GeekHistory II

Who was Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a Serbian born inventor who grew up in an area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is the modern-day country of Croatia.  At times the life story of Nikola Tesla flows like an epic science fiction saga. According to legend, the man known as the Master of Lightning was born at the stroke of midnight on July 10, 1856, during a lightning storm in a mountainous area of the Balkan Peninsula. Tesla's parents were Serbian, his father was an orthodox priest, his mother was an inventor of practical household gadgets.

Most of Nikola Tesla's early inventions fell into the categories of electrical power distribution or motors and generators. In 1884, at age 28, Tesla left Europe and headed for New York City in search of Thomas Edison. Tesla was interested in AC (alternating current) systems and was looking to impress Edison with his ideas on AC systems. Edison wasn't interested in hearing about AC, as Edison was developing DC (direct current) electrical power systems.

In 1888 Tesla presented to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers his polyphase alternating current system in the report “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers.” George Westinghouse was a visionary businessman and inventor who saw the possibilities of Alternating Current (AC) as the primary form of delivery electricity. Westinghouse saw Tesla's ideas as something he could use in his quest to develop AC, and purchased Tesla's alternating current patents. Westinghouse also paid Tesla to work with the Westinghouse team until the patents were fully implemented.

For a more detailed biography of Nikola Tesla check out the following articles at GeekHistory.com

Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek in the world 

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War 

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

Tesla tower at Wardenclyffe and the free energy myth

At our companion websites from the World of Questy we look at various myths and legends, check out the following posts.

In search of cult heroes and forgotten geeks the truth is out there 

Debunking the mindless misinformation of the cult of Tesla 

Why Nikola Tesla has become a cult hero

FBI conspiracy theories and the lost files of Nikola Tesla


In researching Geek History we have been asked the most questions on Nikola Tesla, especially related to topics regarding Thomas Edison and the War of Currents.  Bookmark this page and check back from time to time as we update it with additional resources on Nikola Tesla.

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From the War of Currents to the history of electricity in homes

In this section of the GeekHistory almanac we look at the history of electricity in homes from the discovery of electricity through the War of Currents.

What was the War of Currents?

In the 1890s the War of Currents was a business and technology battle between the Edison Electric Light Company and Westinghouse Electric Company over what electric power transmission system should be used. George Westinghouse and the Westinghouse Electric Company supported AC (alternating current). Thomas Edison and the Edison Electric Light Company supported DC (direct current).

The internet loves to portray the battle as one between rival inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla. It makes for a good story of the hero, Tesla, defeating his rival, Edison. Both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were well known in the 1890s and were masters at drawing attention to themselves. George Westinghouse, unlike his rival Edison, did not seek media attention, and was a very private person.

Thomas Edison was a well known inventor riding his success and media attention for inventing the phonograph. Edison leveraged his name and fame to start building DC power plants in New York City. Nikola Tesla was a genius, and his inventions contributed to AC Power distribution, but Tesla was member of a team put together by George Westinghouse.


The concept of AC power distribution was not a new concept for Westinghouse, he was also an inventor in the gas industry. Westinghouse believed that AC was a better method of power distribution, and believed that electric company founded by his rival Thomas Edison was structurally flawed in its beliefs of using DC power. In 1885 Westinghouse became interested in the inventions of European Inventors Gaulard and Gibbs and purchased the American rights to their patents for AC current transformers. Westinghouse and his staff worked on improving and redesigning the transformers, and the Westinghouse Electric Company was started in 1886.

In 1888 Westinghouse heard of Nikola Tesla and the Tesla Polyphase System. Westinghouse knew that could be the final piece he needed in building a better system than Edison's. Westinghouse purchased Tesla's alternating current patents on the electric systems and paid Tesla to work with him until they were fully implemented.

The battle for public opinion over which system should be used to power America turned into a nasty smear campaign by Edison. An inventor and electrical engineer named Harold Brown became the front man for a campaign to show the world the dangers of alternating current. Stories are told of how Brown paid local children to collect stray dogs off the street that he used for experiments showing the dangers of alternating current. Despite publicly denouncing capital punishment, Edison secretly financed the alternating current electric chair developed by Brown. Edison launched a media campaign telling the world AC was deadly, using the word "Westinghoused" to describe an execution by electrocution.

By the time the War of Currents ended Thomas Edison was no longer in control of Edison Electric. In 1892 Thomas Edison lost control of his own company, as financier J. P. Morgan merged Edison Electric with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric.

