Nikola Tesla and Abraham Lincoln – The World’s Fair Connection

Though Nikola Tesla was born only nine years before the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and half a world apart, there nevertheless are an uncanny number of connections between the two great men. One of them involves a World’s Fair (two, actually).

Nikola Tesla’s first big break in the war of the currents with Thomas Edison was at the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. Up to this time Edison dominated the growing electricity business with his direct current (DC) systems. But DC had some severe limitations and Tesla favored his own alternating current (AC) system. Edison brutally protected his DC turf with a campaign to discredit AC, even supporting the development of the first electric chair to show how dangerous AC could be.

But Tesla had teamed up with George Westinghouse and the combination of Tesla’s AC system and Westinghouse’s business acumen allowed them to win the bidding to light up the Chicago World’s Fair – the first attempt to electrify at this scale. It was a huge success.

Chicago World's Fair 1893

The World’s Fair grounds were designed by some of the greatest architects of the time, including Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead. The canals, pools, and massive buildings – the White City – were tremendous, but the centerpiece was a 65-foot tall sculpture called the Statue of the Republic (nicknamed “Big Mary”). With its stone base it stood 111-feet high over the Grand Basin.

Lincoln Memorial

The connection to Abraham Lincoln? Well, “Big Mary” was designed by none other than Daniel Chester French. French, of course, went on to design the seated statue of Abraham Lincoln that dominates the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Interestingly, Daniel Burnham, the architect who supervised the design and building of the Chicago World’s Fair and who selected French to design “Big Mary,” was also on the Lincoln Commission tasked with designing a fitting memorial to our 16th President. Burnham strongly lobbied for another architect, Henry Bacon, to build the Lincoln Memorial. In fact, Bacon did design and build the Greek Doric temple that houses French’s famous statue and serves as one of the world’s most visited monuments.

Meanwhile, French’s original Statue of the Republic was destroyed by fire only two years after the fair ended. French was later commissioned to create a smaller version – only 24-feet high and gilded in bronze – for the 25th anniversary of the fair. Appropriately, it now stands on the site of the original World’s Fair Electricity Building, the place where Nikola Tesla first brought alternating current into the modern world.

Tesla exhibit 1893 World's Fair

Oh, there’s another World’s Fair connection between Nikola Tesla and Abraham Lincoln. I’ll talk about that in a later post. :)

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and a soon-to-be-released ebook on Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Book Review – Lethal Code by Thomas Waite

Lethal Code by Thomas WaiteThomas Waite is an author of thriller novels. I reviewed his first book, Terminal Value, last summer. His newest book, Lethal Code, is even better. Here’s my review as posted on Goodreads.

This was a fun book to read, and a very hard one to put down. It’s a non-stop action thriller dealing with efforts to counteract a massive cyberattack that shuts down the US. Opening with a loss of electrical and communications power, the book doesn’t lack for energy itself. Waite’s writing keeps the magnificent story moving at a frantic pace and takes us to places we may not have expected. It also gives us insights into our own human nature and what we might want to think about before the very plausible scenario of cyberwarfare.

After reading both of Thomas Waite’s books (the other is Terminal Value), I’ve already started anticipating his next one.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies at Barnes and Noble bookstores, as well as online at B&N.com and Amazon.com.

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Mourning Robin Williams, With a Poem Written for Abraham Lincoln

Robin WilliamsThe world woke up this morning to the news of the untimely death of actor, comedian, and humanitarian Robin Williams. Having been a fan of his since his first appearance as Mork on the sitcom Happy Days, before he spun the character off into his own show Mork and Mindy, his demise comes as a shock. The world mourns.

