesla also turned to other pursuits, including Wardenclyffe.

[This is part II of a three part series on Tesla vs Edison in the War of the Currents, all adapted from my book Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World. Also check out my earlier book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Both are available in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. See links below. Part I of the series can be read here. And here is Part II.

David J. Kent is the author of 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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity Now Available in Spanish!

My book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, is now available in Spanish!

Tesla Wizard Spanish edition

The book has been a fantastic success in the United States and worldwide. Dutch and German editions (below) have been available since 2015, and now as of January 1, 2017, you can pick up a Spanish edition.

Translations into other languages, including Turkish, are currently in negotiations.

After you read Tesla, check out my Edison book, where Tesla finally gets the recognition he deserves in an Edison biography. Also, don’t forget to check out my two Tesla e-books below.

And watch for Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, due in Barnes and Noble stores July 2017.

David J. Kent is the author of 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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Tesla and Edison: The War of the Currents Continues

As described previously, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla fought what has come to be known as the “war of the currents.” Tesla had developed his complete alternating current induction motor and all the associated transformers, then hooked up with George Westinghouse to compete against Edison’s already established direct current system.

Tesla vs Edison

Edison did not give in easily. He began a public relations campaign to discredit alternating current as too dangerous for public use. He had a point. Alternating current could be raised to incredibly high voltages, whereas direct current was held at relatively low voltages. Edison published pamphlets ominously titled A Warning from the Edison Electric Light Company suggesting alternating current was not safe. He also (falsely) suggested to suppliers and utilities that Westinghouse was in violation of Edison’s patents, and thus it would be unwise to rely on the soon-to-be-departed technology. Engineering societies debated the merits, although sometimes the charges and countercharges seemed more personal than professional, with combatants “fighting tooth and nail” for the future.

The battle between AC and DC also got bloody. While relatively rare, accidents sometimes occurred on the network of naked electrical wires strung on poles set alongside city streets. One particularly gruesome scene occurred when John Feeks, an electrical repairman sent up to remove dead wires, accidentally found a live one and fell into a nest of wires, where he “dangled for more than forty-five minutes.” Streaks of light flashed from his body as spectators gasped in horror below. Reporters raced from the scene to get quotes from Edison on the dangers of alternating current, which he duly provided without knowing whether the wires were AC or his own DC.

Edison also actively lobbied for use of the electric chair to replace the usual means of execution, an overdose of morphine or hanging. He felt the chair would be more humane because it would provide a quicker, cleaner kill. More important, it would use alternating current, further bolstering Edison’s claim that alternating current was too dangerous for humanity. Some members of the committee set up to evaluate the methods were skeptical until Edison sent a letter of support. “I certainly had no doubt after hearing his statement,” one committee member said, and the recommendation was implemented. Unfortunately for Edison, and for the poor axe murderer William Kemmler on which it was first used, the execution did not go smoothly. After supposedly being electrocuted to death, Kemmler suddenly let out a loud cry of pain, to which the attendants responded by turning the power up to full for two minutes, long enough for “the stench of burning flesh” to fill the room.

Edison also allowed electrical engineer Harold Pitney Brown to use his laboratory for a series of experiments. Brown paid neighborhood boys to collect stray dogs, which he then electrocuted in Edison’s lab using Westinghouse’s alternating current. He then wrote letters to the press exclaiming the dangers of that “damnable” alternating current. To denigrate his main competitor completely, Edison called the electrocutions “getting Westinghoused.”

Two huge events were major factors in deciding the war of the currents. More on that in the next installment.

[This is part II of a three part series on Tesla vs Edison in the War of the Currents, all adapted from my book Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World. Also check out my earlier book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Both are available in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. See links below. Part I of the series can be read here. Here is Part III.]

David J. Kent is the author of 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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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The Magnificent Short Voyage of the Swedish Warship Vasa

A beautiful, calm, sunny day in 1628 greeted the Swedish warship Vasa as it made its maiden launch into Stockholm harbor. About three-quarters of a mile later, it promptly sunk, not to be seen again for 333 years.

Vasa Museum

But you can see it in all its glory at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm, and over 25 million people have done so since 1990. The ship was rediscovered, mostly intact, in 1961 and now stands fully rigged. You can view the ship from every angle and multiple levels to see the 64 cannons and intricately carved bowsprit and ornately decorated stern transom. Traces of pigments have allowed restorers to approximate the original color scheme of the ship, which as you can see, was rather unlike the battleship grey of today’s ships.

Vasa stern

It turns out all these heavy wood sculptures and cannons made the unfortunate ship a wee bit top heavy. All went well with the launch, with the ship being towed out to the southern edge of Stockholm harbor, where Captain Söfring Hansson ordered the setting of four sails. With the gun ports open to fire a salute as they gloriously departed in front of a crowd of giddy admirers, a sudden gust of wind filled the sails and rolled the ship onto its port side. Those open gun ports magnificently allowed thousands of gallons of water to fill the hold, and in minutes 30 souls joined the ship at the bottom of the harbor, a mere few hundred feet from shore.

