Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

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Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

by W. Bernard Carlson

Princeton University Press | May 12, 2013 | Hardcover

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Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America''s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla''s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an "idealist" inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla''s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 520 Pages, 5.91 × 8.66 × 0.79 in

Published: May 12, 2013

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0691057761

ISBN - 13: 9780691057767

Found in: Biography and Memoir

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– More About This Product –

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

by W. Bernard Carlson

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 520 Pages, 5.91 × 8.66 × 0.79 in

Published: May 12, 2013

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0691057761

ISBN - 13: 9780691057767

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
CHAPTER ONE An Ideal Childhood (1856-1878) 12
CHAPTER TWO Dreaming of Motors (1878-1882) 34
CHAPTER THREE Learning by Doing (1882-1886) 60
CHAPTER FOUR Mastering Alternating Current (1886-1888) 76
CHAPTER FIVE Selling the Motor (1888-1889) 100
CHAPTER SIX Searching for a New Ideal (1889-1891) 117
CHAPTER SEVEN A Veritable Magician (1891) 129
CHAPTER EIGHT Taking the Show to Europe (1891-1892) 143
CHAPTER NINE Pushing Alternating Current in America (1892-1893) 158
CHAPTER TEN Wireless Lighting and the Oscillator (1893-1894) 176
CHAPTER ELEVEN Efforts at Promotion (1894-1895) 193
CHAPTER TWELVE Looking for Alternatives (1895-1898) 214
CHAPTER THIRTEEN Stationary Waves (1899-1900) 262
CHAPTER FOURTEEN Wardenclyffe (1900-1901) 302
CHAPTER FIFTEEN The Dark Tower (1901-1905) 331
CHAPTER SIXTEEN Visionary to the End (1905-1943) 368
EPILOGUE 396
Note on Sources 415
Abbreviations and Sources 421
Notes 423
Acknowledgments 473
Index 477

From the Publisher

Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America''s first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. Drawing on original documents from Tesla''s private and public life, Carlson shows how he was an "idealist" inventor who sought the perfect experimental realization of a great idea or principle, and who skillfully sold his inventions to the public through mythmaking and illusion.

This major biography sheds new light on Tesla''s visionary approach to invention and the business strategies behind his most important technological breakthroughs.

From the Jacket

"Nikola Tesla, like one of his oscillators, flickered between different states so quickly that they can easily blur. Carlson captures this extraordinary, contradictory life--inventor, futurist visionary, showman, and, at times, ranting narcissist. We get to see how Tesla scrambled like mad, built with ambition, and in his later efforts failed monumentally. Here is a book that guides us through this wild ride with empathy and without hagiography."--Peter Galison, Harvard University

"Combining archival research with the latest scholarship from the history of technology, Carlson has written the balanced, scholarly biography that Nikola Tesla has long deserved. This is the definitive study of his life and work."--David E. Nye, University of Southern Denmark

"Most biographies of Tesla lack technical background and are uncritical and adulatory in their approach. Carlson''s perspective as a historian--particularly a historian of technology--is indispensable for understanding Tesla''s place in the rapidly changing American society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His style is engaging and accessible, and the book will clearly be of value to the historical community."--Bernard S. Finn, curator emeritus, Smithsonian Institution

"Tesla is a tour de force of scholarship and analysis. This is the definitive work on Tesla that brings to light much new information about his life, his inventions, and the changing socioeconomic context in which he worked. Carlson has mined the primary sources to an unprecedented depth and breadth. The book is nothing less than extraordinary."--Michael Brian Schiffer, author of Power Struggles: Scientific Authority and the Creation of Practical Electricity before Edison

Editorial Reviews

"Since the death of Nikola Tesla in 1943, his life has deserved a worthy biography. Bernard Carlson has delivered that in Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age, which portrays Tesla as intensely human. . . . Anyone, whether simply an interested reader or a professional historian, engineer, or physicist, will finish Tesla with a deepened understanding of his world, character, and accomplishments."--Robert Rosenberg, Physics Today
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