Nikola Tesla – The Road to Wireless and Wardenclyffe

Wardenclyffe. The laboratory, with its iconic tower, has once again reached the almost mythical proportions it once attracted when Nikola Tesla was first erecting it. The recent purchase of the property by the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe ensures that Tesla’s name will touch a new generation of students eager to know about this almost forgotten inventor.

But the concept of wireless telegraphy had become an obsession with Tesla long before the tower began to rise near the Long Island shoreline. Back in the days that Tesla toiled in his South Fifth Avenue laboratory the idea of “radio” began taking shape. According to John O’Neill, Tesla’s friend and first biographer, Tesla had been on the verge of making the “first distance demonstration of his wireless system.” But then in 1895 his laboratory burned to the ground. Everything was lost – his equipment, his experiments, his notebooks, and his dreams. This catastrophe would set Tesla back long enough to give a certain Guglielmo Marconi a chance to leapfrog ahead and receive credit for the discovery of radio.

Off to Colorado Springs

Tesla reestablished himself in another lab in Manhattan, but quickly found the space to be rather limiting for the type of experiments he wanted to pursue. As luck would have it he was invited to build a laboratory in Colorado Springs. Blessed, or perhaps cursed, as one of the most active lightning strike areas in the country, this perfect location also came with a promise of unlimited access to electricity from the city’s newly built alternating current distribution system. Toss in a $30,000 feed stake from Col. John Jacob Astor and Tesla was westward bound.

During his nine-month stay in Colorado beginning in June 1899 and ending in January 1900 Tesla kept voluminous notes and drawings, explicitly detailing his many experiments. Scientists are still today poring through those notes to see what other wonders are yet to be discovered from Tesla’s work.

It was here that Tesla decided it was possible to transmit electric energy through the earth under the proper conditions of resonance. Tesla “quickly discovered that the earth is charged to an extremely high potential and is provided with some kind of a mechanism for maintaining its voltage.” He believed that he had found stationary waves, and that the planet behaved like a conductor. Already the significance of this phenomenon as it relates to the transmission of energy had become clear to Tesla. “Not only was it practicable to send telegraphic messages to any distance without wires, as I recognized long ago, but also to impress upon the entire globe the faint modulations of the human voice, far more still, to transmit power, in unlimited amounts, to any terrestrial distance and almost without loss.”

The main focus of his stay in Colorado was conducting wireless telegraphy experiments with the goal of perfecting the long-range transmission of radio signals. In some of his experiments he tested the idea of how to “tune” a wireless transmitter to respond to specific signals while rejecting others. This improvement was critical for the development of wireless transmission in order to avoid the interception of a signal by others. Alas, while his time in Colorado was extremely productive, one experiment knocked out the little Colorado Springs power station. Not long after, Tesla packed up his bags and headed back East.

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Tesla Magazine interview

David J. Kent being interviewed by Tesla Magazine

Wardenclyffe

Having advanced his wireless transmission of radio waves and energy in Colorado, Tesla returned to New York in early 1900 with a plan. He envisioned the ability to broadcast under multiple wavelengths from a single station. Purchasing 200-acres in a prime location near present day Shoreham, Long Island and an influx of money from venture capitalists – including a massive $150,000 stake from industrialist J. Pierpont Morgan alone – Tesla began working on the facility and tower that would be named Wardenclyffe.

Designed by famous architect Stanford White, Wardenclyffe consisted of an odd looking tower about “187 feet high, having a spherical terminal about 68 feet in diameter.” Tesla insisted that these dimensions were sufficient “for the transmission of virtually any amount of energy.” Right from the beginning, however, there were design problems. Many contractors balked at the idea of building such a large skeleton of wood topped by a large semicircular electrode that presented itself like a sail to the wind. Tesla also quickly used up the money provided by Morgan, who was none too pleased about the idea of continuing to finance an operation that may never produce results or provide any return on his investment.

Tesla continued to do preliminary experiments as construction moved forward, though this occurred unevenly because of financial difficulties and many last-minute design changes. Wardenclyffe was much more expensive to build than either Tesla or Morgan had anticipated.

But Wardenclyffe was to be the site where Tesla’s World Wireless System would provide a lucrative commercial exploitation of his long-theorized wireless communication system. This world system combined several of Tesla’s inventions and made possible “not only the instantaneous and precise wireless transmission of any kind of signals, messages or characters, to all parts of the world, but also the inter-connection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and other signal stations without any change in their present equipment.” It was to be the future.