While the ship itself is impressive (you’ll experience one of those “Wow!” moments as soon as you enter the main hall), the Vasa Museum does much more. Along the perimeter are cut-away models of the ship showing life on board (as it would have been had it stayed afloat longer), examples of the science used in the preservation and restoration processes, and original artifacts. One of the coolest, though also the spookiest, were displays of the skeletons of lost sailors and modern anthropological recreations of sailor’s faces.

There is so much more to see at the Vasa Museum (you can even hold your special event there), so check out the Vasa Museum website for more information.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Abraham Lincoln, Joseph Henry, and Nikola Tesla – Connected by Fate

When Abraham Lincoln took the presidential oath on March 4, 1861, he would become the first president ever to have obtained a patent. Patent Number 6469 was awarded to Lincoln on May 22, 1849 for a device to lift boats over shoals and obstructions. Lincoln writes in his patent application:

Be it known that I, Abraham Lincoln, of Springfield, in the county of Sangamon, in the state of Illinois, have invented a new and improved manner of combining adjustable buoyant air chambers with a steam boat or other vessel for the purpose of enabling their draught of water to be readily lessened to enable them to pass over bars, or through shallow water, without discharging their cargoes and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description thereof, reference being had to the accompanying drawings making a part of this specification.

It was the only patent Abraham Lincoln ever received, and the only patent ever given to a President, either before or after their presidency. In contrast, Nikola Tesla had around 300 patents to his name.

Tesla may have had more patents (after all, he was an inventor), but Lincoln always had an interest in invention. During his career as a lawyer he was routinely sought for patent and technologically-dependent legal cases, and during the Civil War he often took matters into his own hands and personally tested some of the biggest technological advances in weaponry. Since he was not classically trained as a scientist – he barely finished one year of formal schooling – Lincoln called on experts to advise him. His biggest scientific adviser during the Civil War was Joseph Henry.

Calling Joseph Henry

Most people likely do not know it, but Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel F.B. Morse, Michael Faraday, and others owe their fame, at least in part, to Joseph Henry.

As the Civil War loomed, with Washington D.C. a critical centrality in both the conflict and the potential solution, Joseph Henry was still getting settled into the red sandstone “Castle” that we have all come to know as the symbol of the Smithsonian Institution. The building itself, like the Institution, was relatively new, completed only about six years before Lincoln’s arrival. As the first Secretary of the Smithsonian, and later also as chair of the Permanent Commission to advise the Navy on scientific matters, Henry was one of Abraham Lincoln’s most trusted science advisers. Henry and Lincoln became good friends and worked together to address a wide variety of technological and scientific issues during the Civil War.

So what does Joseph Henry have to do with Nikola Tesla? It turns out, a lot, even though Henry died a few years before Tesla first set foot on American soil.

A precocious child with little interest in formal education, the young Henry stumbled across a book called Lectures on Experimental Philosophy, Astronomy and Chemistry; the book changed his life. Eagerly devouring the scientific principles it contained, Henry began a largely self-taught course in the sciences. Eventually he was taken in by a mentor at the Albany Academy and focused on the nascent field of electricity. Henry excelled in his studies and one day decided to improve upon a weak electromagnet design by William Sturgeon. While the original design used loosely coiled uninsulated wire, Henry wrapped the coils tightly with silk for insulation. The result was four hundred times the original strength. Further improvements led to the powerful electromagnet that became the standard in modern times. This was in 1827, more than fifty years before Tesla came to America.

A few years later, in 1831, Joseph Henry’s innovations led to the first machine to use electromagnetism for motion, effectively, the precursor to the modern direct current motor. It was a simple design, the linear rocking from side to side of a standard electromagnet, but it was the basis for the rotating motion motors eventually designed by Nikola Tesla for his alternating current system. Henry’s simple apparatus allowed him to discover the principle of self-inductance (electromagnetic inductance).

Henry did not stop there. His experiments demonstrated that using an electromagnet in which two electrodes are attached to a battery, winding several coils of wire in parallel worked best. In contrast, if multiple batteries were used, a single long coil was best. This discovery is what made the telegraph feasible.

So why is it we do not hear about Joseph Henry as the father of the electromagnet, or father of the telegraph, or father of self-inductance? In short, Henry was always hesitant to publish any of his work. While he delayed writing up his discoveries, and there were many, others were quick to publish, sometimes after hearing about Henry’s work and “borrowing” it for their own. Famed scientist Michael Faraday, who most credit as the father of self-inductance, actually got at least some of his ideas from a meeting with Joseph Henry; while Henry hesitated, Faraday rushed to publish first. Similarly, Samuel F.B. Morse gets credit for being the father of the telegraph even though it was Joseph Henry’s key discoveries that made it possible; again, after meeting with Henry, Morse took advantage of Henry’s hesitation to publish.

