Abraham Lincoln Now on Goodreads – Plus, Books in the Mail

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaMy Abraham Lincoln books are in the mail. And on Goodreads.

July has always been a good month. In July 2013, I received nine boxes of books containing my copies of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. In July 2016, my second book, Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World was released. And now, on July 31, 2017, my third book for Fall River Press, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is officially published. I’ve ordered personal copies from the publisher and should have them by the end of the month.

I have now listed the book on Goodreads, so please drop by, read the preview, and add it to your “to-read” list. I’ll be hosting Goodreads book giveaways shortly, so make sure to come back to Goodreads soon for a chance to win a free signed copy.

The book is also listed on the Barnes and Noble website. You can pre-order the Nook version of the book now, and you should be able to pre-order/order the hard copy very soon. You can also order a signed and inscribed personal copy from me through my website. [While you’re there, check out my Tesla and Edison books, plus my two e-books]

Writing a book is a long experience – researching and writing a book takes a while, but then you have to wait for months before it finally sees the light of day. It’s July. It’s time. It’s exciting.

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

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release July 31, 2017. 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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Creating an Abraham Lincoln Library

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaMy Abraham Lincoln library began with a few books years ago and grew slowly into several shelves, then leapfrogged into several bookcases, and in seemingly one big bang expanded exponentially into several rooms. This week I took steps to consolidate the space (somewhat) and provide adequate space for new arrivals (at least temporarily).

My basement library/office/reading room began with two glass-front barrister bookcases full of books about Abraham Lincoln. I added four short (2-shelf) bookcases, which formed a nice wall between my office area and the library/reading area. A few years ago I commandeered a room upstairs as a library annex, installing four tall bookcases of five and six shelves each. Those quickly filled up and three more tall bookcases squeezed themselves into the guest bedroom, though I admit two of them hold non-Lincoln books. And yet all this wasn’t enough; books stacked themselves onto my computer desk, my writing desk, my floors, and edges of couches. Stairways became queues of books in the process of being read. Something had to change.

Abraham Lincoln library shelves

Ikea to the rescue. The four short bookcases have been re-purposed upstairs and replaced with four 7-shelf bookcases along one side of the room. I definitely like the look of a library wall. Ah, but the shelves didn’t stay empty long. They quickly looked like this.

Abraham Lincoln library shelves

The short shelf books are in their new home along with background books on Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison (research for past book projects) and some random files, magazines, and books previously piled randomly throughout the room. The best part is that I now have room to display some of my artwork, including the Lincoln bust in the center. How long it will take to fill the remaining space is anyone’s guess, but probably less time than I think.

Now that I have some space to play around with, I am reconsidering my organizational system, which can best be described as “in the order the books arrived.” I have a spreadsheet in which the shelf location of each book is listed so I can easily locate a particular resource for research. That works well enough, but I’m thinking about categorizing books by subtopics such as “assassination,” “full biography,” “childhood,” etc. A lot of books don’t fit nicely into this type of classification scheme, but it might be useful if I’m looking for a reference on his legal career, for example, without having to run all over the house to grab related books.

These are exciting times in Lincoln library land. My own Lincoln book will be put on the shelf within a few weeks and I’m already working on the next Lincoln book. I do have one favor to ask. My Facebook author page is sitting at 999 Likes, so if anyone reading hasn’t already liked it, can you run over and push me over 1000? Thanks in advance!

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

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release in summer 2017. 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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Coming Soon! Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved AmericaComing Soon! My newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release by Fall River Press on July 31, 2017. You’ll be able to pre-order it soon on the Barnes and Noble website and buy it in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. As noted in the prologue:

Lincoln delivered his inaugural address, then was given the presidential oath of office by Chief Justice Roger Taney, whose Dred Scott decision a few years earlier had further divided the nation and enlarged the growing rift between free states and slave states. Lincoln pondered whether he would be able to keep the Union together.

We must not be enemies. We must be friends.

Lincoln tried to reassure the South:

The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without yourself being the aggressors.

He pleaded with them not to destroy the vision of the Founders, who established the Constitution “to form a more perfect union.” But he was also firm:

You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ it.

