Non Fiction Book Reviews #104
INVENTING THE CENTURY
by Neil Baldwin
On the snowy night of February 11, 1847 Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio. In his your Edison was know for his curiosity that, at time, would get him in trouble. In the spring of 1854 the Edison family moved to Post Huron, Michigan and soon after they had arrived, Edison, age seven, suffered a bout of scarlet fever that lead to him suffering form hearing loss. With his hearing problems Edison turned inward and became a voracious, even omnivorous, life-long reader. As a teenager Edison became a "news butch" selling all sorts of things on the train rides from Port Huron to Detroit and in Detroit he took advantage of the libraries in the city. He also produced his own newspaper, the Herald, that he sold on the trains. The telegraphy was coming into its own and at age fifteen Edison decided to learn to operate the telegraph. When Edison saved the life of the station master's three-years-old son, he was taught the art of telegraphy and soon landed a job with Western Union. As a telegrapher Edison traveled around and he continued his self education through books. His education continued with his first patent, U. S. No. 90, 646 for an electronic vote recorder (1869) that was a commercial failure. From then on he would only do inventions that would sell. From that failure came profitable inventions including the improvements in the telegraph, but his most important development was his "invention factory" at Menlo Park, New Jersey. At Menlo Park his legend would grow as the patents increased. Edison's phonography came from his work in enhancing the automatic telegraphic 1877. the device got the name "phonography" combining telegraphic and telephonic images. It changed from being for the telegraph to a dictation machine to a device of entertainment. To the press and public the phonograph was a marvelous device and Edison got the title of "Wizard of Menlo Park." When Edison and his team developed the light bulb they also developed the infrastructure for it from power plants to the power lines. With the light bulb the pattern of human life was changed. His next invention, that was actually the product of others, was the motion picture camera. In the early 20th century inventing and science changed but Edison didn't. As Edison grew older he became the elder statesman of technology and thanks to the efforts of Henry Ford, who hero worshiped Edison, Menlo Park was preserved down to the soil and dump. On October 18, 1931 at the age of eighty-four Thomas Edison died. A fascinating biography that goes beyond the legend to the man.
MAN OUT OF TIME
by Margaret Cheney
Nikola Tesla was born at midnight between July 9 and 10, 1856 in the village of Smiljan, province of Lika, Croatia. His father was Reverend Miluin Tesla of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Tesla grew up in a household of education and credited his mother with his photographic memory and creative genius. When he was five he built a small water wheel that would lead to his later design of the bladeless turbine. At six he became fascinated with the Niagara Falls telling all that someday he would harness the power of the falls. In 1875 he was enrolled in the Austrian Polytechnic School in Graz and it was there that Tesla was introduced to the fascinations of electrical machinery. In 1881 Tesla left for Budapest to work for the Central Telegraphy Office of the Hungarian government. He continued to struggle with the problems of a direct-current machine when he came up with an entirely new system. Tesla had invented an induction motor that was the heart of his AC motor that was a quantum leap ahead of the times. he could finally call himself an inventor. In the fall of 1882 Tesla moved to Paris to work for the Continental Edison Company as a troubleshooter to cure the ills of Edison power plants in France and Germany The Edison Company was not interested in Tesla's AC system. In 1884 Tesla came to the United States to work with Edison designing the primitive Edison dynamos. Which he did and soon Edison and Tesla found that they couldn't stand each others. Leaving Edison he started his own company Tesla Electric Light Company that went bust, although by 1887 he was granted seven patents. In 1887 he had started a new company developing AC motors that, by 1891, led to forty patents. These patents came to the attention of George Westinghouse (Edison's rival) who bought Tesla's AC patents. And so began the great ÅC-DC wars that ended with the installation of AC generators at the Niagara Falls. In 1892 in St. Louis Tesla described in detail the principles of radio broadcasting and gave a demonstration of radio communication. Although it would not be until the 1960s that Tesla would get the credit he deserved. In 1898 he developed technology that would later be sued in computing and in remotely piloted devices. On May 18, 1899 Tesla arrived in Colorado Springs, Colorado where he had constructed an experimental station with a tower that reached eighty feet above the ground that had a metal mast which soared another 122 feet into the air with a copper ball three feet in diameter on the top. High-frequency transformers in many shapes and sizes were built that would drive his magnifying transmitter. Tesla called the tower his greatest invention. This tower could transmit power through the air that he hoped would have commercial potential. On July 3, 1899 he turned the coil on and blacked out Colorado Springs. In 1900, with his work finished, Tesla moved back to New York City. But for Tesla his best work was in the past and what preceded seem to have no practical implication and financial backing was hard to find. In the 1920s Tesla would build another tower in Long Island that would not be finished and what remained would be later torn down for scrape. On January 7, 1943 Nikola Tesla died, the government seized his papers, and the work of Tesla was forgotten until the 1970s when Tesla's genius became recognized.