One of the ways many people are honoring his life’s work is by posting a clip of Williams from the movie Dead Poet’s Society. It features a passage from Walt Whitman’s extended metaphor poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”

It’s a poignant moment in the movie. It’s also a poem Whitman wrote about the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Walt Whitman lived in Washington during the Civil War and often watched President Lincoln ride by horseback, later by carriage, to and from his summer living quarters in the Soldier’s Home (now called the Lincoln Cottage). He admired Lincoln, and after the  assassination Whitman composed “O Captain! My Captain!” to mourn the loss of such a great man. According to the Wiki article:

The captain in the poem refers to Abraham Lincoln who is the captain of the ship, representing the United States of America. The first line establishes a happy mood as it addresses the captain. The phrase “our fearful trip is done” is talking about the end of the Civil War. The next line references the ship, America, and how it has “weathered every rack”, meaning America has braved the tough storm of the Civil War, and “the prize we sought”, the end of slavery, “is won”. The following line expresses a mood of jubilation of the Union winning the war as it says “the people all exulting”; however, the next line swiftly shifts the mood when it talks of the grimness of the ship, and the darker side of the war. Many lost their lives in the American Civil War, and although the prize that was sought was won, the hearts still ache amidst the exultation of the people. The repetition of heart in line five calls attention to the poet’s vast grief and heartache because the Captain has bled and lies still, cold, and dead (lines six through eight). This is no doubt referencing the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Whitman’s sorrow for the death of his idol.

Such a sad, yet exalting, eulogy for the fallen President. And somehow, a fitting elegy for the tormented Robin Williams. Such a trial was his internal life; such a treasure was his gift to all of us.

As Williams’ character in Dead Poet Society puts it, the poem encourages us to think:

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

This begs the question: “What will your verse be?”

Robin Williams’ verse was cut short. For us the living, our verse is still to be written.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and a soon-to-be-released ebook on Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Thanks for Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

A big thank you to everyone who downloaded a copy of Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. There were over 500 downloads during this past week, which helped the e-book reach #1 in several Amazon categories. Thank you all for your support, both for this e-book and for Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (which is now back in Barnes and Noble stores this month).

Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its TimeAfter you read the e-book, please take a moment to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Doing so helps spread the word about Nikola Tesla to as many people as possible.

To leave a review on Amazon, go here.

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Tesla: The Wizard of ElectricityAnd while you’re at it, leave a review for Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Goodreads.

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Thanks again for reading about Nikola Tesla. And watch for the next book soon!

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Last Chance to Get E-book for Free – Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its TimeToday is the last day you can download a free copy of my new e-book, “Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time” on Amazon.com. In thanks to all of the people who celebrate Nikola Tesla and have supported me over the last few years, I’m providing followers with the book for no cost during this limited period. After today you’ll have to purchase it.

Please leave me an honest review on Amazon.com and on Goodreads.com. Doing so helps spread the word about Tesla to as many people as possible.

Because of your support the Kindle e-book has been ranked as the #1 download for up to three categories on Amazon.

Kindle ranking #1

Tesla: The Wizard of ElectricityCoincident with the release of my e-book, my first book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is back in Barnes and Noble stores this summer. It’s a perfect book for all audiences and makes a great Back to School book.  More information and another free book offer can be read here.

Thank you all for spreading the word about Tesla. Because of you and the work of many others, Nikola Tesla’s contributions to society are once again being recognized by the world.

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E-book Now Available – Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its TimeAs promised, my new e-book, Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time, is now here. And for a limited time only, you can download yours for free at Amazon.com.

To thank all of those people who have supported my first Tesla book, I’m making the new e-book free from August 1st through August 5th, 2014. Supporters who view this web page or “Like” my Facebook Author’s Page will find a link to download the book from Amazon.com at no cost. But only for this limited time. After that the price will be $2.99. Feel free to share this free offer with Tesla fans everywhere.

I do ask one favor in return for the free downloadPlease leave me an honest review on Amazon.com and on Goodreads.com. Doing so helps spread the word about Tesla to as many people as possible.

