Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, and the Assassination of President William McKinley

Fate can be a cynical maiden. Such is the case with the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. His death involved not only Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison but the son of another assassinated president, Abraham Lincoln.

William McKinley Assassination

President McKinley’s assassination happened just six months into his presidency while he was attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, yet another World’s Fair to highlight rapidly changing technology and cultural exchange. McKinley had a busy schedule but managed to slip in a visit to the nearby Niagara Falls. After seeing the gorge with its beautiful falling waters (being careful to remain on the American side to avoid the inevitable political chatter), the President toured Goat Island where a statue of Nikola Tesla would be erected many years later.

One of the main goals of the Niagara Falls trip was to visit the hydroelectric plant. This, of course, included the alternating current generators and motors designed by Nikola Tesla. It was the alternating current from Tesla’s Niagara Falls system that lit up the entire exposition, including the centerpiece “Electric Tower” and the Temple of Music. There were also electric trains, ambulances, and other vehicles moving people to and fro between different parts of the fair and the Falls.

After marveling at the ingenuity of Tesla’s designs at Niagara, McKinley returned to Buffalo for a reception at the very same Temple of Music being lit by the power of those falls. While shaking hands with well-wishers, McKinley was shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz. It was September 6, 1901.

In an ironic twist of fate, Tesla’s rival Thomas Edison could have saved McKinley’s life. Doctors were unable to locate the bullet in McKinley’s abdomen, and an early X-ray machine designed by Edison was on display at the Fair. McKinley’s doctors, however, deemed the apparatus too primitive to be of use. Edison quickly sent his most modern X-ray machine from New Jersey up to Buffalo, but aides to the President refused to use it for fear of radiation poisoning. While McKinley at first appeared to be recovering, gangrene set into the wound and he died on September 14th, Edison’s machine sitting nearby unused.

And the Lincoln connection? Robert Lincoln was in attendance at the fair at the invitation of President McKinley. Robert, of course, had been nearby when his father, Abraham Lincoln, became the first President assassinated, as well as with President Garfield when he was gunned down. McKinley became the third President close to Robert that was assassinated. Not surprisingly, Robert no longer accepted invitations by Presidents, nor I suspect, were many invitations forthcoming.

[The above is excerpted from my new e-book, Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla – Connected by Fate, due out on Amazon.com this summer.]

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Spiraling Upward in Copenhagen

Sometimes science traveling can really take you up in the world, though spiraling around the globe can be a bit dizzying. At least that’s how it felt as I climbed the spiral staircase in the spire of the Church of Our Savior in Copenhagen.

Check that – not “in” the spire; outside the spire. This was (yet another) time that my mild acrophobia seemed not so mild. At least there was a railing.

The day began trying to figure out how to get around the line of 10,000+ marathon runners blocking our path. A very long detour got us heading to the strange spire we had glimpsed the day before. Two elevators and some stairs got us to the top of the tower in Christianborgs Palace and a great view of the city of Copenhagen. From there we could see this very intriguing spiral tower. Zooming in I could see there were people on it (look closely).

spiral tower

Finally ditching the running masses we hiked our way over the bridge into Christianshavn, the canal-laden neighborhood across the river. With the general direction of the spiral in sight we wended our way through the narrow streets where, in case you forgot to look up and might miss it, was a sign to the tower:

spiral tower, church of our savior, Copenhagen

No elevators for this tower. For 45 Danish Krone each we began our climb conventionally, through the bowels of the church tower inside the dusty, and yet creaky, wooden steps, past the carillon (i.e., the bells, which thankfully weren’t pealing), and eventually up to a door leading outside. There the steps seemed more substantial, though they quickly narrowed…and narrowed…and narrowed.

Spiral tower, Church of Our Savior, Copenhagen

It seemed the narrower the steps the more tired our legs until I turned the last turn into steps that actually came to a point. Okay, now the acrophobia kicks in – 295 feet from the street at a pointed step just a few inches at its widest. No problem. Look at the view. Got it, now turn around and slowly start working my way down.

Spiral tower, Church of Our Savior, Copenhagen

Okay, it really wasn’t that bad (no, it really was that bad). But the view was gorgeous.

