Last Chance for Free Shipping on Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America

Get it in time for the holidays! And get shipping for FREE!

You can have a signed copy of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America without having to pay a shipping fee.

Check out a Preview and the Table of Contents here.

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Through December 10th shipping fees will be waived. Just pay the price of the book and I’ll ship it anywhere in the continental United States for free.

Go to my “Buy the Books” page to order now!

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World

 

 

The same terms apply to my Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World book!

[Sorry, Tesla books temporarily out of stock. Check back in January.]

 

 

 

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 Forum and the Gettysburg Dedication

Abe and MeNovember 19th is Dedication Day, the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address (admit it, you had to memorize it in middle school too). It’s also the week of the annual Lincoln Forum, held November 16-18. I’ll be at both.

The focus of this year’s Forum is “Lincoln and His Contemporaries: Friends, Enemies, and Successors.” Speakers will include Charles Strozier (talking about Lincoln’s intimate friend, Joshua Speed), Steven Engle (Lincoln and the War Governors), Jonathan W. White (Dreams of War and Peace), Melanie Kirkpatrick (Lincoln and Thanksgiving, which appropriately follows next week), and Annette Gordon-Reed (Andrew Johnson, who is either a friend or enemy and questionable successor, depending on your point of view).

Not to be missed is a break out session in which friends and foes Craig L. Symonds and John F. Marszalek do their best Abbott and Costello routine (or Costello and Costello) facing off with Northern and Southern perspectives of the Civil War.

The Forum is deftly guided by founding and continuing Chair, the Honorable Frank J. Williams and unrivaled Lincoln scholar and Forum Vice-Chair, Harold Holzer. The two, along with a cast of dedicated Board members and staff, have led the Forum for 22 years, and every year seems to get even better. One of the preeminent Lincoln conferences, each year about 300 Lincoln scholars and aficionados, some in period costumes, join together to share great scholarship, good food, and long-lasting relationships. If you haven’t already, check out the Forum website at the link above (and the other Lincoln groups, including my own Lincoln Group of DC, in the links below).

I’ll be there catching up with other Lincoln authors, attending the talks, and increasing my already voluminous Lincoln library. I’ll also have copies of my own Lincoln book. Anyone who wants one can catch me roaming the hallways and I’ll be happy to sign one for you.

As the Forum ends the crowd shifts to the Gettysburg Battlefield where George Buss plays Abraham Lincoln and recites the Gettysburg Address. This year’s keynote speaker is none other than the Forum’s Harold Holzer.

This week is a busy one for us Lincoln scholars and geeks. Last night I attended a welcoming reception at the Lincoln Cottage for members of the Abraham Lincoln Association. ALA hosted us a year ago when over 20 Lincoln Group of DC members toured the Springfield, Illinois area. We were happy to return the favor as ALA engages in its annual “fishing trip” before heading up to the Lincoln Forum.

See you at the Forum!

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.

Updates on Tesla, Edison, Lincoln

It’s been a busy year for Tesla, Edison, and Lincoln. Based on the Barnes and Noble website, I’m expecting new printings for all three books. Plus, foreign translations!

The 8th printing of my Tesla book should be available any day now given the information I had received from the publisher. The book is sold out in my local store and temporarily unavailable on the B&N site as they get more books in the warehouse. Buyers at the local B&N tell me they still have brisk sales four years after the original publication. The situation is similar for my Edison book released in 2016, with the local store selling out and more books needed in the warehouse. And my newest book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is selling well according the manager of my local store. They’ve just restocked the shelves and a new printing is definitely due.

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In addition, Edison has joined Tesla in a Dutch language edition. The European publisher had previously done Dutch, German, and Spanish editions of Tesla so I expect to see the same for Edison. Tesla also is now in a Czech language edition. Hopefully the publisher will pick up the Lincoln book for translation some time next year.

Meanwhile, my recently released Lincoln book is doing well. I recently presented at the DC Historical Society conference in Washington, DC and I’m shortly heading up to Gettysburg for the annual Lincoln Forum. Then on December 12th I’ll present my book to the Lincoln Group of DC (click here to join us).

If that wasn’t enough, I am working on a new Lincoln book, and will be proposing a second Lincoln book in January. Stay tuned for more.

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.

 

Abraham Lincoln and the DC Historical Society Conference

I had the pleasure of participating in the DC Historical Society Annual Conference this weekend. The conference focused on the 50th anniversary of the civil unrest of 1968, a pivotal moment in the history of the District. I was there to speak about the man who played a large role in creating the civil rights movement – Abraham Lincoln.

On Friday I spent much of the day manning the Lincoln Group of DC table. Joined by Lincoln Group President John Elliff, Vice President John O’Brien, and fellow authors Elizabeth Smith Brownstein and Carl Adams, we provided information on the group and sold signed copies of our books.

DC Historical Society 11-4-17

Photo (c) Bruce Guthrie

On Saturday I was the sole presenter in the “Author Talks” segment. I had the opportunity to spend close to an hour with the attendees. After giving a presentation on Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, I entertained questions from an engaged group of Lincoln and DC aficionados. I was even asked about my other books on Tesla and Edison. Being able to interact with people who are truly interested in history and your writing is truly a privilege.

DC Historical Society 11-4-17

Photo (c) Bruce Guthrie

More information about the DC Historical Society can be found on their website. Meanwhile, I’m headed up to Gettysburg next week for the annual Lincoln Forum conference and the Battlefield Dedication day where good friend George Buss will present Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Lincoln Forum Vice-Chair Harold Holzer is the keynote speaker for the event.

For those in the DC area, I’ll also be speaking at the Lincoln Group of DC luncheon on December 12th. Check out the website and sign up now for this great event that will also feature Elizabeth Smith Brownstein and Carl Adams.

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.

[Daily Post]

 

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.

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

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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!

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

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!

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

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!

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

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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.

Abraham Lincoln and the Smithsonian Institution

National Academy of Sciences founders

Joseph 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 in the anteroom 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.

This was the beginning of a remarkable relationship.

[The above is a work in progress.]

[Painting at the top by Albert Herter in 1924, depicting President Abraham Lincoln signing the Charter of the Academy of Sciences in 1863. Henry is third from left. Courtesy National Academy of Sciences.]

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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