Calculating Niagara Falls

Nikola Tesla designed a way to harness the power of nature at Niagara Falls. But in my e-book Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate, I note that Abraham Lincoln had a scientific connection to Niagara Falls almost fifty years before Tesla. In 1848 Lincoln was taking a circuitous route home from a successful campaign tour of New England (where he stumped for Zachary Taylor). His tour took him to Niagara Falls. Like everyone else who sees the Falls for the first time, Lincoln was duly impressed. Unlike most people, however, his naturally analytical mind seemed more impressed with the geology, math, and hydrodynamics of the falls rather than its beauty.

Niagara Falls

I’ve taken an even closer look at Lincoln’s calculations of the power of Niagara in an article just published in The Lincolnian. The article is titled “Abraham Lincoln – The Majesty and the Math of Niagara Falls” and is in the Third Quarter 2015 issue. [Members of the Lincoln Group of the District of Columbia get The Lincolnian as part of their membership.]

Here’s a snippet. After Lincoln’s law partner William Herndon sees Niagara Falls on a trip several years after Lincoln’s visit, he comes back to describe the awe-inspiring magnificence of the Falls and…

Nearly exhausted with this description, Herndon then asked Lincoln of his opinion of Niagara Falls. “What made the deepest impression on you when you stood in the presence of the great natural wonder?” he queried Lincoln, expecting something equally imagery-indulgent.

“The thing that struck me most forcibly when I saw the Falls,” Lincoln said, “was, where in the world did all that water come from?”

Dumbfounded, the humorless Herndon could not believe his ears. The beauty! The splendor! Had the man not opened his eyes to the sight before him? Had he not opened his ears to the thundering roar of the water splashing into the mist below?

Herndon’s explanation of Lincoln’s answer was that “it in a very characteristic way illustrates how he looked at everything.”

And he was right. Lincoln had an analytical and inquisitive mind. His interest in science and technology is the topic of my forthcoming book and the presentation I will give at the Lincoln Group of DC lecture event on October 20, 2015. If you’re in the area, sign up now.

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 is on Abraham Lincoln.

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Tesla Goes to Ipswich, Is the Hammond Castle Next?

Tesla and the authorNikola Tesla is on his way to Ipswich. It’s appropriate that Tesla makes a stop in northeastern Massachusetts as he once was a business colleague of John Hays Hammond, Jr., owner and builder of the famous Hammond Castle in Gloucester. More on that later.

Tesla (with a little help from yours truly) will be at the Ipswich Museum for a noontime brown bag lecture on Monday, July 7th. Check out the Museum website for directions and other information. I hope you’ll join us there. The plan is to keep the presentation light and lively. Stories highlighting Tesla’s rather interesting personality quirks, friendship with Mark Twain, and contributions to the spectacular Niagara Falls will be the focus. No dry technical stuff in this talk, so come on down for an hour of one of the most interesting men of the last century.

The Ipswich Museum is a beautiful location for the event. Built in 1795, the Heard House is an interesting mix of colonial architecture and furnishings with Asian art stemming from Augustine Heard’s forays into the China trade of the early 19th Century. Sitting across the street is the Whipple House, also part of the Museum, built in 1677. Spend the morning visiting the two houses, then join me for Tesla.

For those who are familiar with the area, the Hammond Castle is only about a half hour away. John Hays Hammond (the Senior) financed some of Nikola Tesla’s early inventions. In a manner of speaking, he collected inventors, inviting not only Tesla but Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and many other scientists of the day over for tea (or perhaps it was brandy). At one of these events his young son, John Hays Hammond, Jr., first met Tesla and was enthralled by Tesla’s invention of robotics back in the late 1890s. Eventually, Junior (whom we mostly know as Jack) would form a company with Tesla and begin his own career of invention. I’ll talk more about the Hammond/Tesla connection on July 7th.