Tesla: The Wizard of ElectricityAnd that is just the beginning. My first book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is back in Barnes and Noble stores this summer, just in time for Back to School purchase. Order online at BN.com, stop by your local BN bookstore, or order a signed copy directly from me. Many Tesla fans are buying extra copies to donate to their local public and school libraries. Like last time, the books are flying off the shelves so get them while they are available.

Want more? You got it. A fellow Tesla fan is offering a chance to win one of three free, signed, copies of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Check out his Facebook page.

This is an exciting time for Nikola Tesla. After being ignored for many decades, his contributions to the modern world are once again being recognized. With the phenomenal help of Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) and the tireless work of Nikola Lonchar (Tesla Science Foundation) and Jane Alcorn (Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe), Tesla’s last laboratory at Wardenclyffe is now in the process of becoming a world-class science museum. [BTW, Tesla Motors' Elon Musk had committed $1 million towards the restoration. Have you bought your brick for Nik yet?]

And there is more to come.

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Book Review – Lincoln & Darwin: Shared Visions of Race, Science, and Religion by James Lander

Lincoln and DarwinAbraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born on the same day, February 12, 1809. Both became icons of change and are will be remembered throughout history for their contributions. The book is subtitled: Shared Visions of Race, Science and Religion. While their views were not so much shared as contrasted, author James Lander deftly flips back and forth between Darwin’s and Lincoln’s lives as they experience their separate travels, coming of age, development of ideas, and eventual breakthroughs into the public eye as they dramatically change history.

While the same age, the two men have very different lives. Lincoln is born poor in the frontier with few resources and little formal education, then takes charge just as the country is rendering itself apart. His travel is entirely domestic, flatboating down the Mississippi River as a young man, traveling the circuit in Illinois as a lawyer, and the northern part of the United States as a legislator and political speaker. Darwin was born into a wealthy family, married into an even wealthier family, received the highest educational opportunities, and after spending five years traveling the world on his famous studies, became sickly and largely reclusive the rest of his life.

Still, Landers points out that while Lincoln is remembered for his fight against slavery, he also had a significant interest in science. Likewise, while Darwin is known for his Origin of Species and contributions to science, he also was an adamant abolitionist and carried on fervid correspondence with American botanist Asa Gray, in which he debated the slavery issue in depth. In fact, Landers brings us into how the academic debate raging over the singularity of man’s creation (vs multiple creation of man) influenced the ongoing discussion of equality of white and black men. “Scientific racism” becomes a common theme as it was espoused both by Lincoln’s main foil, Stephen A. Douglas, and Darwin’s scientific nemesis, Louis Agassiz.

The 26 chapters unevenly look at Lincoln and Darwin as these three main issues – race, science, and religion – pervade each of their lives. Landers does a good job of balancing the discussions of these two men for each of the issues, comparing and contrasting where applicable. Overall, this scholarly work published by the Southern Illinois University Press is well done and deserves more attention than it seems to have received.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and a soon-to-be-released ebook on Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Other Abraham Lincoln book reviews:

Lincoln’s Boys by Joshua Zeitz

Lincoln Unbound by Rich Lowry

Lincoln in New Orleans by Richard Campanella

Lincoln’s Other White House by Elizabeth Smith Brownstein

Abraham Lincoln and Yosemite National Park

El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point. We’ve all heard of the wonders of Yosemite National Park in California, but how many knew that the park was started by Abraham Lincoln? June 30th, 2014 marks the sesquicentennial of Lincoln’s signing of the Yosemite Grant, the law that created what we now affectionately know as Yosemite.