The basic principles were relatively simple. The Earth would act as a conductor of electrical energy, just as would a current flowing through a wire or other conductors. A grounded Tesla coil transmitter would create a large displacement of the Earth’s electric charge. A similar Tesla coil tuned to the same frequency could be used as the receiver, and the energy would flow wirelessly through the Earth from one to the other. Whether this would actually work was something neither Tesla nor anyone else to date has been able to determine.

Unfortunately, the most recent economic downturn of the time – the “Panic of 1901” – had severely strained the available investment opportunities for continuing the wireless work. Tesla wrote to J. Pierpont Morgan repeatedly asking for additional funds, all without reply. Then came Marconi’s (apparent) transmission of the letter “S” from England to Newfoundland. Marconi, using ideas patented by Tesla, had beaten Tesla to the punch. Morgan was livid. Tesla was frantic. By mid-1903 the future of Wardenclyffe looked bleak and Tesla wrote Morgan again – this time to impress upon him that his World Wireless System could accomplish much more than just the wireless communication intended for the tower, it could also provide wireless transmission of electric power. Morgan remained unimpressed. Not seeing how he could make any profit from this “free energy,” he replied in late 1904 that it would “be impossible for [him] to do anything in the matter.” Morgan also discouraged other financiers from investing in Tesla’s enterprise. With Tesla’s earlier alternating current motor patents, and their associated royalties, expiring in 1905, Tesla was quickly running out of money to fund Wardenclyffe.

While Tesla did accomplish some useful things on the site, including invention of his bladeless turbine and sales of Tesla coils, for all intents and purposes the Wardenclyffe experiment was over. Wardenclyffe was eventually transferred to George Boldt of the Waldorf-Astoria in payment for all the years of unpaid hotel charges accrued to Tesla. Depending on who is telling the story, the tower was destroyed in 1917 either by a contractor for scrap so that Boldt could recoup some of his lost income, or by the government to keep it from being used by German spies.

Tesla was not finished inventing, but the most productive time of his life was slowly coming to an end.

But now, nearly a century later, Tesla’s laboratory is being resurrected from years of neglect. Its restoration as a museum and science center is a fitting tribute to a man whose contributions have also long been neglected. Together the museum and the name of Tesla will rise again.

[The above is my contribution to the very first Tesla Magazine, July 10, 2013.]

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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Tesla and Edison: The War is Lost

We’ve previously looked at Tesla and Edison fighting the War of the Currents (Part I and Part II). Now we come to the final round in the battle.

Tesla vs Edison cartoon

Two events were major factors in deciding the war of the currents. In 1893 there was a competition to determine who would get the contract to light up the World’s Columbian Exposition. Also known as the Chicago World’s Fair, the six-month-long exposition was to showcase new technology from all over the world. Both the General Electric Company and the Westinghouse Electric Company (powered by Tesla’s alternating current technology) were among the competitors. Edison’s direct current was pitted against Westinghouse’s alternating current. Bidding was brutal as Edison and Westinghouse viciously undercut each other in an attempt to land the plum contract. Other competitors were quickly eliminated, and Westinghouse ultimately won. Tesla’s polyphase alternating current system lit up the fair.

The result was spectacular. Nicknamed the “White City” because of the white stucco buildings surrounding the central pool, the name also could have referred to the brilliant aura created by 92,000 outdoor incandescent lamps that lit the grounds for six months. Including all the interior lamps, the fair required 250,000 modified Sawyer-Mann “stopper lamps,” a competing bulb Westinghouse raced to produce because Edison refused to allow use of his patented long-life bulbs. Edison was not shut out completely, however, as he was able to display several of his own inventions in the showcase electrical building, including the dominating “Edison Tower of Light.”

Because of the success of alternating current at the Chicago World’s Fair, the team of Westinghouse and Tesla also beat out Edison for the next major contract at Niagara Falls. The Niagara River flows north from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, dropping up to 188 feet over some of the most spectacular falls in North America. Engineers had made only limited use of the power of the falling water until the newly formed Cataract Construction Company (led by former Edison Electric Board member Edward Dean Adams) chose to base its new electrical power plant on a dozen Tesla patents. Tesla’s polyphase generator system beat out Edison’s direct current, but Edison won the contract to string electrical wires from Niagara to Buffalo, nearly twenty miles away.