After being sworn into office, Lincoln traveled alone by carriage up muddy Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. Just over a month later, the Confederate army fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, beginning the Civil War. The conflict that followed over the next four years would be the bloodiest and most divisive struggle ever faced by America. The responsibility for saving the nation fell squarely on Lincoln.

Here is the Table of Contents to give you an indication of what is covered in the book; essentially, cradle to grave and more.

Prologue

Chapter 1: Kentucky Born, Indiana Raised

Chapter 2: Coming of Age in Illinois

Chapter 3: Beginning a Life in Politics

Chapter 4: Lincoln’s Loves and Family

Chapter 5: Life as a Lawyer

Chapter 6: A House Divided—Slavery on the Rise

Chapter 7: Running for President

Chapter 8: President—The Union Must be Preserved

Chapter 9: From Gettysburg to Reelection

Chapter 10: Of Martyrdom and Legacy

Appendix 1:  Timeline

Appendix 2:  Selected Resources and Further Reading

Like my Tesla and Edison books, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is chock full of period photos, drawings, and other highlights that make the book visually appealing. Reviewers of my previous books have described them as “beautifully illustrated” with “clear, accessible writing.” They have been called “quick to read” and “a fun book” that “appeals to general readers with a wide range of interests” and makes “a perfect gift.” The presentation is designed to make the story of Lincoln come alive for all ages.

Here is a preview.

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Look for the book in stores later in the summer! Meanwhile, check out my Goodreads author page. While you’re at it, “Like” my Facebook author page for more updates!

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release in summer 2017. 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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From these honored dead – Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Whereas Armed Forces Day pays tribute to those currently in service and Veterans Day celebrates those who have served in the past, Memorial Day honors those who died in military service.

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery, across the bridge from the Lincoln Memorial, was established late in the Civil War on land that had previously belonged to Robert E. Lee. It is the most famous and largest national cemetery, but it is only one of 147 official national cemeteries designated to hold the remains of our nation’s military departed. Another in the national capital region is the Annapolis National Cemetery. Illinois hosts the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery.

I recently visited the Arlington National Cemetery where I met up with an old friend of sorts. Abraham Lincoln’s eldest son Robert Todd Lincoln is buried in a large above ground tomb. He is the only one of the Lincoln family not buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. Robert had served as a Captain under General Ulysses Grant’s command at the end of the Civil War and was present at Appomattox and met General Robert E. Lee during the surrender. Robert would later serve as Secretary of War under President James Garfield (continuing under President Chester A. Arthur after Garfield’s assassination).

In these current troubling times, it is critical that we use this Memorial Day to honor “those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.” Furthermore, as Lincoln noted in his dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg:

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, scheduled for release in summer 2017. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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Abraham Lincoln, Nikola Tesla, and Mark Twain Connected in the Arts

No one would mistake Abraham Lincoln for an artist, though scholars give him high marks on his writing. Long before there were speechwriters, politicians wrote their own material, and Lincoln is well known for such memorable speeches as the Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses. He was also a great letter writer, often crafting policy positions in the form of “private” letters that were, in fact, intended for public consumption. His response to New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, for example, in which he states his position on emancipation of the slaves, thus preparing the public for the proclamation that he had already prepared but not yet revealed, is a classic of historical writing.

But did you know that our 16th President wrote poetry? Perhaps not on par with Robert Burns (one of his favorite poets), but clever and with great storytelling. Which reminds us that Lincoln is well known for his ability to tell a humorous story.

Nikola Tesla was also fond of poetry. He could recite long classic poems in their entirety, and could do so in several different languages. Tesla’s own writings were perhaps not as succinctly to the point as Lincoln’s but they were often entertaining and fanciful; not an easy task for an electrical engineer writing about cutting edge technical discoveries. Most of our knowledge of his childhood and early adult years come from Tesla’s own autobiographical accounts serialized in the scientific magazines of the day.

Tesla also was a big fan of the writings of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Which gets us to yet another connection between Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla.

