How did Nikola Tesla change the way we use energy?: Author's Note

When I was a kid, "Schoolhouse Rock" sang its lessons from the TV every Saturday morning. Remember the one about Mother Necessity? The one about America's great inventors: Eli Whitney, Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell and, of course, Thomas Edison. Funny that Nikola Tesla didn't make an appearance. Then again, one thing that strikes you as you read about Tesla and the great electricity wars of the late 19th century is just how ruthless the major players could be. After all, there was a lot at stake, like who was going to get rich from wiring the entire nation. Edison may have been a great inventor, but he wasn't always nice, and he didn't always play fair. In many ways, he tried to muscle Tesla out of the way to make sure his model of DC power generation -- and his reputation -- remained firmly planted in the public's mind.

The other thing that struck me as I wrote about this time in American history was not the coming light, but the darkness. Before engineers wired New York City and incandescent bulbs blazed from every corner, the streets must have been dark, dark places, even with gas lamps. A late-night walk at the turn of the century would have brought a touch of fear to even the bravest souls. And only when the lights finally came on could the great Gotham become what it always aspired to be -- The City That Never Sleeps.

Sources

  • Carlson, W. Bernard. "Inventor of Dreams." Scientific American. March 2005.
  • Cheney, Margaret. "Tesla: Man Out of Time." Simon & Schuster. New York. 1981.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica 2005. "Tesla, Nikola." CD-ROM, 2005.
  • General Electric. "Thomas Edison & GE." http://www.ge.com/company/history/edison.html
  • Klein, Maury. "The Power Makers: Steam, Electricity, and the Men Who Invented Modern America." Bloomsbury Press. New York. 2008.
  • PBS. "Tesla: Master of Lightning" http://www.pbs.org/tesla/
  • World Book 2005. "electric current."
  • World Book 2005. "Tesla, Nikola."