Joseph Henry, the Smithsonian, and Abraham Lincoln

National Academy of Sciences foundersJoseph 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 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 Henry felt disappointed by this country lawyer from the West and walked away feeling the President was “withdrawn and ill at ease.”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.

[From a work in progress. For my most recent book on Abraham Lincoln, check out Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America.]

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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The Fascinating Koalas of Australia

Koala’s are marsupials. I knew that much. But on my recent trip to Australia I learned a lot more about koalas. And they are even more fascinating than I knew.

Koala in Australia

Like all marsupials, which includes other Australian natives such as kangaroos, wallabies, and wombats, plus opposums (the one species in North America), koalas give birth to embryonic stage young that must crawl into a pouch for further development. While considered primitive to mammalian full gestation development, it turns out the whole “live in a pouch” concept reduces the dangers of extended pregnancies.

Part of that danger is food. Koalas feed almost exclusively on the leaves of eucalyptus trees. That is something else I learned – there are anywhere from 200 to 700 species of eucalyptus trees depending on if you are a lumper or a splitter taxonomist. Of those, koalas prefer about 30 species for eating, relying on those with the highest protein content and low proportions of fiber and lignin. Eucalyptus leaves generally have high water content so koalas rarely need to drink. [But see this video that shows how climate change is drying out the leaves and forcing more koalas to seek supplementary water intake.]

A diet of eucalyptus presents some nutritional challenges for koalas. The essential oil from eucalyptus leaves has a natural disinfectant quality, which is why it is often used in insect repellents and antimicrobial products. They can be toxic in large quantities. Koalas have developed a tolerance but still try to avoid the most obnoxious species, which luckily they are able to determine by smell. Most eucalyptus are evergreens, so they make a poor source of energy. This means that koalas retain the food in their digestive systems for up to 100 hours and have about half the metabolic rate of a typical mammal. To conserve energy they move little and slowly. They also sleep around 20 hours a day, spending the remaining four waking hours eating.

Koala in Australia

Two other physical adaptations of koala were fascinating. Since they spend most of their day in trees feeding and sleeping, their forepaws have two opposable digits, essentially, two thumbs. These and sharp claws allow it to securely climb and hang on to the bark of trees. They also have a cartilaginous pad at the end of the spine that fits nicely into the fork of a tree, where you’ll often see koalas comfortably perched.

I saw koalas both in a wildlife park type setting near Sydney (where I had breakfast with one) and in the wilds along the coast south of Melbourne. All koalas are a single species, though because the Victoria (aka, near Melbourne) koalas tend to be much bigger than Queensland (near Cairns) koalas, some scientists consider them to be subspecies. In either case they are one of Australia’s most iconic animals. And truly fascinating.

More to come on koalas and kangaroos and wombats and kookaburras as I sort through over 3500 photos.

David J. Kent is and avid traveler. His most recent book, 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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[Daily Post]

An Author in Our Midst – The Lincolnian Interview, Part 2

I was recently interviewed by The Lincolnian, a quarterly publication of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia. The interview was published in the Summer 2017 issue and Part 2 is recreated below. Read Part 1 here.

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David J KentLincolnian: Any reaction to the book that you wish to share?

David Kent: The Lincoln book has just been released, but the initial reaction has been similar to that received for my Tesla and Edison books. People love the smooth writing and say the books are both easy to read and provide comprehensive information on the subjects. The reaction from the public has been heartwarming. The Tesla book released in 2013 is on its 7th printing and has been translated into multiple foreign languages. I’m hoping to have the same success with Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America.

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaLincolnian: At a Lincoln Group meeting, you indicated that you were writing another book on Lincoln’s interest in science? What is the status of that book? Tell us the themes of that book?

David Kent: Yes, I’m currently working on a scholarly book that focuses on Lincoln’s interest in science and technology. I’ve been doing intensive research for years on the subject and am now preparing key chapters. This book will be more in-depth so I’ll be looking for a different publisher than the one putting out my earlier books. I’m hopeful it will see the light of day (and bookstores) by late next year. Stay tuned!

Lincolnian: Tell us a bit about your own background? How/why did you become a writer? You seem to have strong twin interests in science and Lincoln. How did you become interested in these two areas – which developed first? How did your interest in Lincoln develop – and what most interests you about him. I know you travel to visit different Lincoln sites – describe some of your travels – which is the most unusual Lincoln site you have seen – where will your travels take you next -what have you missed that you wish to visit?