Spiral tower, Church of Our Savior, Copenhagen

Once back on solid ground we went into the church where we were greeted with a pair of elephants holding up a massive organ. Of course. Elephants. What else should we expect in a church in Denmark?

Spiral tower, Church of Our Savior, Copenhagen

This was the last major event in Copenhagen. A long, winding walk back to the hotel to pack up before heading to the train station for a nearly 6-hour speed train to Stockholm. More on that later; I’m still recovering from climbing the spiral tower.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Speed Dating for Agents (from Hot White Snow)

speed dating for agentsThe signal is given and you sit down across the table from your chosen target, the first of several you will try to impress with your talents, poise, and intellect. You have three minutes to amaze. Actually, it is more like a minute and a half to make your spiel and you either connect, or you do not. By one minute you are desperately looking for signs of interest – a glimmer in the eyes, a slight smile, a request for your contact info. What you do not want to see are their eyes glazing over, or worse, casting a dragnet over your shoulder at the next in line. If all goes well you exchange email addresses and…ding…time is up. Move to the next in line.

You are not looking for a date; you are looking for a literary agent.

It felt like my first time, and it was. After more than 30 years as a working scientist and thousands of interactions with other people ranging from clients to regulators to scientists to project managers to lawyers, I still felt the butterflies churning in my stomach as I sat in front of my first potential agent. This was a big deal. I had written many a published paper and hundreds of reports as a scientific consultant, but here I was trying to sell my idea for a book. My book. To someone who would find me a publisher.

Ding. Time for the next agent.

I talked with five agents that day,…

[Finish reading on Hot White Snow]

The above is a partial of a full article “On Writing” on Hot White Snow, my creative writing blog. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

I’ll have photos and stories from my most recent science traveling trips to Scandinavia and Quebec shortly.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Climate Denier Tactic – Lying About Actual Scientific Studies (from The Dake Page)

June 2015 Arctic Sea Ice Extent trendWe’ve talked about several of the tactics used by climate deniers to intentionally mislead the public. This past week provided a prime example of one tactic – intentionally lying about what a study says. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Recall that the climate denial industry, in their role as lobbyists, are well-experienced in manipulating public opinion. Going back to the days of tobacco companies denying smoking causes cancer, they learned to develop a network of “manufacturers” (i.e., to manufacture doubt), “spreaders” (to get the doubt out there), and “repeaters” (to saturate the blogosphere with misinformation). This process was described earlier.

The misinformation process is often employed to spread their own non-science opinions, other non-peer-reviewed and unsupported blog posts, and the occasional paper they get through the peer-review process. But it works also when they want to spin (i.e., misrepresent) the findings of actual real scientific papers by actual real climate scientists. Such is the case this past week when the blogosphere became saturated with a false conclusion drawn from a presentation made at the Royal Astronomical Society meeting held in Wales.

One paper – not yet published or peer-reviewed, merely presented at a scientific meeting for discussion – noted that the study authors used a model that concluded solar activity conditions by the 2030s could be similar to the solar activity conditions experienced during the Maunder Minimum. That was the extent of their conclusions.

The Maunder Minimum was a period of time popularly linked with the “Little Ice Age,” a perhaps overzealous term given to a period of excess cooling in some parts of the world (mainly the UK) from around 1550 to 1850.

But here’s the thing.

[Continue reading on The Dake Page]

The above is a partial cross-post of a full article on The Dake Page. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Montmorency Falls (Parc de la Chute-Montmorency) – Quebec

Part of my recent science traveling jaunt included Montmorency Falls, better known to the francophonic Quebecians as Chute-Montmorency. While not as broad as Niagara Falls, at 275-feet high (84 meters) Montmorency is almost 100-feet higher (30 meters). And it is spectacular.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec

To get to it you simply drive a little over 7 miles (12 kilometers) beyond Quebec City, or you can take a shuttle tour bus from downtown. The parking price is a bit steep ($12CAD), but if you decide to spend some time there it is worth it. That time spent can be simply photographing the falls, of course, but I highly recommend walking up the panoramic stairway that climbs the cliff next to the falls.