Mark Twain in the House

Samuel Clemens, known to most of us by his pseudonym Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, Missouri on November 30, 1835, shortly after Halley’s Comet had made its regular but rare pass by the Earth. The 26-year-old Abraham Lincoln – an amateur astronomy buff who two years earlier had marveled at the Leonid meteor showers – may very well have been gazing at the skies when Mark Twain came into this world. At that age Lincoln lived in New Salem, Illinois, just a stone’s throw across the Mississippi River from Hannibal. In 1859, Lincoln rode the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad to give a speech in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The railroad just happened to be formed in the office of Mark Twain’s father thirteen years before.

Lincoln floated flatboats down the Mississippi River to New Orleans as a young adult, then took steamboats back upriver. He often piloted steamboats around shoals near his New Salem home. Mark Twain had worked on steamboats on the river for much of his younger years, first as a deckhand and then as a pilot. Being a riverboat pilot gave him his pen name; “mark twain” is “the leadsman’s cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms (12 feet), which was safe water for a steamboat.” In 1883 Twain even titled his memoir, Life on the Mississippi. Lincoln’s time traveling on and piloting steamboats eventually inspired his patent for lifting boats over shoals and obstructions on the river.

Lincoln would not have read any of Mark Twain’s stories (his first, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was published in 1865, about seven months after Lincoln had been assassinated). But Twain says his humorous writing style was strongly influenced by another pen named-humorist, Artemus Ward, and the Jumping Frog story was published in the New York Saturday Press only because he finished it too late to be included in a book Artemus Ward was compiling. This is the same Artemus Ward that was so often read by Abraham Lincoln to break the tensions of the Civil War.

In fact, Lincoln was so entranced by the humor of Ward that on September 22, 1862 he read snippets from one of Ward’s books to his cabinet secretaries before settling into the business of the day – the first reading of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

Ironically, Mark Twain’s piloting job ended when the Civil War started, as much of the Mississippi River became part of the war zone. So what is a writer/river-boatman to do? Well, join the Confederate army of course. His unpaid service lasted only two weeks in 1861 before disbanding. He then left for Nevada to work for his older brother, out of harm’s way for the rest of the war, though his brief service for the confederacy did give him material for another of his humorous sketches, The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.” Later, Mark Twain would publish the memoirs of Civil War hero and President, Ulysses S. Grant.

Like Lincoln, Mark Twain was very interested in science and technology. Twain actually had three patents of his own, for a type of alternative to suspenders, a history trivia game, and a self-pasting scrapbook. Many years after the Civil War he met and became close friends with Nikola Tesla. Often when he was in New York City Twain would hang out in Tesla’s laboratory. One photo taken only with the light produced by Tesla’s wireless lighting technology shows Mark Twain holding a ball of light.

Mark Twain in Tesla's Laboratory

They became such good friends that Tesla felt comfortable playing a practical joke on him. One day Mark Twain dropped by the lab and Tesla decided to have a little fun. He asked Twain to step onto a small platform and then set the thing vibrating with his oscillator. Twain was thrilled by the gentle sensations running through his body.

“This gives you vigor and vitality,” he exclaimed.

After a short time Tesla warned Twain that he better come down now or risk the consequences.

“Not by a jugfull,” insisted Twain, “I am enjoying myself.”

Continuing to extol on the wonderful feeling for several more minutes Twain suddenly stopped talking. Looking pleadingly at Tesla he yelled:

“Quick, Tesla! Where is it?”

“Right over there,” Tesla responded calmly. Off Twain rushed to the restroom, embarrassed by his suddenly urgent condition. Tesla smiled; the laxative effect of the vibrating platform was well known to the chuckling laboratory staff.

By the way, Mark Twain was also friends with Thomas Edison. And Edison filmed the only footage of Mark Twain currently in existence. The less-than-two-minute-long film would not win any Academy Awards for content or production value – its grainy images show Twain merely walking while smoking his cigar and eating lunch with his two daughters – but it has obvious cultural and historical significance. Mark Twain died the following year, the day after Halley’s Comet returned for the first time since Twain’s birth, in effect, seeing him both into this world and out of it.

[The above is adapted from my e-book, Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate, available for download on Amazon.com.]

Click here for more posts here on Science Traveler about the connections between Lincoln and Tesla.

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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Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America – The Cover Reveal!

It’s time to reveal the cover design for my new book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America. Drum Roll Please!!