David Kent: While I’ve been interested in Lincoln since I was very young, I grew up in a coastal New England town so it was probably inevitable that I enter a career in the environmental sciences. After getting science degrees I worked as a marine biologist until the laboratory I worked in was burned to the ground by an arsonist, then in a series of environmental consulting firms in New Jersey and Washington DC. Over the years I’ve been president of four different scientific organizations. Throughout my science career I was writing, mostly technical reports and peer-reviewed papers, but also was writing for various newsletters. The writing bug really grabbed me only as I was returning from a 3-year secondment in Brussels, and decided to expand on my Lincoln interests. In late 2013 I left the science consulting life behind and decided to focus on my writing full time. I joined the Lincoln Group of DC in January 2012 and have been writing a lot on Lincoln in recent years, including articles in the Lincolnian and elsewhere. I joined many LGDC members on the trip to Lincoln’s Illinois last year and was totally enthralled by sites I hadn’t seen before. Future plans include a road trip beginning in Tennessee and tracing Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky through boyhood in Indiana and into Lincoln-related areas in northern Illinois. I’ve traveled to many countries around the world and even non-Lincoln specific locations seem to have a thing for Lincoln. There are statues of him in Edinburgh, Scotland, two other spots in the UK, Vigeland Park in Oslo, and, as yet to be seen, Havana, Cuba, Mexico City and Juarez, Mexico, and in Guatemala.

Lincolnian: Do you have other topics on your radar for the future after you have completed the Lincoln /science book?

David Kent: I have several books in my mental pipeline after the Lincoln/science book, including at least two more on specific aspects of Lincoln’s career. In January I hope to discuss a Lincoln book project in which LGDC members would be participants. More on that soon.

Lincolnian: Anything you wish to add on these subjects for our readers?

David Kent: I have to say that my membership in the Lincoln Group of DC has been an inspiration for me. I thank LGDC members in the acknowledgements of this current book and have benefited tremendously from the interactions I’ve had in our monthly dinners, the monthly book club discussion group, and various tours and symposiums. I’m especially indebted to current LGDC President John Elliff and the rest of the team on the LGDC Board for support and encouragement. I’m looking forward to continued service and participation in LGDC.

For more information on the Lincoln Group of DC, check out this post.

[Part 1 of the Lincolnian interview appeared here last week]

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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First Views of Australia

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I’m off Science traveling in Australia and New Zealand. Besides a tour inside the venue, here is a look at the famed Sydney Opera House from a harbor cruise.

And at night.

Of course, I had to have breakfast with a koala. Say hi to Molly. I also hopped around with kangaroos, howled with dingoes, and hightailed with emus.

Sydney gave me my 46th aquarium and Cairns gave me my 47th.

Then it was a sail out to the Great Barrier Reef and some snorkeling with the fishes and corals. I also hiked in the Blue Mountains.

I even made a new friend. This is Wuru.

So much more to show you. I’ve moved on to New Zealand and its amazing mountain scenery. More photos soon.

An Author in Our Midst – The Lincolnian Interview, Part 1

I was recently interviewed by The Lincolnian, a quarterly publication of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia. The interview was published in the Summer 2017 issue and Part 1 is recreated below. Read Part 2 here.

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David J KentMost Lincoln Group members know by now that David Kent, our Vice-President for Programs, is an accomplished author, one who has penned successful books on such figures as Tesla and Edison. His most recent publication spotlights Lincoln himself. David agreed to be interviewed for The Lincolnian regarding his new Lincoln book and his writing career. Here are the contents of that interview.

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaLincolnian: You have a new publication out – Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America – tell us about this publication – what was the inspiration behind the book, what is/are the major themes, what did you aim to accomplish for the audience, who is the targeted audience?

David Kent: I have been interested in Abraham Lincoln since as far back as I can remember, so when the publisher of my Tesla and Edison books decided to branch out into history, I jumped at the chance. Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is directed at a general audience and so spans Lincoln’s entire life, from his days growing up on frontier farms to the crisis of the Civil War and the Lincoln legacy. The goal is to reach out to a broad readership in a way that is visually appealing. The strife of this past year in politics shows that there are many in our nation who lack a good understanding of history, including the critical time period in which Lincoln lived. As the subtitle suggests, I bring out how Lincoln’s decisions helped deal with our nation’s greatest challenges, and how he kept the Union together despite all forces trying to tear it apart.

Lincolnian: What research did you undertake in writing the book? In doing so, did you learn anything that surprised you?

David Kent: I feel like I’ve been researching Lincoln my whole life. I read 20-30 Lincoln-related books every year, along with a wide variety of other genres. I also review primary materials – letters, speeches, newspaper articles – to get both a broad and deep understanding of his life and how he thinks. It doesn’t come as a surprise to me because I’ve been researching it for another book, but I’ve always been enthralled with Lincoln’s interest in science and technology.

Lincolnian: In your opinion, what information in the book will surprise the reader?