George Westinghouse and the Westinghouse Electric Company would have two decisive victories over General Electric, first winning the bid to light the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, followed by the getting the contract for building a two phase AC generating system at Niagara Falls in 1893.

The defeat of Edison in the corporate boardroom by J.P. Morgan followed by two major victories by Tesla and Westinghouse partnership would mark the end of War of Currents.

The history of electricity in homes

The pages that follow show that the battle to illuminate our world was not battle between two sides, but an evolution of ideas and the work of many scientists and inventors.

Even though Americans talk about the War of Currents as the famous battle between Westinghouse and Edison in the 1890s, the world was already moving towards AC power distribution, regardless of who won the American war. The first long distance AC power line was built in 1884 for the International Exhibition of Turin, Italy. In 1885 the first operative AC line for public lighting was put into service in Rome, Italy. In 1891, the first transmission of three-phase alternating current using high voltage took place in Germany.

Who discovered electricity?

Who contributed to the development of electricity and AC power

Who is responsible for electricity and AC power in our homes

Thomas Edison launched the modern electric utility industry

This article serves an introduction to this section of the GeekHistory almanac we look at the history of electricity in homes. It also serves as a portal to additional stories and resources to help you learn more about the War of Currents.

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in The War of Currents

The War of Currents goes through Pittsburgh lead by George Westinghouse

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

Patent wars and other epic battles where business and technology mix

From time to time we talk about the colorful characters involved in the War of Currents in the Guru42 blog, check out the following posts.

Debunking the Nikola Tesla myths by way of defending Thomas Edison

Reflections on the most forgotten geek George Westinghouse

At our companion websites from the World of Questy we look at various myths and legends, check out the following posts.

In search of cult heroes and forgotten geeks the truth is out there

Debunking the mindless misinformation of the cult of Tesla

Bookmark this page and check back from time to time as we update it with additional resources on the War of Currents and the history of electricity in our homes.

 

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Thomas Edison launched the modern electric utility industry

All major inventions were an evolution of ideas and inventors over many years. Many light bulbs were invented before Edison's that worked in the laboratory and for short-term demonstrations. There were more that twenty inventors that filed patents for various versions of the incandescent lamp before Edison, and there have been dozens of inventors that have filed patents for incandescent lamps since Edison.

In the mythology of famous scientists and inventors, there is the eureka moment, that's when some totally new idea or totally new theory is discovered. Thomas Edison's eureka moment was not in inventing the light bulb but in creating a carbon-filament lamp in a vacuum. This one improvement of the concept of the light bulb created the first commercially practical incandescent light. Edison's first attempts lasted a little over half a day, but eventually his efforts led to a bulb that could burn for 1,200 hours.

Edison's success went beyond the incandescent light bulb to developing an entire integrated system of electric lighting. Thomas Edison presented to the world a complete system of commercial electric lighting and power using a DC (Direct Current) generating station.


Thomas Alva Edison (1847 - 1931) was a legendary inventor that saw the need for improving upon existing ideas.  Thomas Edison was influenced by the work of many inventors in Europe that were moving forward in the 1870s. Using the dynamo as a power source, Pavel Yablochov invented the the Yablochkov Candle in 1876. Yablochkov's inventions improved on previous arc light designs and proving that the installation of electric lighting economically feasible.

Edison saw that arc lighting was becoming popular as an outdoor form of lighting, he improved upon the concept of lighting creating a more practical and efficient of the incandescent light bulb. With his improved invention of the Edison bulb, he created a demand for a source of electrical power.

When we start telling the story that begins with, "when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb," we are usually quickly attacked by someone screaming, "Edison didn't invent the light bulb!" Well, in one sense that is true, Edison did not invent the incandescent light bulb. But, when you step back and look at the big picture you could say that not only did Thomas Edison introduce the world to the incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison launched the modern electric utility industry with the creation of the Pearl Street station in lower Manhattan in 1882.

From Edison Electric to General Electric

The biggest mistake of Edison's career was his refusal to acknowledge the limitations of DC power. By the time the War of Currents ended around 1893, Thomas Edison was no longer in control of Edison Electric. In 1892 Thomas Edison lost control of his own company, as financier J. P. Morgan merged Edison Electric with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric.

Even thought the War of Currents was short lived, roughly from 1886 through 1893, the rivalry of the Edison team (which became part of the General Electric Company) versus the Westinghouse team lived on in many ways.