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America is scheduled for release on July 31, 2017. It will be available in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide as well as online and as a Nook e-book. Lincoln joins my previous books by the same publisher, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World.

Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America traces Lincoln’s life from his early farming days in Kentucky and Indiana to his adventures on a flatboat down the Mississippi River and his first days struggling on his own in New Salem. The book delves into his time as a lawyer, his life in politics, and his rise to the presidency. We take a look at his loves and family, his evolving views on “the slavery question,” and his desperate fight to save America from its greatest challenge during the Civil War. The book wraps up with Lincoln’s martyrdom and legacy. Read the Prologue here.

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Like Tesla and Edison, Lincoln is filled with period photos, drawings, and other highlights that make the book visually appealing. Reviewers of my previous books have described them as “beautifully illustrated” with “clear, accessible writing.” They have been called “quick to read” and “a fun book” that “appeals to general readers with a wide range of interests” and makes “a perfect gift.”

Check out a few previews for the book and other Lincoln-related stories here on Science Traveler. Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America will be in stores this summer. And if you missed my earlier e-book discussing the incredible connections between Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla, click on the link to download that immediately.

More to come!

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.

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.

Abraham Lincoln Assassinated on Good Friday. Again.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated this past Friday, April 14th. Good Friday. That is, 152 years ago he was shot by John Wilkes Booth while Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln were in Ford’s Theatre watching the comedic play, Our American Cousin. The anniversary is commemorated every year but this year took on special significance because April 14th once again coincided with Good Friday, a rare occurrence. By Sunday the martyrdom of Abraham Lincoln had begun, with Lincoln’s memory taking center stage during Easter services. An annual Easter service at the Lincoln Memorial continues to this day.

Back in 1865 the still living but limp body of the fallen president was carried across the street to the Petersen House where he died the next morning, April 15, at 7:22 am. “Now he belongs to the ages,” spoke Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, before spearheading a 12-day chase that ended in the death of the assassin.

All of this is the stuff of history, well known to most everyone. Less well known are some of the fascinating details. For example, as the crowd at the theater slowly came to realize what had happened a cry rang out “Is there a surgeon in the house?” There was, Dr. Charles A. Leale, a recent graduate of Bellevue Hospital Medical College and commissioned as assistant surgeon only six days previously. As luck would have it, Leale was seated in the dress circle of Ford’s Theater that night, mere steps from Lincoln’s box. His quick action likely prolonged Lincoln’s life by several hours, though he couldn’t save him from his ultimate fate. Leale’s clinical report gives us a detailed record of the event.

John Wilkes Booth derringerThe gun used by Booth was a Philadelphia deringer, a small large-bore pistol fired by loading a percussion cap, some black gunpowder, and a lead ball. Since it can only fire a single shot without reloading, Booth dropped the gun on the floor of the box, slashed Major Henry Rathbone with a large knife, then leaped to the stage. The gun now is on display in the museum of Ford’s Theatre.

Into trivia? Here’s something with which you impress your friends. Deringers were made with “rifling,” that is, grooves in the barrel to spin the ball. Unlike most deringers where the rifling creates a clockwise twist, the one used by Booth had rifling that turned counterclockwise. No matter what the twist, the rifling is designed to improve accuracy by creating a more predictable flight of the ball or bullet. Needless to say the direction of rifling was a moot point since Booth shot Lincoln at very close range.

Ah, but what happened to the lead ball? Well, it now sits in a glass case at the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Silver Spring, Maryland. Along with it are several skull fragments, just in case you’re into “morbid oddities.”

Soon after Lincoln’s demise, long-time admirer Walt Whitman wrote an extended metaphor poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” Whitman lived in Washington during the Civil War and often watched President Lincoln ride by on horseback, later by carriage, to and from his summer living quarters in the Soldier’s Home. It begins:

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Such a sad, yet exalting, eulogy for the fallen President. It has now been 152 years since that fateful day and battles still remain in our desire to form “a more perfect union.” As Lincoln noted in his Gettysburg Address: “It is for us the living…to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…” that Lincoln “so nobly advanced.”

[The above is adapted from two articles published on the Smithsonian Civil War Studies website. My new book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is in Barnes and Noble stores late 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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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.

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.

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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.

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[Daily Post]

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.

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.