by Albert Folsing
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm in southern Germany. His father, Hermann Einstein, move his family to Munich in 1880 and became a partner in the firm Jakob Einstien & Cie. that was involved in water and gas installations and the new field of electrical engineering. In the field of electrical engineering the Einsteins established themselves as innovators and became quite successful. On November 18, 1881 Albert's sister Maria was born. At the age of six Albert entered school where, despite the legend, he was a good student. At the age of twelve he fell in love with Euclidian geometry and at the same time he discovered his second love... music. Einstein & Cie. was prospering developing into a giant in the electronics industry but in 1893 the fortunes of the firm changed dramatically. In 1894 the Einstein family moved to Milan after the family business was liquidated. In October 1896 Albert entered the "School for Specialized Teachers in the Mathematical and Science Subjects" of the Polytechnic in Zurich. At the Polytechnic he met fellow physics student Mileva Maric and fell in love. In 1900 he graduated, had a paper published in a scientific journal, and got a job at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. He became a Swiss citizen and on June 23, 1902 Technical Expert III Class Albert Einstein reported to work. He found his forty-eight hours per week at the office tolerable and at work he was able to work on his scientific papers. In 1903, just three months after the death of his father, Albert and Mileva were married. In the summer of 1903 Albert and his wife gave up their daughter Leisurely who had been born two years before. Nothing else is know about her after 1903. It was 1905 in a burst of creativity that Einstein made contributions to the field of physics that would propel him from the patent office in Switzerland to the international stage. By 1922 Einstein was married to his cousin Elsa, was a professor in Berlin and had become an international traveler. he was in Japan in 1922 where he learned that he had been awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics, Einstein's star had risen higher. Although Einstein had wanted to stay in Germany, with the rise of Hitler he had to leave forever and settled in the United States in 1933. By that time Albert Einstein had become an elder statesman of science and was sought out for his opinion on science and morality. In 1948 the state of Israeli was founded and in 1952 Einstien was offered the presidency of Israel, but he was unable to accept it. In the summer of 1950 Einstein's health had taken a turn for the worse, but he held on until April 11, 1955 when he died. Albert Einstein was seventy-six when he died and in his time his work had had a dramatic impact on the field of physics.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL:
by James Mackay
On March 3. 1857 in Edinburgh, Scotland Alexander Graham Bell was born to Alexander Melville and Eliza Bell. His father was one of the leading elocutionists of the nineteenth century and the inventor of Visible Speech, a system of symbols indicating the position of the vocal organs in speaking. Bell was raised in a warm and loving home filled with music, books, and intellectual curiosity. His mother, Eliza, was severely hearing impaired, but she gave the love of music to her son. Bell was an indifferent student at first, but through his family he developed keen interests in the fields as diverse as photography, botany, and the mysteries of flight. Although music dominated his adolescence, Bell worked as an assistant to his father in London where he was introduced to the man who patented the electric telegraph. Bell was fascinated by the potential teaching power of such a device and was soon tinkering with his own version of the machine. In 1870 with the death of his two brothers the Bell family left Scotland for Canada. Bell went to Boston where he taught Visible Speech to children with good results. He was appointed professor of vocal physiology and the mechanics of speech at Boston University where he employed his father's Visible Speech technique and trained teachers for the dear. It was at Boston University that his work on transmitting sound began in earnest. As a teacher he met Mabel Gardner Hubbard, who had a hearing disability and a keen intelligence and soon Bell fell in love with Mabel. He also got a principle investor and supporter through Gardner Hubbard who would also become Bell's father-in-law and handle the business end of Bell's invention allowing Bell to engage in experimentation. It was Tom Watson that translated Bell's designs into reality and would became part of the myth of the origins of the telephone that he, too, would embellish. With the invention of the telephone Bell's life became more complicated as he had to appear in court to defend his work. Because of his honesty and the pounds of notes, Bell was able to defend his patents. After the telephone Bell indulged in other projects including the founding of The National Geographic, befriending Helen Keller, and living in Canada working of a variety of inventions. With his wife Mabel he had a happy life with plenty of friends and family. On August 2, 1922, at the age of seventy-five he died. By the time of his death he got his last patent on hydrofoil blades, forty-seven years after his first patent had been granted. Today the communications revolution has taken hold and today all can take advantage of it as Alexander Graham Bill had dreamt about. A good biography that gets behind the myths and presents the true story of the man who changed the world.
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