These setbacks effectively removed Edison from the electric power generation business, a process that had already begun back in 1892, when competition and J. P. Morgan’s maneuverings forced Edison to merge his Edison General Electric Company with the Thomson-Houston Company to form the new General Electric. While somewhat bitter at how he had been treated, Edison turned to other pursuits, including iron ore milling and the development of motion picture projectors. Edison was about to become a movie mogul, albeit a reluctant one. Tesla also turned to other pursuits, including Wardenclyffe.

[This is part II of a three part series on Tesla vs Edison in the War of the Currents, all adapted from my book Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World. Also check out my earlier book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Both are available in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. See links below. Part I of the series can be read here. And here is Part II.

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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Tesla and Edison: The War of the Currents Continues

As described previously, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla fought what has come to be known as the “war of the currents.” Tesla had developed his complete alternating current induction motor and all the associated transformers, then hooked up with George Westinghouse to compete against Edison’s already established direct current system.

Tesla vs Edison

Edison did not give in easily. He began a public relations campaign to discredit alternating current as too dangerous for public use. He had a point. Alternating current could be raised to incredibly high voltages, whereas direct current was held at relatively low voltages. Edison published pamphlets ominously titled A Warning from the Edison Electric Light Company suggesting alternating current was not safe. He also (falsely) suggested to suppliers and utilities that Westinghouse was in violation of Edison’s patents, and thus it would be unwise to rely on the soon-to-be-departed technology. Engineering societies debated the merits, although sometimes the charges and countercharges seemed more personal than professional, with combatants “fighting tooth and nail” for the future.

The battle between AC and DC also got bloody. While relatively rare, accidents sometimes occurred on the network of naked electrical wires strung on poles set alongside city streets. One particularly gruesome scene occurred when John Feeks, an electrical repairman sent up to remove dead wires, accidentally found a live one and fell into a nest of wires, where he “dangled for more than forty-five minutes.” Streaks of light flashed from his body as spectators gasped in horror below. Reporters raced from the scene to get quotes from Edison on the dangers of alternating current, which he duly provided without knowing whether the wires were AC or his own DC.

Edison also actively lobbied for use of the electric chair to replace the usual means of execution, an overdose of morphine or hanging. He felt the chair would be more humane because it would provide a quicker, cleaner kill. More important, it would use alternating current, further bolstering Edison’s claim that alternating current was too dangerous for humanity. Some members of the committee set up to evaluate the methods were skeptical until Edison sent a letter of support. “I certainly had no doubt after hearing his statement,” one committee member said, and the recommendation was implemented. Unfortunately for Edison, and for the poor axe murderer William Kemmler on which it was first used, the execution did not go smoothly. After supposedly being electrocuted to death, Kemmler suddenly let out a loud cry of pain, to which the attendants responded by turning the power up to full for two minutes, long enough for “the stench of burning flesh” to fill the room.

Edison also allowed electrical engineer Harold Pitney Brown to use his laboratory for a series of experiments. Brown paid neighborhood boys to collect stray dogs, which he then electrocuted in Edison’s lab using Westinghouse’s alternating current. He then wrote letters to the press exclaiming the dangers of that “damnable” alternating current. To denigrate his main competitor completely, Edison called the electrocutions “getting Westinghoused.”

Two huge events were major factors in deciding the war of the currents. More on that in the next installment.

[This is part II of a three part series on Tesla vs Edison in the War of the Currents, all adapted from my book Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World. Also check out my earlier book, Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity. Both are available in Barnes and Noble stores nationwide. See links below. Part I of the series can be read here. Here is Part III.]

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, 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. His next book, Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, is scheduled for release in summer 2017.

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Third Year Reflections of a Science Traveler

DominicaThis month marks the third year anniversary on the best decision ever made. In 2013 I made the decision to leave my long-time scientific career to become a science traveler. I didn’t leave the science, merely the part that paid well. I took up traveling and writing and in other ways bringing science and history to life. Last year I reflected again on reaching a second anniversary. And suddenly it has been three years. As they say, time flies.

It has been an amazing experience. I’ve seen places I had never thought I would see, met people I never knew existed, and written books I never thought I would write. Along the way I’ve grown as a writer, a traveler, and a person. At least I hope the latter is true.

One of the major uncertainties of a writing life is whether anyone will ever read what you write. I’ve been lucky. That first book on Nikola Tesla published just as I was embarking on this adventure is now into its 7th printing, has been translated into several foreign languages, and is a continuing success (figuratively) flying off the shelves at Barnes and Noble. Because of its success I now have a follow up book on Thomas Edison, which now sits side-by-side in Barnes and Noble with Tesla and has had strong initial sales. And now I’m working on a third book in the same style on my other major interest – Abraham Lincoln. That book should come out in 2017.