If you’re in Ipswich (or can get there) on July 7th, please join me noontime at the Ipswich Museum. I’ll talk about Tesla and Hammond and Niagara Falls and pigeons (yes, pigeons), show some cool pictures, and hopefully be entertaining enough to get you out of the heat for an hour. I’ll have copies of my book Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity for sale and will tell you how to download my soon-to-be-released e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time – for free!

Please spread the word and plan to join Tesla and I in Ipswich on the 7th!

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

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It’s Tesla Time – Events for Nikola Tesla’s Birthday

David J. KentNikola Tesla would be 158 years old on July 10, 2014 if he were still alive. In a way, Tesla has had a rebirth in recent years: Wardenclyffe is being turned into a museum and science center; Tesla has become a pop culture icon (and a car company); and books about him are selling off the shelves. This birthday has special meaning both for Tesla and for me. With that in mind here is an update of some key events over the next month or so.

Renewable Energy book goes live!: My Tesla and Renewable Energy ebook becomes available on Amazon the end of this month, just in time for Tesla’s birthday. In an amazing response to my previous article I received almost 30 suggestions for a title of the book. I’ll be opening up a vote for the final title shortly. I’ll also be opening up a vote for the final cover design, so keep an eye on this website and my Facebook author page. Be sure to “Like” the Facebook page because I’ll be giving loyal fans free access to the ebook when it first comes out.

Second printing of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity: My first Tesla book was a great hit and sold out the print run at Barnes and Noble. Because it has tons of photos, graphics, and some really cool cartoons, the book requires several months to reprint. In honor of Tesla’s birthday the second printing of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity will be in Barnes and Noble stores in July. The exact dates will depend on the specific store, so if you don’t see it prominently displayed please ask store staff if they have any copies. They sold quickly last year so grab them while they are available (or order a signed and inscribed copy of the first printing directly from me now).

Signing books 1-11-14

Tesla in schools?: I’ve also discussed with the Tesla Science Foundation and school principal Ashley Redfearn Neswick about using Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity as part of a school curriculum. Recently this idea has expanded to possibly writing additional books on how to teach Tesla (for teachers) and different grade levels (for students). This is part of a broader effort by TSF and Neswick to build a Tesla curriculum.

Brown Bag Lecture at Ipswich Museum: For those in New England, I’ll be giving a brown bag lunch lecture on Nikola Tesla on July 7th at the Ipswich Museum. Did you know that Tesla had a business venture with John Hays Hammond, Jr., famous not only for work he did on robotics (with Tesla) but for the Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts? I’ll talk about that and other parts of Nikola Tesla’s life. There will also be a book signing at the event.

Gloucester fisherman

Tesla Days in Philadelphia: The Tesla Science Foundation is sponsoring its annual Tesla Days on July 9-10 in Philadelphia. Check out the link for more information.

Teslamania in Toronto/Niagara Falls: Immediately following, on July 10-13, Tesla Magazine is sponsoring Teslamania, a multi-day celebration of Nikola Tesla’s life and work. Most of the events are in Toronto but there is a side trip to nearby Niagara Falls to view the power of nature that so inspired Tesla to harness hydroelectricity.

There will be a lot more as both my books on Nikola Tesla are available this summer. Join my Facebook author’s page to keep up on events. Everyone who has “Liked” my page will be eligible to access the ebook for free. Also look for a newsletter to start up later this summer.

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

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Countdown to Tesla and Renewable Energy has Begun!

David J. KentThe clock is ticking.The finishing touches are being made. And the countdown has begun. Coming in late June is my new ebook on Nikola Tesla’s interest and advocacy of renewable energy. As I wrote in September of 2012:

How many people knew that Nikola Tesla was a proponent of renewable energy? More than 100 years ago Tesla was pushing the idea that fossil fuels – most coal and oil at that time – were not sustainable resources.

Tesla’s first foray into renewable energy, what he called “harnessing the energy of nature,” was his contribution to hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls.