DSC03326

The views from each stopover hut on the steps are magnificent, and at the top there is a surprisingly nice park space for picnicking. But the best is yet to come. Follow the short trail over the fault bridge and onto the amazing Falls Suspension Bridge that straddles the top of the falls. You’ll see on one side that there is actually a small entree falls coming from the Montmorency River, which turns into the huge drop cascading over the other side of the bridge.

Montmorency Falls, Quebec

Smaller falls beside the main falls add further character. If you don’t want to walk the steps (or get wet in the mist at the bottom), you can take the cable cars from the main terminal near the ample parking. The cars bring you up to the Manoir Montmorency, where you can find a restaurant, the Kent House pub (one of several Kent connections I saw on this trip; more on those later), shops, and even a theater.

To get a feel of the power of the falls, check out this video:

Montmorency was one of two impressive waterfalls I saw on this particular trip, which adds to the hundreds of waterfalls I encountered on my earlier trip to Norwegian fjords. More on those soon.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Reading List Halfway Point (from Hot White Snow)

In January I set a goal on Goodreads of reading 50 books over the course of the year. I guess I’ll make my goal because as of the end of June – the halfway point – Goodreads tells me that I am “18 books ahead of schedule.” I have read 42 books so far in 2015.

Books read thru June 2015I’m not overly surprised. Last year I set a goal of 50 books, then raised that to 75 when it was clear I would pass it, before finishing out the year at 84 books read (which I documented in Reading is Fundamental). The idea behind limiting it to 50 this year was because I planned to read less and write more. It turns out I was doing more of both.

The reading can be split into a few separate genres, the most prolific being books about Abraham Lincoln. I’ve read 15 books so far that look specifically at different aspects of Lincoln’s life and the Civil War. Included in this group are books about his character (Philosopher Statesman), law cases (Lincoln’s Greatest Case), and interactions with the press (Lincoln and the Power of the Press). I also tossed in a book about my home town’s soldiers (Ipswich in the Civil War) and insights from the Smithsonian (The Civil War Out My Window).

This year I also had a new focus – Thomas Edison.

[Continue reading at Hot White Snow]

The above is a partial of a full article “On Writing” on Hot White Snow, my creative writing blog. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

I’ll have photos and stories from my most recent science traveling trips to Scandinavia and Quebec shortly.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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How Scientific Peer-Review Works – The Series (from The Dake Page)

Huh CommunicationEarlier this year I posted a series of articles explaining what scientific peer-review is, and what it isn’t. The series was very popular so I’ve decided to create this single post that links to all the previous ones.

In Part 1 we gave a basic definition of peer-review, described the process, what it is expected to accomplish, and what it is not expected to accomplish. In a nutshell, scientists conduct research and then write that research up in a formal paper (including methods, results, how the statistics were done, conclusions, and some discussion of what it all means). The paper is then submitted to a scientific journal, whose editors send it out to other scientists in the field who are capable of reviewing it for clarity, content, and value to expanding our collective knowledge. The reviewers don’t validate or invalidate the work, just make sure it meets some basic scientific principles and complete enough for others to 1) know what the researchers did, and 2) replicate it.

Part 2 looked at how peer-review can go wrong. Standards for scientific journals can differ, with some being akin to Ivy League colleges while others may be less stringent. The relatively rare problem of “pal-review” (common among climate deniers) was examined, as was the difficulties caused by some (but not all) of the new “open access journals.”

[Read Part 3 and Part 4 on The Dake Page]

The above is a partial cross-post of a full article on The Dake Page. Please click on the link above to read further. Thanks.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Science Traveling the Northeast

David J. KentFor some reason I thought of the old days in Catholic confessional in which I would ask the priest to bless me from my sins and say “It has been 30 days since my last confession.” Well, I’m not really confessing, and I don’t consider it a sin, but I must admit “It has been 30 days since my last science traveling.” That trip was to Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Norway. As you read this I’ve already been several days into my current trip to the northeast – New England and Quebec.

Fireworks and fourth of July parades will highlight (have highlighted) the first part of the trip. But even before that we stopped off in West Orange, New Jersey to visit the Thomas Edison National Historic Park. While Edison was nicknamed “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” he actually spent more time working out of his much larger laboratory complex in West Orange. It was here that he had his grand mansion called “Glenmont,” his multi-story laboratory, several separate smaller labs, and the Black Maria – the film studio where he made motion pictures. This was a must-visit for me as I write my book on Edison; so too was a stopover in the town of Edison (as Menlo Park was later renamed in his honor).