“Not just a great valley, but a shrine to human foresight, the strength of granite, the power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.” Leave it to the National Park Service to so succinctly capture the beauty of Yosemite. For this privilege we owe our gratitude to the unfortunately forgotten Galen Clark and John Conness, to John Muir, and to Abraham Lincoln for having the foresight to protect natural lands even as the Civil War interminably dragged on for its third year.Tunnel_View,_Yosemite_Valley,_Yosemite_NP_-_Diliff

Canadian-born Galen Clark had moved to California for the Gold Rush. Unsuccessful in that endeavor and fighting for his life against tuberculosis, Clark spent much of his time roaming in the mountain air. Inspired by, and concerned for, the beauty of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees, he wrote to friends and Congress pleading for their protection. Getting the support of Irish-born Senator John Conness, Clark managed to motivate a Congress interested in strengthening Union connections with the relatively new state of California. President Lincoln, who had by this time already signed laws allowing land grants, homesteads, and the transcontinental railroad, was eager to support westward expansion. On June 30,1864 he signed the Yosemite Grant providing federal protection for Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove, which was quickly ceded over to California and became the first California State Park. Galen Clark became the first “Guardian of the Grant.”

The importance of this act cannot be overstated. For it to have happened at all while the country was in the midst of tearing itself apart is a testament to Lincoln’s and Congress’s foresight. Lincoln’s signature set precedent for establishing Yellowstone as the first National Park in 1872, to be followed by protection for other pristine – and irreplaceable – vistas.

And then there is John Muir. Muir is probably best known for his advocacy of Yosemite and the nearby Hetch Hetchy Valley. Muir’s efforts to save Hetch Hetchy were ultimately unsuccessful, but Muir teamed up with influential Century Magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson to recapture Yosemite from state park status to federal. On October 1, 1890 Yosemite National Park was created. Johnson also urged Muir to set up a new conservation group to advocate for the preservation of all of the Sierra Nevada mountain region, and in 1892 the Sierra Club was born. [More below the video]

Those who have read my book on Nikola Tesla may recognize the names of Robert Underwood Johnson and John Muir for another reason. Johnson was a big publisher of Tesla’s articles in Century Magazine. Coincidentally, he also published the serialization of John Nicolay and John Hay’s Abraham Lincoln: A History prior to its release in book form. Muir was one of many famous guests that attended Johnson’s gala parties in his New York mansion, and became friends with another frequent guest – Nikola Tesla.

Small world, isn’t it?

Other articles connecting Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla:

How are Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla Connected?

Tesla to Edison to Lincoln – Connecting the Dots

Happy Birthday Robert Todd Lincoln – Witness to Three Assassinated Presidents

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies at Barnes and Noble bookstores, as well as online at B&N.com and Amazon.com.

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Coming Soon! [UPDATE: Now Here] Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time

July is such a great month. For starters, July 10th is Nikola Tesla’s birthday, which always results in an uptick in interest. This year we can add the release of the second printing of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, which is once again in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide and available on BarnesandNoble.com. And coming soon now availableNikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

The new book will be out exclusively on Kindle e-book format later this month now. That means you can read it on your Kindle, Kindle Fire, or Kindle app for any of the popular smartphones and tablets (I read via Kindle app on my iPhone). Download the app for free, then download the e-book. When it comes out I’ll even tell you how you can get the e-book free too – for a limited time specifically to thank all of you, the people who have been supporting my first Tesla book and Nikola Tesla himself.

Want a sneak preview? Check out the opening page after the cover photo below.

Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time“My paramount desire today, which guides me in everything I do, is an ambition to harness the forces of nature for the service of mankind.” – Nikola Tesla

The active pursuit of renewable energy sources may seem like a new phenomenon. Only in the 1970s, as a result of the oil crisis and OPEC limitation of oil exports, did the modern world begin to seriously consider the widespread use of energy derived not from coal, oil, and natural gas, but from the sun, wind, and water. Unfortunately, this surge in interest was largely abandoned in the 1980s as the country redirected investment into the military as a means of “winning” the cold war. Now, with the 21st century upon us and with an emphatic understanding that fossil fuels are causing man-made global warming, we are seriously revisiting a shift to renewable energy. We lost over thirty years of renewable energy development, but even that delay pales in comparison when considering the first recognized need for renewable energy by a man named Nikola Tesla.