But Tesla didn’t stop there. He looked at other natural sources of energy too, including the sun (solar power), the wind (windmills), and water (tides, ocean waves, even power from the rain).  He believed we could harness the power of cosmic rays. He developed a system for geothermal energy. And he believed the energy of the earth could be unlimited.

All of this and more will be discussed in an new ebook to be available in June 2014. But before that happens I need a good title, and I’m asking for your help. Tesla and Renewable Energy is my working title, but perhaps you all can come up with something that has a bit more pop, a bit more excitement, a bit more, well, natural energy.

So if you have an idea for a title that captures the idea of Tesla and Renewable Energy, feel free to write it in the comments to this post. Or you can add it on my Facebook authors page. For everyone that leaves a title idea in the comments below I’ll tell you how you can download the ebook for free! If you “Like” my Facebook authors page you can also get the ebook for free when it comes out.

Watch this page in the future because I’ll also be asking for your help in choosing the final cover for the book. More on that shortly.

If the new Tesla ebook isn’t exciting enough, the second printing of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity will be in Barnes and Noble stores in July. It should also be available for order on the Barnes and Noble website (maybe even on Amazon). Or you can buy a signed and inscribed copy directly from me.

David J. Kent is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. 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.

Nikola Tesla and Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls. For decades it has been a favored place honeymooners, sightseers, and anyone interested in the immense beauty of nature. It was even the inspiration for a Three Stooges skit. And it’s where Nikola Tesla became famous.

Tesla at Niagara Falls

In his autobiography, Tesla reminisces about the first time he heard of Niagara Falls. It was in the Normal School during his youth. Here “there were a few mechanical models which interested me and turned my attention to water turbines.” After hearing a description of the great Niagara Falls, Tesla “pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by the Falls.” He proclaimed to his uncle that one day he would “go to America and carry out this scheme.”

Niagara Falls

Tesla now had that opportunity. After their successful collaboration at the Chicago World’s Fair, George Westinghouse set his sights on using the Tesla system to harness Niagara Falls for electricity generation. Up to this point the only use of the falls had been to build small canals to provide hydropower for mills and a tannery. But many saw the opportunity of channeling the awesome power of the falls to generate electricity. A former Edison board member, Edward Dean Adams, was picked to lead the newly formed Cataract Construction Company and determine the best way to obtain and then distribute electricity from the falls. Despite Thomas Edison’s assertions that he could transmit electricity as far as Buffalo, direct current systems were limited to running the machinery of local mills and lighting up some of the local village streets. The limitations of direct current were far too restrictive for any significant distribution.

Tesla’s alternating current system was just the answer the Cataract Construction Company was looking for, although they did not know that in the beginning. Adams first headed off to Europe where others were working to exploit alternating current for lighting and power generation. Eventually the Cataract Construction Company offered a contest of sorts, with cash prizes totaling $20,000 for the best plan for harnessing the falls. With more than a few parties claiming the rights to various parts of the alternating current system, there was backstabbing and counter claims and more than a little industrial theft of ideas. But in the end it was Tesla’s patents that won the day. The Westinghouse Company was chosen to provide the powerhouse and alternating current system, while the General Electric Company was awarded construction of the transmission lines.

Courtesy of NMAH Smithsonian Institution

Westinghouse, relying on a dozen Tesla patents, completed the powerhouse in 1895. Its enormous polyphase generator could produce an unprecedented 15,000 horsepower. Within the next year General Electric completed the transmission and distribution system and sufficient electricity to power industries “through the Falls and Buffalo areas.” Westinghouse went on to add another seven generating units, raising the power output to 50,000 horsepower. Tesla’s patented alternating current system was to change the lives of all Americans as the Niagara project showed investors that alternating current could transmit power over long distances.

Nikola Tesla went on to win the “war of the currents” against Thomas Edison, in large part because of his success with Westinghouse in Chicago and Niagara Falls. He dreamed of harnessing the power of nature to provide inexpensive, sustainable, electricity to everyone. How much power? Check out these two very brief videos, first from above, then down in the mist.