That gets us to Nikola Tesla. Like Thomas Edison and others who developed electric lighting and power in the 1880s and beyond, it was Joseph Henry (and Faraday and others) who had discovered the principles on which the later inventions were based.

In fact, Joseph Henry and Nikola Tesla share yet another claim to fame – both of them have been honored with an international scientific unit (SI). Based on his work with electromagnetic energy, the tesla (T), an SI unit of magnetic flux density and equal to “one weber per square meter,” was named in Tesla’s honor. His forerunner, Joseph Henry, was honored with the SI unit of inductance, the henry (H), for his earlier discoveries in electromagnetic induction.

There are many other connections between Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla, which I discuss in the e-book from which the above is excerpted, Connected by Fate. Joseph Henry, whose early discoveries with electromagnetism, electricity, and the telegraph, became the key principles upon which Nikola Tesla and others made names for themselves years later, was just one connection. Check out the book for more.

Also, look for my new book coming out summer 2017: Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America [Click for Prologue]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Three Books about Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin

Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day – February 12, 1809. Each in their own way became icons of change and are remembered throughout history for their contributions. While you might expect them to have little in common other than their birth dates, several authors have examined the two men together in books. Click on the links for full reviews of each book.

Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, by David R. Contosta

Lincoln and Darwin: Shared Visions of Race, Science and Religion, by James Lander

Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life by Adam Gopnik

Look for my new book coming out summer 2017: Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America [Click for Prologue]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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If it’s Tuesday…A Quick Look At Brussels

As my “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Brussels” adventure memory continues to unfold (see here for an explanation), the first step was to get orientated and find housing. That required a trip a month before the actual transfer would take place. Unless you have a place to stay for a while (like, say, two months), you’ll need to take this step.

Others from my company had made short visits prior to my transfer, so there was already an arrangement to stay in a “hotel” used many times before. The place was less of a hotel than a converted old European townhouse with a restaurant on the first floor and single apartments (two room suites) on each of the other two floors. A tiny elevator, when it worked, brought me to the third level where I took up temporary residence for several days. More on this hotel in later posts.

Brussels Office

Then, despite the rather unwelcoming weather (which I would soon find to be the norm), it was off to find the office about a quarter mile down Avenue Louise toward the Bois de la Cambre, a sort of mini-Central Park stretching south away from the “central” part of city. A nine story building with just enough glass to offer a “city view” – check! Desk and chair and spot for my computer – check! A few phone calls and some work not finished on the flight over – check! Now to explore the neighborhood.

Brussels Tram

Good. A tram line runs the length of Avenue Louise, with a junction in front of my new office. That will give me options as I look for a place to live. I also liked the fact that there are many statues and original artwork dressing up the streets. I’ll see a lot more of this in Europe.

Getting off the main avenue I traipse through the gardens of the Abbeye de la Cambre and follow the quiet road past the two ponds of Ixelles and into Flagey, a square and neighborhood featuring a large church.

Church in Flagey

More about Flagey in the future; let’s go back to the ponds. I looked at an apartment, really a garret, in an old house overlooking the pond. The view was beautiful. The ceilings were low. And by low I mean low enough to cause me to involuntarily duck, and low enough to knock out my rental agent when he didn’t duck. Once he regained consciousness, even he admired the lush greenery around the ponds.

Ponds in Ixelles Brussels

From Flagey I would head back across the main road, check out the Chatelain area, and then follow Avenue Louise down to the office. Not bad. This initial exploration was helpful. I got a feel for the area and the limits of how far I wanted to live away from the office. Eventually I would choose a place on the Rue du Magistrat, about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) from the office, which I could walk or hop on the tram. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. There is so much more to do before making the move.

[This is part of a series on living and working in Brussels, but also some hints on how to do it the right way if you’re considering such a big career move. Keep checking back here for more articles, all of which are included in a category called “Tuesday.”]

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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What to do in Atlanta When You Only Have a Weekend

With Super Bowl weekend fast approaching and the Falcons taking on (my own favorite) New England Patriots, one place to check out is the city of Atlanta. The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta bills itself as the world’s biggest aquarium, and since I’m an aquarium nut I decided not long ago it was a good time to check out that boast. Here are three things to do in Atlanta on a short visit.

1) Georgia Aquarium: As promised, the aquarium is huge, with one of the biggest single viewing window I’ve ever seen. It was, in fact, the biggest aquarium in the world from its opening in 2005, though was beaten out in 2012 by Marine Life Park in Singapore. The big tank (over 6 million gallons) goes beyond the usual sharks, rays, and groupers to support four whale sharks, the only aquarium outside of Asia to have them. Even the ubiquitous dolphin show is unique, built around a Broadway-esque singer and storyline.