When I’m not writing (or reading), I’m traveling. This year saw two epic trips in the sense of adding to my “countries visited” list. Early in the year I took a sailing cruise to the Caribbean. Not one of those huge floating hotel ships, this was a smaller sailing cruise liner with only about 250 passengers. The second was to the Balkan countries of Serbia, Montenegro, and Croatia. While there I got to meet with the Prince and Princess of Serbia (technically they are King and Queen but go by the lower titles due to the politics of their former exile). There were other trips as well, including San Antonio/Carlsbad Caverns and a research visit at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. I’m going back out to Illinois next week to see other Lincoln sites in New Salem, Lincoln (the city), and Bloomington.

There were some glitches this year as well. After decades of generally good health I found myself in and out of hospitals and doctors offices for a variety of mostly unrelated issues. The biggest was eye surgery to remove a tumor (benign!) in my right orbit that had my eye bulging out like Marty Feldman’s Igor from Young Frankenstein. Because of I’m still officially in recovery (surgery was less than a month ago) it led to postponement of a planned October trip to China. No worries, I’ll do it next year.

Speaking of next year, the tentative travel plans include not only the aforementioned China (and South Korea), but hopefully Machu Picchu and one or two of a dozen other possibilities on my list. The Lincoln book I’m writing now should be in the stores next year. As soon as that manuscript is submitted I’ll return to my original Lincoln and science book project, which should put it on a schedule to come out in 2018. I already have the next book topic lined up; more on that when it gets closer.

So on to the fourth year of a Science Traveler life!

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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Tesla and Edison in Barnes and Noble

I’ve been offline a lot lately due to a major eye surgery and ensuing inflammation. But while I’ve been a bit down and out, my Tesla and Edison books have been in Barnes and Noble bookstores.

Tesla and Edison in BN August 28 2016

Tesla bottom middle; Edison top right

For a while they weren’t being displayed because B&N wanted to promote their ridiculously overwhelming selection of “adult coloring books.” Yes, we’ve reached the point where adults actually have regressed to the point where any words are too many words. Luckily the coloring book phase seems to be winding down and they’ve put out both of my books. So run down to your local store and check them out.

Meanwhile, I’m busy working on my next book in the same style – on Abraham Lincoln!

I’ll write more shortly. The swelling of my eye has gone down enough for me to make short forays onto my laptop, but I should be up and writing full time again in the next few days.

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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Tesla to Edison to Lincoln Redux

Early in the history of Science Traveler I wrote a post called “Tesla to Edison to Lincoln – Connecting the Dots.” It turns out that post was more prophetic than I ever could have imagined.

At the time I was still writing my book on Nikola Tesla, which was released in the summer of 2013. Three years later Tesla is into its 7th printing, is still selling well in Barnes and Noble stores, and has been translated into several foreign languages.

The success of Tesla led the publication of my book on Thomas Edison, which hit Barnes and Noble stores a couple of weeks ago (late July 2016). Future books in the series a possibility.

The popularity of my science series books has inspired the publisher to expand into a series on key historical figures. Among the first to be tackled is Abraham Lincoln. Since I’ve long been a history buff, in particular Abraham Lincoln (I have over 1200 Lincoln books on my shelf), it looks like I’ll be writing the first in the series.

Tesla to Edison to Lincoln!

Tesla Edison Lincoln

I’ll have more details once they get ironed out. The anticipated release date is sometime in 2017, but keep checking back here for updates. And look for my Tesla and Edison books in stores 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.

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Tesla vs Edison – The Battle Begins

Tesla vs Edison cartoonNikola Tesla was a sometimes eccentric genius who changed the world. Thomas Edison was a sometimes eccentric genius who changed the world. Wait, can both of those be true? Yes, and here’s why.

As I’ve written before, Tesla and Edison were two very different men of invention. Tesla liked to work alone and think big, while Edison commanded an “invention factory” and tinkered improvements incrementally. Tesla dressed impeccably and received formal college education, while Edison dressed frumpily and had almost no formal education. Tesla focused on inventing and let others try to commercialize his work; Edison focused on commercializing his work quickly, often before it was even ready.

