Stories of Invention, Told by Inventors and their Friends

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Composing in longhand and obsessed with the craft of writing — he considered well-chosen words a day to be his productive limit — Morris was known for taking his time. His magisterial trilogy of Theodore Roosevelt , published over a span of three decades, won him a Pulitzer Prize for Volume 1.

Thomas Edison presents few such problems. A figure of astonishing brilliance and manic productivity, he cared so little for the feelings of other people save the big investors who bankrolled his ventures that he saw no reason to keep anything bottled up inside. His archive runs to five million pages, including the pocket notebooks he carried everywhere to record the ideas that came in torrents, and the brutally frank letters he wrote about the failures of immediate family members he otherwise studiously ignored. Were it left solely to Edison, he would have locked himself away in his lab, emerging every few months to announce yet another miraculous discovery.

This leads to a lot of flipping back and forth through the chapters, with a heavy reliance on the index to keep things straight.

Writing about someone who filed more than 1, patents, whose inventions ranged from incandescent electric lighting to immovable concrete furniture, who personally tested 15, native plants in a failed attempt to produce a domestic rubber supply, demands a working knowledge of electrical engineering, chemistry, radiography, metallurgy and botany — all of which Morris readily acquired.

What is missing at times is the discipline needed to keep the main themes of the story in focus. Few biographers, however, possess the narrative talents of Edmund Morris. It was in Budapest where, one day on a leisurely walk through the park, he randomly came up with the idea for what would one day be the induction motor, one of his greatest inventions. However, Tesla didn't stay in Budapest for too long. He dreamed of setting sail for the United States, and at age 28, he finally did so. Not long after landing on America's rocky shores, he met a man named Thomas Edison.

If there were ever two inventors fated to be antagonists, it was Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Tesla possessed an intense, aloof, introverted personality, while Edison was a loud, boisterous businessman.

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According to the Tesla Memorial Society of New York , Tesla's immigration happened because of a recommendation letter that inventor Charles Batchelor wrote to Edison, stating, "I know two great men. One is you, and the other is this young man. Inspired by their common fascination in electricity, Tesla journeyed to the U. He promptly went to work for Edison. At the time, Edison's company was using "direct current" electricity, and the newbie Tesla proposed an innovative idea: replacing the inefficient direct current setup with what Tesla called "alternating current. So, Tesla gleefully pounced on the challenge, and within only a few months, he proudly offered Edison his successful results.

Stories of Invention, Told by Inventors and their Friends by Edward Everett Hale

One problem: Edison was a huge jerk about the whole thing, and he brushed Tesla off with a mean comment about how Tesla didn't understand "American humor. Here's the catch: Tesla was right, and Edison was wrong. Basically, the problem with Edison's direct current DC electricity setup was that it only flowed in one direction. Why did this matter? There are a lot of technical reasons, but basically, in addition to having inefficient lamps, Edison's setup required power stations to be built every 2 miles, making it a huge chore and financial burden to send power a long distance.

Tesla's AC idea changed that. Westinghouse saw the potential in AC, and decided to spread Tesla's invention across the country, powering the entire United States.

Nothing personal. Tesla's most notable victory came in , when his AC invention harnessed the power of Niagara Falls, sending electricity all the way to Buffalo, New York. Using Niagara Falls as a power supply was a major achievement in its own right, but according to PBS , and it was also one of Tesla's childhood dreams. Tesla crafted amazing new inventions at the same rate that some people change their socks.

In addition to pioneering the use of AC, he also created the "Tesla coil," which would go on to become the basis of radio and TV today, according to Business Insider. He figured if he could create a warship that required no humans on board, it would mean less lives lost. Today, remote-controlled boats are mostly just a hobby. One of Tesla's most infamous inventions was his supposed "earthquake machine," which he talked about to the New York World-Telegram in , according to Rex Research.

Tesla claimed his device could fit "in an overcoat pocket," and that he'd once triggered such a heavy earthquake in New York City that the police had rushed to his lab. Crazy, right? Mythbusters tried and failed to replicate his experiment, so who knows if the "earthquake machine" really worked.

The only thing more impressive than Tesla's inventions are the ones he dreamed up, but never completed. In an effort to end all wars, Tesla at one point developed plans for a "death beam," according to PBS , which he claimed would "send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10, enemy airplanes at a distance of miles.

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Tesla's otherworldly concepts hardly ended there. According to The Week , he envisioned a future wherein all labor would be automated. Factories would be run by robots, and cars would drive themselves. Yes, Tesla predicted the self-driving car back when the whole concept of "cars" was still fresher than a spring chicken. Tesla's strangest claim of all came in , when he said he'd received radio transmissions from Mars, as described in The Electrical Age. If anyone ever did discover Martians, it would've been Tesla. However, History says that in , scientists replicated Tesla's experiments and found that the signals were just caused by the moon Io passing through Jupiter's magnetic field.

July 28, July 11, Laura Mast , Georgia Institute of Technology. June 17, Ashley Marranzino , University of Rhode Island. June 6, Farah Qaiser , University of Toronto. June 3, Jenny Howard , Wake Forest University. May 31, Jordan Harrod , Harvard University.

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May 12, Her work helped save millions of lives from infection, diabetes, and anemia. September 26, August 26, Dan Samorodnitsky. July 31, Joshua Peters , Massachusetts Institute of Technology. October 17, Molly Sargen , Harvard University. September 30, Patricia Fernandez. April 28, Max Levy , University of Colorado Boulder. October 3, May 17, Each week, we'll send you the story of a pioneering woman in STEM.

From ancient scholars, to women's rights activists, to current researchers, there are so many fascinating scientists you may not have heard of. Massive Logo Massive Science. Surviving the Anthropocene Adapting to endure humanity's impact on the world.

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