2) World of Coca-Cola: A few steps across a delightful little park is The World of Coca-Cola, home of the soft drink conglomerate. If you’re into sweet carbonated beverages you can taste test over 100 varieties. You can take a guided tour, check out their “secret formula” vault, and take a selfie with the famous corporate polar bear.

World of Coca-Cola

3) Centennial Olympic Park: A discus throw from the aquarium and Coke is the venue of the 1996 Olympics, now repurposed into a wonderful public space in the heart of the city. The Olympic torch still stands (though unlit), as does a children’s play fountain arising from the Olympic rings. A visitor center will help you find your way around, as well as help you find your name on the Olympic bricks if you donated.

Centennial Olympic Park

There is more to see in Atlanta but you might need a longer visit. Near the above three venues is the headquarters of CNN, where you can get tours and watch them do the news live. Take in a pro or college football game at the Georgia Dome, or a basketball game at Philips Arena, or for the more intellectually inclined, the High Museum of Art or Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.

Enjoy your visit to Atlanta (though I’m still routing for New England).

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Moving to Belgium – The Process

A while ago I had the opportunity to move to Belgium for three years, specifically, to Brussels. I wrote an introduction to the topic and called it “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium,” based on an old movie by that name (see the link for more). My intent was to write a series of posts, and then, not ironically, traveling got in the way and I never really got the series started. Until now.

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium

 

The process of getting ready to move and work overseas for an extended time was an adventure in itself. So if you’re planning on working in Europe (and other places), the following is what you’ll have to go through. Oh, and while doing all of this I had to continue working on my projects, including many very early morning conference calls with European colleagues and clients.

Luckily, my company at the time sent me a checklist of things to do for the work component. This list doesn’t count all the things I need to do to offload a lot of my home stuff or arrange to rent my house.

  1. Obtain moving quote and submit to Administrator: It was good to know my [now former] firm was paying to ship my stuff to Brussels. Unfortunately, since most of it wouldn’t fit into a European-sized apartment, I had to get rid of half my belongings.
  2. Make flight arrangements for arrival in Brussels: Prior to actually moving there I had to make a trip over to find an apartment.
  3. Set up European bank account: So I can do direct deposit and automatic bank transfers. Interestingly, my rent and utilities were included in those automatic payments. I rarely saw actual cash. Money went in and out of my accounts for major recurring income and bills, and my debit card was used for nearly everything else. I also had to keep my US account open and work out logistics of accepting rent/paying mortgage, etc. (I rented my house out to tenants while I was away).
  4. Provide information for my work permit, including:
    a) Medical certificate (filled out by a doctor and officially notarized by the Belgian Embassy):  I’m not sure why the Belgian Embassy had to stamp my form since they didn’t actually check to make sure the doctor wasn’t lying.
    b) Copy of all pages of passport: Not just the name and address page, but every page. Is someone really going to look at all of the stamps from places I’ve been? Not that it mattered because many of the visa stamps are already unreadable on the page, so photocopy just made everything completely illegible.
    c) Copy of diploma(s): Which degrees wasn’t specified, so I assumed it meant high school, BA, MS, and PhD to date. I guess this was to verify that I was qualified to work for the company that I’m already working for. [As it turned out, it also was to get some sort of special tax status for highly skilled workers, much like the H-1B visas in the US.]
    d) Copy of resume: Ditto verification…come on people, my firm was already paying me to work for them and all I’m doing is transferring between offices. I was pretty sure they checked my credentials. In any case, my then-26 page CV went on record.
    e) Nationwide criminal history record (FBI Identification Record): This was the real kicker. I can understand (sort of) that the Belgians don’t want some criminal moving there, though it seems to me that since the law firm I worked for didn’t have any concerns than it should be good enough for them. The real problem here is that it supposedly takes 16-18 WEEKS for the FBI to run a background check on me, and only after I provide them with my original fingerprints. Well, first off, where do I get my fingerprints taken? Can I walk into a police station, say something like “Book ‘im Dano” and they take a full set for me? Second, if it takes 16-18 weeks for them to do a background check on me (who was born and raised and lived all but 3 months of my life here in the US), what does this say about the FBI’s ability to do background checks for potential terrorists or even for people buying handguns? In any case, they got it done in exactly 17 weeks.

So if you’re planning to work overseas, plan well ahead of time. Other countries and continents may be different, but I doubt you’ll get into China, for example, faster than into Belgium, home of the EU and friend to the USA (well, at that time, at least; no guarantees about the current “friendship” situation).

I’ll have more on the “If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Belgium” series, including tons of traveling to other European countries during my stay.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) (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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page.  And feel free to “Like” my Facebook author’s page and connect on LinkedIn.  Share with your friends using the buttons below.