On the other hand, both were hard workers and both helped bring new technologies into existence. And while we often think we know all about the two men, each gives us a few surprises, as these two prior posts show:

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Nikola Tesla

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Thomas Edison

It’s common for fans of Tesla to dismiss Edison, and vice versa. In reality their lives overlapped only briefly along one type of technology – AC vs DC power. Tesla (with George Westinghouse) won that battle. But outside of that issue their lives went in different directions. Tesla made significant advances in radio, wireless and renewable energy, neon lighting, rotary engines, bladeless turbines, and robotics, among others. Edison got into phonographs, film making and projection, iron ore milling, Portland cement, and a domestic source of rubber.

Tesla alwaysInterestingly, both had a connection to science fiction. Tesla’s friend Hugo Gernsback (after whom the science fiction Hugo Awards are named) adapted many of Tesla’s ideas and inventions in his Amazing Stories and other series. And Thomas Edison? Well, Edison began writing a science fiction novel himself, though he never quite got around to finishing it.

In 2013 I was honored to write a book about Nikola Tesla. Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity is now into its 7th printing and still selling well in Barnes and Noble stores, as well as translations around the world. This year, 2016, my new book on Thomas Edison is in the stores. Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World hit shelves in late July.

And now the battle is on. Can Edison beat out Tesla in the marketplace? Or will Tesla win the battle of the books? Frankly, I think both men – and both books – have a place in the world. Both made huge contributions to society along largely different paths. Both men are worth learning more about. I hope you’ll read both books.

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World

Nikola Tesla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Now Available! Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern WorldMy newest book, Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World, is now available.

You can purchase it on the Barnes and Noble website as either the hard cover book or a Nook e-book.

It will also be displayed prominently in the front of Barnes and Noble stores across the country. If you don’t see it yet, be sure to ask for it.

As with Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity, the books are expected to sell out fast so get your first edition while they last. [For Tesla fans, you can get the book for half price this month in honor of his 160th birthday]

Check out this preview of Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget you have only a week left to enter to win free copies of both Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World on Goodreads.

Nikola Tesla

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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 July 2016.

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Meeting Tesla Royalty in Serbia

I’m just back from a two week trip that took me to Nikola Tesla’s homelands in Serbia and Croatia (with Montenegro in between). Among many other other experiences I had the good fortune of meeting with what can be considered Tesla royalty (not to mention, actual royalty).

Dr. Branimir Jovanovic, Tesla Museum, Belgrade

Within hours of arrival I hiked up to the Nikola Tesla Museum to meet with the Director, Dr. Branimir Jovanovic. The museum was officially closed to the public, but Dr. Jovanovic and I had corresponded in advance and he encouraged me to stop by. Amidst an invite-only champagne reception we talked about Tesla, the museum, and the future, including the new exhibits and web site that would be launched the very next day. I presented him with a copy of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity signed and inscribed to him.

HRH Prince Alexander of Serbia

The next evening I attended a private reception of Tesla people at the Royal Palace and met HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia. [Read here for background on the royal family and why he doesn’t use the term “King”] Prince Alexander and I  (with Tesla Science Foundation President Nikola Lonchar above) discussed ways to expand the public’s knowledge of Tesla. I offered to reach out to magazines in the U.S. and told I’m working with the Serbian Embassy in Washington DC to give a presentation at the Smithsonian Institution this fall. I also spent time talking to Princess Katherine about her many humanitarian efforts.

At the Royal Palace

While at the Palace I was introduced to another Tesla royalty of sorts, a gentleman who has published three books on Tesla in the Serbian language and who, along with Nikola Lonchar, is looking to get them translated into English. And, of course, there is the ultimate in Tesla “royalty” in William Terbo, the grandnephew of Nikola Tesla. Terbo was not in Serbian for these events (he was attending events in Canada for Tesla’s birthday), but I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Terbo on past occasions. It might sound a little saccharin to say, but it was a thrill to shake the hand of a man who shook the hand of Nikola Tesla (when Terbo was 10 years old).

I’ll have much more on this trip to Serbia and environs in the future. Before I end I have to thank Sherry Kumar for organizing the trip to Tesla’s homeland and Nikola Lonchar for his incredible leadership in helping today’s world come to know the incredible contributions of Nikola Tesla. Check back here soon for more of my travels.

Watch this space for plenty of great photos of Nikola Tesla’s heritage homelands.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget you can enter to win free copies of both Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World on Goodreads.

Nikola Tesla

Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 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 July 2016.

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