Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Paperback | April 27, 2015

byW. Bernard Carlson

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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.

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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 Amer...

From the Jacket

"Carlson has written a serious, rigorous book grounded in the academic history of technology, but also a page-turner that any fan of Tesla will enjoy."--Robert MacDougall, Western University"Nikola Tesla, like one of his oscillators, flickered between different states so quickly that they can easily blur. Carlson captures this extraord...

W. Bernard Carlson is professor of science, technology, and society in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and professor of history at the University of Virginia. His books include Technology in World History and Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:520 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:April 27, 2015Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691165610

ISBN - 13:9780691165615

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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

Editorial Reviews

"The problem for any biographer is that there are really two distinctly different Nikola Teslas. One is the towering genius shunned by the ignorant establishment, whose greatest works are still suppressed; this is the Tesla adored by the alternative science community and the popular media. . . . The other Tesla is the miserable failed inventor whose great plans and endless boasts came to nothing. . . . Carlson manages the impressive feat of steering a middle course between these two."--David Hambling, Fortean Times