Charles P. Steinmetz (1865-1923), began his career as a draftsman at the Osterheld and Eickemeyer company in 1889, which was acquired by General Electric in 1892. The Osterheld and Eickemeyer company, along with all of its patents and designs, was acquired by the newly formed General Electric Company, because of their expertise in the area of electrical power and transformers.

Charles Proteus Steinmetz understood electromagnetism better than anyone of his generation and while working for General Electric he worked on the team that developed the some of the world's first 3 phase electrical systems. General Electric was the company formed by the merger of Edison Electric and Thomson-Houston Electric Company. Ironic when you consider that Edison originally fought against the use of AC power, and now General Electric would now switch gears from Edison's ideas on DC power distribution and embrace the work of Steinmetz in the areas of AC circuit theory and analysis.

Even though Edison was not at the helm of General Electric, the interactions between Steinmetz and Edison are source for many legendary stories. One famous story is the $10,000 bill sent to Henry Ford for services performed by Steinmetz to repair an electric generator. When asked for an itemized bill, Steinmetz responded personally to Ford’s request with the following: Making chalk mark on generator $1, Knowing where to make mark $9,999.

Elihu Thomson (1853-1937), invented the 3 coil dynamo, which was the basis for a successful electric lighting system he produced in 1879 through the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. Elihu Thomson and E. J. Houston established the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in Philadelphia in 1879. Thomson-Houston Electric Company merged with the Edison General Electric Company to become the General Electric Company In 1892. Thomson was elected chief engineer of General Electric producing many of the fundamental inventions for the newly formed company.

When we speak of the great engineers who lead the Westinghouse Company we think of William Stanley followed by Benjamin Lamme. When the great engineers who lead the General Electric Company the names Charles P. Steinmetz and Elihu Thomson rise to the top of the list. Neither Steinmetz or Thomson worked directly for Edison, but became members of the General Electric team when their companies were acquires by the General Electric Company.

Graphic: Charles P. Steinmetz and Thomas A. Edison

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Who is responsible for electricity and AC power in our homes

In the previous article we looked at the answer to who contributed to the development of electricity and AC power, by drawing attention to the work of various European inventors that were the establishing the ideas and principals that were used by Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla.

The War of Currents

The War of Currents was much more than a battle between two crazy inventors, and the efforts to electrify our world was the work of many inventors and engineers. Just as it is impossible to pin point one single invention or one single inventor as the eureka moment when the Internet was invented, the same can be said of the development of electricity and AC power distribution. There are many names from that generation that all played a significant part in the development of bringing electricity to our homes and AC power distribution.

The War of Currents was started as a battle between George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla was not a member of team Westinghouse when it started. The War of Currents started not long after Westinghouse created the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1886. Edison was creating DC power plants and felt threatened by Westinghouse who had been experimenting with AC Power and was ready to start rolling it out commercially. Edison began a public media campaign claiming that high voltage AC systems were inherently dangerous.

By the time the War of Currents ended Thomas Edison was no longer in control of Edison Electric. In 1892 Thomas Edison lost control of his own company, as financier J. P. Morgan merged Edison Electric with the Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric.

George Westinghouse and the Westinghouse Electric Company would have two decisive victories over General Electric in 1893, first winning the bid to light the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, followed by the getting the contract for building a two phase AC generating system at Niagara Falls.


Westinghouse Electric engineers

William Stanley (1858-1916) was an inventor and engineer that played a significant part in the development of AC power distribution that seldom gets mentioned. The Westinghouse Electric Company was started in 1886 with William Stanley Jr. as chief engineer. William Stanley created the first full feature AC power distribution system using transformers in Great Barrington, Massachusetts In 1886, a project funded by Westinghouse.

The work of William Stanley in the 1880s was critical to the success of Westinghouse. In 1890 Stanley decided to sever his ties with Westinghouse and formed the Stanley Manufacturing Company. Different sources tell different stories of why Stanley had a falling out with Westinghouse, mainly over money. Stanley had ambitions of creating his own electric company on a scale to compete with Edison, and Westinghouse. In 1903 General Electric (GE) acquired the Stanley Manufacturing Company.

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a Serbian born inventor who grew up in an area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is the modern-day country of Croatia. Most of Nikola Tesla's early inventions fell into the categories of electrical power distribution or motors and generators. In 1884, at age 28, Tesla left Europe and headed for New York City in search of Thomas Edison. Tesla was interested in AC (alternating current) systems and was looking to impress Edison with his ideas on AC systems. Edison wasn't interested in hearing about AC, as Edison was developing DC (direct current) electrical power systems.

