Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age

Princeton University Press
49
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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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About the author

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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4.5
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
May 7, 2013
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Pages
520
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ISBN
9781400846559
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
Science / General
Science / Physics / Electricity
Science / Physics / Electromagnetism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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A proposal for a new framework for fostering collaborations across disciplines, addressing both theory and practical applications.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration increasingly characterizes today's science and engineering research. The problems and opportunities facing society do not come neatly sorted by discipline. Difficulties arise when researchers from disciplines as different as engineering and the humanities work together and find that they speak largely different languages. This book explores a new framework for fostering collaborations among existing disciplines and expertise communities. The framework unites two ideas to emerge from recent work in STS: trading zones, in which scientific subcultures, each with its own language, develop the equivalents of pidgin and creole; and interactional expertise, in which experts learn to use the language of another research community in ways that are indistinguishable from expert practitioners of that community. A trading zone can gradually become a new area of expertise, facilitated by interactional expertise and involving negotiations over boundary objects (objects represented in different ways by different participants). The volume describes applications of the framework to service science, business strategy, environmental management, education, and practical ethics. One detailed case study focuses on attempts to create trading zones that would help prevent marine bycatch; another investigates trading zones formed to market the female condom to women in Africa; another describes how humanists embedded in a nanotechnology laboratory gained interactional expertise, resulting in improved research results for both humanists and nanoscientists.

Contributors
Brad Allenby, Donna T. Chen, Harry Collins, Robert Evans, Erik Fisher, Peter Galison, Michael E. Gorman, Lynn Isabella, Lekelia D. Jenkins, Mary Ann Leeper, Roop L. Mahajan, Matthew M. Mehalik, Ann E. Mills, Bolko von Oetinger, Elizabeth Powell, Mary V. Rorty, Jeff Shrager, Jim Spohrer, Patricia H. Werhane

“The story of one of the most prolific, independent, and iconoclastic inventors of this century . . . fascinating.”--Scientific American

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), credited as the inspiration for radio, robots, and even radar, has been called the patron saint of modern electricity. Based on original material and previously unavailable documents, this acclaimed book is the definitive biography of the man considered by many to be the founding father of modern electrical technology. Among Tesla’s creations were the channeling of alternating current, fluorescent and neon lighting, wireless telegraphy, and the giant turbines that harnessed the power of Niagara Falls.

This essential biography is illustrated with sixteen pages of photographs, including the July 20, 1931, Time magazine cover for an issue celebrating the inventor’s career.

“A deep and comprehensive biography of a great engineer of early electrical science--likely to become the definitive biography. Highly recommended.”--American Association for the Advancement of Science

“Seifer's vivid, revelatory, exhaustively researched biography rescues pioneer inventor Nikola Tesla from cult status and restores him to his rightful place as a principal architect of the modern age.” --Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“[Wizard] brings the many complex facets of [Tesla's] personal and technical life together in to a cohesive whole....I highly recommend this biography of a great technologist.” --A.A. Mullin, U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command, COMPUTING REVIEWS

“[Along with A Beautiful Mind] one of the five best biographies written on the brilliantly disturbed.”--WALL STREET JOURNAL

“Wizard is a compelling tale presenting a teeming, vivid world of science, technology, culture and human lives.”--NEW SCIENTIST

“Marc Seifer is an excellent writer and scholar, who has produced a wonderfully readable and illuminating biography of one of the most intriguing men of this century...mak[ing] us understand not only the man, but also the times in which he lived....[A] masterpiece.”--NELSON DEMILLE

“The author presents much new material...[and] bases his book on a large number of archival and primary sources....Underneath the layers of hero worship, the core of Seifer's book is a serious piece of scholarship.” --Ronald Kline, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN

“Seifer has done a remarkable job going through all the Tesla manuscripts...ferret[ing] out hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles in which he traces out Tesla's public image [and] offers a reasonable reconstruction of Tesla's emotional world...Seifer has significantly advanced our understanding of Tesla.”--Bernard Carlson, author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age, for ISIS

“It is my opinion that Dr. Seifer leads the world as the most authoritative of all the Tesla researchers.”--J.W. McGINNIS, President, International Tesla Society

“Far and away the best job among Tesla biographies.”--Jeffrey D. Kooistra, INFINITE ENERGY

“Wizard is...utterly absorbing with chapters charting all stages of Tesla's life...Seifer treats his prodigious subject with sympathy and realism.”--NEXUS

“Wizard...presents a much more accurate...picture of Tesla.... [It] is thorough, informative, entertaining and a valuable addition to electrotechnological history, past and future.”--ELECTRONIC ENGINEERING TIMES

“In modern times, Tesla may be enjoying a comeback thanks to books like Wizard.”--THE NEW YORK TIMES
Investigations into how technologies became peculiar forms of politics in an expanded geography of the Cold War.

The Cold War was not simply a duel of superpowers. It took place not just in Washington and Moscow but also in the social and political arenas of geographically far-flung countries emerging from colonial rule. Moreover, Cold War tensions were manifest not only in global political disputes but also in struggles over technology. Technological systems and expertise offered a powerful way to shape countries politically, economically, socially, and culturally. Entangled Geographies explores how Cold War politics, imperialism, and postcolonial nation building became entangled in technologies and considers the legacies of those entanglements for today's globalized world.

The essays address such topics as the islands and atolls taken over for military and technological purposes by the supposedly non-imperial United States, apartheid-era South Africa's efforts to achieve international legitimacy as a nuclear nation, international technical assistance and Cold War politics, the Saudi irrigation system that spurred a Shi'i rebellion, and the momentary technopolitics of emergency as practiced by Medecins sans Frontières.

The contributors to Entangled Geographies offer insights from the anthropology and history of development, from diplomatic history, and from science and technology studies. The book represents a unique synthesis of these three disciplines, providing new perspectives on the global Cold War.

In the final decades of the nineteenth century, three brilliant and visionary titans of America’s Gilded Age—Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse—battled bitterly as each vied to create a vast and powerful electrical empire. In Empires of Light, historian Jill Jonnes portrays this extraordinary trio and their riveting and ruthless world of cutting-edge science, invention, intrigue, money, death, and hard-eyed Wall Street millionaires. At the heart of the story are Thomas Alva Edison, the nation’s most famous and folksy inventor, creator of the incandescent light bulb and mastermind of the world’s first direct current electrical light networks; the Serbian wizard of invention Nikola Tesla, elegant, highly eccentric, a dreamer who revolutionized the generation and delivery of electricity; and the charismatic George Westinghouse, Pittsburgh inventor and tough corporate entrepreneur, an industrial idealist who in the era of gaslight imagined a world powered by cheap and plentiful electricity and worked heart and soul to create it.

Edison struggled to introduce his radical new direct current (DC) technology into the hurly-burly of New York City as Tesla and Westinghouse challenged his dominance with their alternating current (AC), thus setting the stage for one of the eeriest feuds in American corporate history, the War of the Electric Currents. The battlegrounds: Wall Street, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Niagara Falls, and, finally, the death chamber—Jonnes takes us on the tense walk down a prison hallway and into the sunlit room where William Kemmler, convicted ax murderer, became the first man to die in the electric chair.

Empires of Light is the gripping history of electricity, the “mysterious fluid,” and how the fateful collision of Edison, Tesla, and Westinghouse left the world utterly transformed.


From the Hardcover edition.
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