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Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla
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"John O'Neil understands me better than any man alive." -- Nikola Tesla --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Tesla, pioneer of electrical engineering, was a close friend of Pulitzer Prize-winning author O'Neill, JOHN JOSEPH O'NEILL (b. 1889- d. 1955)) also wrote Engineering the New Age and You and the Universe: What Science Reveals. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
you've only read his technical writings, here's the book that will
answer your questions about Tesla.
Written from the point of view of someone who knew him, Prodigal Genius
gives an amazing glimpse into the personality of this remarkable inventor.
There are lengthy passages about his childhood and early career including how
he got cheated out of $20,000 for inventing alternating current.
There are also thought-provoking stories about how some of his inventions
backfired and almost shook down a city block or two!
Even if you're not a Tesla nut, Prodigal Genius is a great read--it's exciting enough
that it's hard to put down. If you weren't a Tesla nut when you picked it up, you will be when you put it down!
Once you read this book you will find it difficult to name an aspect of modern life that hasn't been affected by the hand of Nikola Tesla.
Some of Tesla's ideas were so far ahead of his time that to the people of his day, they were considered impossible; his vision of the world of the future was mocked and laughed at even by other scientists. Over time scepticism about the possibilities of science and technology has waned. Unfortunately for us the world was not yet ready for Tesla, this man out of time, and he died with his greatest achievments alive only in his mind.
Tesla's mother could repeat, without error or omission, thousands of verses of the national poetry of her country. Tesla shared her retentive memory. He had another ability that he only revealed to his mother. If Tesla thought of an object, it would appear before him exhibiting the appearance of solidity and massiveness. He used this ability to visualize the solution to creating the first alternating current generator.
The first time Tesla's ability to visualize helped him in his quest to develop an alternating current generator, occurred when he suggested to a college professor that alternating current would solve some of the problems with a piece of electrical equipment that could be used either to generate electricity or if supplied energy could operate as a motor. As his professor demonstrated the machine, the solution to the problem came to Tesla in such a vivid, illuminating flash of understanding that he knew his visualization contained the correct and practical answer. He saw both the equipment operating without the problems and doing so efficiently, however, he could not see the essential details of how this could be accomplished.
In Feb of 1882, Tesla took a walk in the city of Budapest with a former classmate. While a glorious sunset overspread the sky, Tesla engaged in one of his favorite hobbies-reciting poetry. The setting sun reminded Tesla of some of Goethe's beautiful lines:
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil,
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring...
Suddenly, Tesla snapped into a rigid pose as if he had fallen into a trance. "Watch me!" he said, "Watch me reverse it!"
Tesla's friend said, "I see nothing, are you ill?"
"You do not understand," said Tesla, "It is my alternating-current motor I am talking about. Can't you see it right here in front of me, running almost silently? It is the rotating magnetic field that does it. See how the magnetic field rotates and drags the armature around with it? Isn't it beautiful? I have solved the problem."
Tesla now had an electrical system utilizing alternating current, which was much more flexible and vastly more efficient than the direct-current system then being used. But now Tesla had another problem, convincing the rest of the world that his alternating-current power system was simpler, flexible and freed electricity to be sent long distances. The direct-current systems being used at that time were not able to send electricity long distances without major problems. The fact that our power system today uses alternating-current shows that Tesla was finally successful. The book, Prodigal Genius, provides all the fascinating details of this story
It's certainly not all bad, and the personal insight of the author is at times appreciated. But, to sum it up, it is (and feels like) a book written by a science editor, not a biographer.