Edison Lab, Menlo Park, NJ

After a few days with the family and the fireworks we’re headed even further north. A couple of days in a Quebec City B&B will let us see Montmorency Falls, the funicular, the aquarium, and, of course, Maison Kent. From there it’s on to Montreal for the Notre Dame cathedral, Musee des Beaux Arts, and for the science part, the Biosphere and Jardin Botanique.

Quebec City

The rest of the trip will be spent leisurely working our way back down western Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut where the main goal is to do some old bookstore hopping. Some of the coolest books in my Lincoln collection have come from old barns and basements, so I’m hoping to make some lucky finds.

I’ll be posting periodically during the trip, both on here and on Facebook, so keep checking back for more science traveling tidbits.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity Rises to #1 Bestseller in its Category

Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity reached #1 Bestseller status in the “Scientists – General & Miscellaneous – Biography” category on Barnes and Noble. The book has always been a top seller in several categories but an ongoing sale has helped push it into the #1 spot.

Best sellers Scientists General Misc Biography 30June2015

It also reached #2 in the “History of Science” category and #3 in two other science biography categories.

Best sellers History of Science 30June2015

According to the publisher, Fall River Press, an imprint of the big New York City publishing house, Sterling Publishing, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity has been a smashing success. Published originally two years ago, the 4th printing of the book comes out this month and a 5th printing has already been scheduled for release in October so that there is plenty of stock on hand for the big holiday gift giving seasons. The current sale is time-limited, so if you haven’t gotten your copy yet now is a good time to get one on Barnes and Noble.com.

Because of how well Tesla is doing, Fall River Press is using it to kick off a series of books on great inventors in a similar style and design. Next up is Thomas Edison and I’ve been diligently writing it for many months, and I’ll present the manuscript to the publisher in early August. You should see it in Barnes and Noble stores by early 2016. Assuming Edison is as successful as Tesla, there could be many more in the series. Suggestions on other inventors to cover are welcome.

Back to writing.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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Abraham Lincoln and the DACOR Bacon House

The Lincoln Group of DC had the privilege of being invited to the DACOR Bacon House, a historic landmark in Washington DC, for a luncheon highlighted by Kenneth Winkle, author of Lincoln’s Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, D.C. Dr. Winkle’s talk was enlightening, and the DACOR Bacon House was spectacular.

DACOR Bacon House

Sitting just two blocks away from the White House, this early 19th-century house has withstood the onslaught of modern government buildings as it served a succession of important personages of the ages. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall lived there, as did a later Chief Justice, Melville Fuller, several Associate Justices, a former Governor of Maryland, a Senator from Illinois, a Representative from New York, and the odd heiress and countess, all of whom have called the house home over is nearly 200 year history.

Currently the house provides a charming manor for members of DACOR, the Diplomatic And Consulate Officers, Retired, to meet. Members can drop in any time for meals, drinks, and lectures such as the Winkle talk that I was able to attend. Usually restricted to DACOR members, Executive Director Susan Cimburek invited members of the Lincoln Group of DC to join the talk because of the superb liaison work of Elizabeth Smith Brownstein, author of Lincoln’s Other White House.

DACOR Bacon House

Besides the Civil War topic of this particular speaker, the house has another, more direct, connection with Abraham Lincoln. During the Civil War the house was owned by William and Sally Carroll, with whom the Lincoln’s became good friends. Despite the trials of the ongoing war, the Lincoln’s found occasion to visit with the Carrolls and even attended the wedding of their daughter. When tragedy struck in early 1863, taking the life of little Willie Lincoln, he was kept in the Carroll’s mausoleum until April of 1865, when his body rode back to Springfield on the same funeral train that carried the assassinated President.

Willie Lincoln

As Vice-President of Outreach and Education for the Lincoln Group of DC I want to again thank Susan Cimbulek and Elizabeth Smith Brownstein for arranging our presence at this lecture. We will be continuing our collaborations in the future, so stay tuned.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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