Tesla was on his way. He even got two statues, not just one, for his accomplishments at Niagara. And then disaster struck. More on that later.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for thirty-five years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.

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It’s Time to Travel

James JoyceI’ve been feeling a bit cooped up. The last time I traveled was in July when I went to Niagara Falls and New England. On that trip I visited Nikola Tesla’s two statues, then worked my way around Lake Ontario, past Lake Champlain, and down through New England to see the family. But that was months ago. I need to get out of the house.

Luckily I’m headed to southern California this weekend for a scientific conference. The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is an international group and its North American component holds a meeting every November. This year is Long Beach. I missed the last four annual meetings because I was living in Belgium for three years (and then was just arriving back from a trip to China and Japan as the last one got underway). So I’m excited to get back there, especially because I am becoming President of the SETAC Chapter that serves my region, the Chesapeake and Potomac Regional Chapter. Check out our new logo:

CPRC logo

Even Nikola Tesla is coming with me to SETAC. I have donated a signed copy of my book, to be signed and delivered when it comes off the printing press in the spring. I’m sure he will enjoy the southern California weather.

But that isn’t the only trip planned. In December I’ll be taking my parents on a cruise of the Caribbean, with stops in Roatan (Honduras), Belize City (Belize), Costa Maya and Cozumel (both Mexico). I’ll have more on that later.

That will cover my traveling for the rest of the year. I already feel the need to plan for next year. Where should I go – Any ideas?

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Niagara Falls High and Low

Ah, Niagara Falls. One of the wonders of the world. And a place that just has to be experienced. And to fully experience it you need to see it from both the American and the Canadian sides, as well as both from dry land and aboard the famous Maid of the Mist boats that take you right up under the, well, mist.

Niagara Falls, which is where the Niagara River drains Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, is actually three separate waterfalls. Yes, three, not two. Most people think of the arching Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and the straighter American Falls on the American side. But there is a third drop – Bridal Veil Falls – which is narrower and separated from American Falls by the tiny Luna Island.

Assuming you arrive by car from the American side, be sure to take the turn over the bridge crossing the deceptively peaceful river just upstream from American Falls and pass onto Goat Island. Here you can get right up to the edge of all three falls. Also visit the edge of American Falls from the US mainland side. You can even walk out on a tall structure that overhangs the river and provides a good view of the falls.

Then get back in your car, get your passport ready, and drive across Rainbow Bridge into Ontario, i.e., the Canadian side. From here you can walk along the banks and see all the falls across the river, providing the best spot for panoramic photos. And if you’re staying at one of the hotels on the Canadian side you might just be able to see the view below from your room on the 38th floor.

Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls

Ah, but you want to get closer to the action right. How about this:

Niagara Falls Horseshoe Falls Rainbow

Next, head on down to the tour boats, get yourself literally immersed in the experience, then get that camera out because back on shore you’ll likely get a photo like this:

Niagara Falls American Falls

Of course, Niagara also boasts two statues of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current patents allowed the first electricity generation from Niagara Falls.

So there you have Niagara Falls high and low. But one thing you probably won’t do is get the kind of view that Nik Wallenda recently got:

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 is on Abraham Lincoln, due out in 2017.

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Two Views of Nikola Tesla at Niagara Falls

Nikola Tesla and his alternating current system enabled the harnessing of hydroelectric power at Niagara Falls, the first great electrical power generation and transmission system in the country. To honor his contributions there are now two statues of Tesla at Niagara.

The first one was installed on Goat Island on the American side in the 1970s. The bronze statue is a copy of one sitting at the University of Belgrade in Belgrade, Serbia. It shows him sitting in a chair studying blueprints.

Nikola Tesla Niagara Falls American side

The second was installed in 2006 in Queen Victorian Park overlooking the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Here he is standing, a dashing young man in a long formal coat, holding an elegant cane, and a fancy top hat.

Nikola Tesla Canadian side

Which statue do you like best?

I’ll have more on Tesla’s contributions to the generation of electricity at Niagara in the book.

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