Clarifying the Tesla article

Clarifying the Tesla article

In a recent article, I wrote about President Obama mentioning Nikola Tesla.

I’ve had a couple of people think I was slighting Tesla in the article, when what I was doing was talking about his treatment by the US Government.

That means that I didn’t write it clearly.  I appreciate people taking the time to write and let me know that was how they saw it.  That let me know that I needed to write this one.

I think my first mistake may have been that I assumed people knew Tesla made really significant scientific contributions.  When I was kidding around about his death ray and wireless transmission of energy, I figured that people knew that was on top of how he changed the lives of the world.

That’s the problem with humor and snark: it isn’t always obvious what the real point is.

Our country (and the world) would not be what it is today without the work of Tesla, especially his work on alternating currents.

Tesla improved on Edison’s direct current.

If you wouldn’t name Tesla as one of the great inventors, you should definitely read up on him.

My point in the previous post was that Obama mentioning Tesla was strange because of how the US treated Tesla, not because of Tesla’s work.

Tesla died in financial difficulties.  As I mentioned, the US reportedly seized his papers inappropriately after his death.

Edison had some out there ideas as well (mechanical communication with the dead, for example).  However, Tesla does not get the recognition for the mainstream contributions that he deserves.  Look him up in a search engine; you’ll find many, many references to fringe ideas high in your search.  Do the same thing with Thomas Edison: you’ll first see mainly laudatory articles.

The reason I jokingly referred to him as the “death ray guy” is because he has been marginalized, not to suggest he didn’t do anything else.  This piece from the previous article wasn’t enough:

“Look, let me say right away, Tesla is absolutely a recognized inventor who contributed in significant ways.  He was also an immigrant…that part fits this speech.”

I apologize to anybody who thought I was denigrating Tesla.  If that’s the impression that came across, it was due to my clumsy writing, not my intent.  I tried to be too subtle and funny in the piece, and it’s obvious that didn’t work for a lot of people. 

I’d recommend that you read up more on Tesla.  I think the US government should recognize his achievement more.  My problem with Obama mentioning him in that speech is that I think it paints over the way the government treated this important contributor.  If President Obama wanted to apologize for what happened with Tesla in the US, that would make sense to me.

Here are some sources for information on Nikola Tesla:

http://www.teslasociety.com/

http://www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/143.html

http://www.yurope.com/org/tesla/

http://www.pbs.org/tesla/

http://www.yurope.com/org/tesla/uvode.htm (may take a long time to load, but definitely worth seeing)

Once again, I’m sorry that my point was unclear.  I’m familiar with Tesla’s life and accomplishments, and should have realized that some people would think I wasn’t taking him seriously, since so many people have failed to give him the respect he deserves.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

One Response to “Clarifying the Tesla article”

  1. Flash! President Obama gives a shout out to Nikola Tesla « The Measured Circle Says:

    […] delivery of electric power through the use of alternating current.  I have written a more recent article to make that clearer.  My thanks to readers who took the time and made the effort to let me know […]

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