David Kent: I think general readers will be surprised by how active Lincoln was in politics from his first days in New Salem. He really did become the leader of the Whigs in Illinois, and without him the Republican party of Illinois likely wouldn’t have become as powerful as quickly as it did. For Lincoln scholars I bring out how Lincoln understood that the de facto expansion of slavery enabled by the Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act, and Dred Scott decision triumvirate would lead to war. Lincoln pressed the issue knowing the crisis was unavoidable.

Lincolnian: Your book contains many images – photographs, graphics, etc. Describe a few examples that will be new to the audience or most captivating.

David Kent: The incredible publishing team and designer have pulled together amazing imagery for the book. These images were selected to bring out the stories told in the text and make the book a visual as well as an intellectual experience. Images range from photographs of the time period, paintings of key events, political cartoons presented in key newspapers, letters and documents, and even comic book pages. One image from a comic book, for example, highlights how good Lincoln was with his own children and those in the neighborhood, often getting down on his hands and knees to play with them. The images really bring out the life described in the text.

Lincolnian: What similarities – and differences – does this book have as compared to your previous works on Tesla and Edison? What similarities in character, traits, etc. did you find that Tesla and Edison shared with Lincoln – and what were the major differences you found in your subjects?

David Kent: The style of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is the same as my previous books on Tesla and Edison. Those two books were very successful for the publisher (and me), so the publisher wanted to branch out into similarly-styled books in history. Because of my lifelong interest, I suggested Lincoln and they agreed. The three books highlight the human side of science and history. While very different in many ways, all three men were innovators. Tesla was a big picture guy, always wanting to change the world with a radical new idea. Edison was a details guy, always tinkering and improving on existing ideas. Lincoln was a little of both. In the courtroom and in politics he could remember and exploit key details while at the same time always keeping his eye on the bigger picture. And like Tesla and Edison, Lincoln too was an inventor, the only president in our history to have obtained a patent.

Lincolnian: Where can we find the book /who is the publisher?

David Kent: The book is in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide (if you don’t see it, ask for it; it’s there). You can also order it online at BarnesandNoble.com. I sell signed, first edition copies through my own website (http://www.davidjkent-writer.com/buy-the-books/). I’ll be the speaker at LGDC’s December 12th luncheon meeting and will have copies to sell there. The book is published by Fall River Press, an imprint of Sterling Publishing in New York.

[Part 2 of the Lincolnian interview will appear next week]

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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Science Traveling Australia and New Zealand

I’ve always wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand, and soon I will achieve that goal. My upcoming trip will take a few weeks and cover a lot of terrain.

Keep in mind that Australia is roughly the size of the United States, so the distance from Sydney (#1 on the map above) to Cairns (#2) is equivalent to the distance from Florida to Montreal. Uluru, aka Ayer’s Rock, (#5) is about where Denver would be. Sydney to Queenstown, New Zealand (#3) would be about the distance from Washington DC to Caracas, Venezuela. Bottom line – each flight is a long way.

First stop is Sydney, so the famous bridge, the even more famous Opera House, and (of course) an aquarium. Plus cruising around the harbor, Bondi, and a tour of the Blue Mountains. From there it’s off to Cairns for the Great Barrier Reef, the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park and more. I’m looking forward to seeing kangaroos, koalas, and kiwis.

The kiwi part will definitely happen after a multistep loop from Cairns through Auckland to Queenstown, New Zealand. We’ll see the wonders of Milford Sound and do a safari through Wakatipu while checking out the areas where the Lord of the Rings movie series was filmed.

But wait, there’s more. From Queenstown it’s back to Melbourne, Australia to check out another aquarium and drive south and west on the coast to see the 12 Apostles (of which there are only seven). Then back to Melbourne for a flight up to Uluru in the center of the country. I’ll need to drive the rental car on the left side of the road. Luckily I’ve done that in Scotland and Ireland so, well, fingers crossed.

From Uluru it’s back to Sydney to catch a long flight back home.

I’ll be updating on the trip whenever possible and will definitely have a ton of photos when I return. This will be my second big trip this year; the first was South Korea and Beijing in the spring. At that time the rumbling of missiles kept tensions high, and just this past week there was a series of earthquakes in New Zealand. Apparently there is a tectonic plate margin running right through the middle of the country.

Well, that’s what science traveling is all about, right.

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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[Daily Post]

Fall Events at the Lincoln Group of DC

Lincoln Group of DCThe Lincoln Group of DC is one of the premier Abraham Lincoln associations in the country and I feel privileged to be a part of the executive board. This post highlights some of the upcoming events in the DC area that you don’t want to miss.