In fact, Tesla was into renewable energy long before it became cool to be into renewable energy. As the header quote indicates, Tesla had sought to harness the forces of nature for the good of mankind. And he was doing this a hundred years ago.

This volume will explore the motivations of Nikola Tesla and some of his contributions that predate our current efforts to harness the power of nature. The book is intended as an overview rather than a comprehensive treatise on renewable energy then or now. The primary goal is to show that Nikola Tesla, and others, were already seeing the need for renewable resources long before the current resurgence in interest. This e-book expands on a concept briefly addressed in my earlier book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, published by Fall River Press (2013).

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There is much more that follows. I start by delving into his world-changing contribution to getting power from Niagara Falls…and then it really gets interesting. Tesla was a proponent of solar power, windmills, tidal energy, even getting power from the rain. He developed a system of geothermal energy. He claimed to have harnessed the power of cosmic rays and even the Earth itself. Tesla had all of these ideas when others were focused on energy from coal, oil, and gas – resources that Tesla said were wasteful, dirty, and finite.

He was definitely a man ahead of his time. Find out more in Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. Coming soon! Available now!

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. You can order a signed copy directly from me, download the ebook at barnesandnoble.com, and find hard copies at Barnes and Noble bookstores, as well as online at B&N.com and Amazon.com.

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.

Book Review – Lincoln’s Boys by Joshua Zeitz

Lincoln's Boys by Joshua ZeitzEveryone knows Abraham Lincoln, in part because of the diligent work done by his two secretaries – John G. Nicolay and John Hay. But little has been done to illuminate the two men themselves. Zeitz has done us all a favor by accomplishing just that.

Subtitled “John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image,” Lincoln’s Boys is a history of Lincoln, a history of the times, and a history of Lincoln’s two private secretaries. One quickly comes to realize that “secretary” is a misnomer, as Nicolay and Hay’s responsibilities not only included managing and responding to correspondence, but also trusted diplomats who went on sensitive missions to confer with key generals and politicians across the country. They also controlled access to the President, such as a chief of staff would do today.

The first of five sections looks at Nicolay and Hay’s separate upbringings and how they came to become part of Lincoln’s inner circle after his election in 1860. We get a sense of their differing demeanors as well as Lincoln’s own attitudes toward life and the major issues of the day – slavery and the secession of southern states. Part II largely takes place during the White House years. In Part III we follow the two young men following Lincoln’s assassination as they embark on diplomatic lives in Europe and back home, start families, and come into their own.

In Part IV, Zeitz brings us into the long process of writing the 10-volume history of Lincoln that largely defines these two men. It also defines Lincoln. This is perhaps the most critical part of the book as the author explains how the early biographies of the stricken President either were self-aggrandizing fanciful reinterpretations by those seeking to enhance their own place in history, or were creative reinvention by the South to makes slavery disappear as the cause of war. The long gap between the end of Lincoln’s life and when Nicolay and Hay (and also Herndon) finally produced their biographies left a vacuum that was filled with erroneous “history.” The two secretaries, with Robert Lincoln supporting them, sought to write the definitive history that corrects the record and firmly established the idea of “Our Ideal Hero.” They were uniquely positioned to do that.

While Nicolay largely devoted his later life to Lincoln’s memory, Hay went on to an active political career capped by over seven years as Secretary of State to two presidents (one of whom, William McKinley, was also struck down by an assassin’s bullet). In a superbly written and easily readable book, Zeitz has brought these two under-appreciated men into view and shined the light on them. Lincoln would be happy for them.

I highly recommend this book.

David J. Kent is a lifelong Lincolnophile and is currently working on a book about Abraham Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. He is also the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and a soon-to-be-released ebook on Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time.

Other Abraham Lincoln book reviews:

Lincoln Unbound by Rich Lowry

Lincoln in New Orleans by Richard Campanella

Lincoln’s Other White House by Elizabeth Smith Brownstein