October 14: Special event at the African American Civil War Museum, 1925 Vermont Ave, NW. The United States Colored Troops in the Civil War. 1-3 pm. Presenters are historian, teacher and reenactor Michael Schaffner, and fellow presenter high school student Hugh Goffinet, who will describe soldiers’ lives during the Civil War and demonstrate the manual of arms. The program is free and open to the public.

More information: http://www.lincolngroup.org/oct2017.html

October 28: Our monthly Book Discussion Group, Ford’s Theatre, DC. This is the final day of our discussion of “President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman” by William Lee Miller. We will be choosing the next book to be discussed, so now is the time to join the group. Free and open to all Lincoln Group members. 10 am – 12 pm.

More information: http://www.lincolngroup.org/book-discussion.html

October 30: Special Event: A Theodore Roosevelt Salute to President Abraham Lincoln, Arlington Hilton Hotel. A stunning performance by Teddy Roosevelt look-alike and presenter, Joe Wiegand, who has performed at the George W. Bush White House and with the Mt. Rushmore Presidents at the National Archives. A must-see!  6-9 pm. Reservations required.

More information: http://www.lincolngroup.org/oct30-2017.html

December 12: Members Book Night. Join three of the Lincoln Group’s premier authors as they discuss their books: David J. Kent (Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America), Elizabeth Smith Brownstein (Lincoln’s Other White House), and Car Adams (Nance). 6-9 pm. Reservations required.

More information: http://www.lincolngroup.org/dec2017.html

There is so much more going on in the Lincoln Group of DC, so check out our web page and join us at one of our events.

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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I Am Not a Know Nothing – Abraham Lincoln Lessons for Today

Lincoln #TakeAKnee

In an 1855 letter to his dear friend Joshua Speed. Lincoln said:

“I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be?…Our progress in degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty—to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy.”

As the Kansas-Nebraska Act was renewing Lincoln’s interest in politics, his Whig Party was coming to an end. The party had weakened and fragmented when Whig leaders such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster died in 1852. Southern Whigs supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act because it allowed the expansion of slavery, while Northern Whigs strongly opposed it. This North-South split mirrored the divided Democratic Party in 1860, but in 1854 southerners generally shifted to the Democratic Party or joined the new “American Party.” The latter were also known as the Know Nothings because of their secrecy and nativist bigotry against blacks, as well as Irish and Catholic immigrants. Former northern Whigs, including Lincoln, along with anti-slavery Democrats, formed a new Republican party. The Republican Party’s primary focus was to prevent the expansion of slavery into the territories.

In October 1854 Lincoln rose to the forefront of the Republicans with a speech he gave first in Springfield, and then a dozen days later in Peoria. Newspapers published the second presentation, so it came to be known as the Peoria speech. Lincoln spoke out emphatically against slavery and oppression.

Today, Lincoln almost universally ranks at the top of any “best president of all time” poll, with both Democrats and Republicans claiming the mantle of Lincoln. Ironically, the Democratic Party has a clearer case. Republicans in his time were for inclusiveness, personal freedom, and positive government action. Lincoln championed federally funded internal improvements to build infrastructure, at one point arguing, “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves.” Today the Democratic Party reflects these characteristics more than the Republican Party does, partly because during the 1960s many in the South left the Democratic Party in protest of Democratic support for civil rights. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” completed the transition, effectively switching the focal points of the two major parties compared to their Civil War–era characteristics.

What would Lincoln say today?

Most likely he would fight for the protection of every American’s civil rights. In January of his last year, Lincoln pressed hard for passage of what would become the 13th amendment to the Constitution. This amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, thus codifying the proclamation’s goal that all slaves “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” This was followed in 1868 by the 14th amendment, which granted U.S. citizenship to former slaves and instructed states to protect all citizens’ rights and privileges and guarantee all persons equal protection under the law. This effectively overturned the Dred Scott decision. The 15th amendment in 1870 prohibited the use of race, color, or previous condition of servitude (aka slavery) in determining which citizens could vote. In a little-known position taken early in his political career, Lincoln had suggested the right to vote might be extended to women. The 19th amendment in 1920 finally accomplished this goal, prohibiting the government from denying women the right to vote on the same terms as men.

Lincoln repeatedly returned to the Declaration of Independence, reiterating the basic self-evident truth that “all men are created equal,” meaning all men and women, with no regard to gender, race, color, religion, orientation, preference, or country of origin. Lincoln would stand up to despotism, speaking out against attempts by political leaders to foment racism, dictate what is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” forms of protest against institutional oppression, or attacks on the constitutional rights of all Americans.

[The above is adapted from my book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America.]

[Photo credit: Nathan Greene Studios. Thanks to Bob Willard for finding it. See: http://www.nathangreene.com/product/233/17]

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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[

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

Follow me by subscribing by email on the home page. Share with your friends using the buttons below.

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.

Check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

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