In 1888 Tesla presented to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers his polyphase alternating current system in the report “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers.” George Westinghouse was a visionary businessman and inventor who saw the possibilities of Alternating Current (AC) as the primary form of delivery electricity. Westinghouse saw Tesla's ideas as something he could use in his quest to develop AC, and purchased Tesla's alternating current patents. Westinghouse also paid Tesla to work with the Westinghouse team until the patents were fully implemented.

Oliver Blackburn Shallenberger (1860 – 1898) was an American engineer and inventor, best known for inventing the watt-hour meter, a device that measured the amount of A.C. current and made possible the business model of the electric utility. In 1884 Oliver Shallenberger went to work for The Union Switch and Signal Company, a supplier of railway signaling equipment founded by George Westinghouse. The results of Shallenberger's work at the Union Switch and Signal Company led to his appointment to Chief Electrician at the Westinghouse Electric Company. Shallenberger oversaw the development of the Tesla Polyphase System.

Benjamin Garver Lamme (1864 - 1924) designed much of the apparatus for the Westinghouse exhibit at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Benjamin Lamme was the engineer that expanded upon Nikola Tesla's patents, purchased by Westinghouse, in designing the Niagara Falls generators that lead to Westinghouse's victory in the War of Currents. In 1918 Lamme received the Edison Medal for his contributions to the electrical power field. Another irony, considering Lamme helped to develop AC power distribution, Edison was orginally against AC power distribution.

George Westinghouse (1846 - 1914), the son of a New York agricultural machinery maker, came to Pittsburgh in 1868 in search of steel for a new tool he designed to guide derailed train cars back onto the track. Before he left Pittsburgh to retire back to New York, Westinghouse gave the world safer rail transportation, steam turbines, gas lighting and heating, and brought electricity to the average American's home.

George Westinghouse wasn't the inventor of AC power, but he had the vision to bring it all together. Edison turned away great engineers for talking about AC development, while Westinghouse was making them members of his team, and buying AC patents developed in Europe for use in America. George Westinghouse proved to the world the concept of AC power distribution by winning the bid to provide lighting for the World's Fair Columbian Exposition of 1893. Westinghouse installed a complete polyphase generation and distribution system with multiple generators.

Who is responsible for electricity and AC power in our homes?

Does Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla deserve all the credit? What about William Stanley, Benjamin Garver Lamme, Oliver Shallenberger, or George Westinghouse? Who is to say who contributed more to the development of electricity? They all contributed!

Graphic: Westinghouse Electric engineers William Stanley and Benjamin Lamme

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Who contributed to the development of electricity and AC power

Just as it is impossible to pin point one single invention or one single inventor as the eureka moment when the Internet was invented, the same can be said of the development of electricity and AC power distribution. There were many inventors working on various parts which came together.

Who contributed more to the development of electricity and AC power distribution?

Are you looking for a single name, like Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla? People often talk about the "War of Currents" as the great battle between Edison and Tesla to develop a system for the distribution of electrical current. During the War of Currents, Edison lost control of Edison Electric as it merged with Thomson-Houston Electric Company to form General Electric, and Nikola Tesla was one member of a team of engineers working for Westinghouse Electric. George Westinghouse is every bit as much responsible for our current system of AC power in America, arguably more responsible that Thomas Edison. But the world remembers Edison, much more so than Westinghouse.

Many internet memes spread posters about The War of Currents presenting it as a technology battle between Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla. Both men were great inventors, but they lived in a time when many people were working in developing the concepts of electric lights and the distribution of electrical current. What is often not mentioned in the telling of the "War of Currents" stories is that many of the America inventions were based on the work of various European inventors that were the establishing the ideas and principals that were used by Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla.


European inventors before Edison and Tesla

Edison did not invent the concept of lighting or the electrical distribution system. Thomas Edison was influenced by the work of many inventors in Europe were moving forward in the 1870s such as Pavel Yablochkov.

Pavel Yablochkov (1847-1894) was a Russian electrical engineer who invented the earliest commercially successful arc lamp known as the Yablochkov Candle. During the Paris Exposition of 1878 introduced his lighting system to the world installing 64 of his arc lights along a half mile length of streets. Yablochkov made the installation of electric lighting economically feasible. The intensely bright light created by the arc lamp was great for lighting the outdoors, but it was not practical for indoor use.

Nikola Tesla did not invent the concept of Alternating Current and electric motors. Scientists and inventors such as Michael Faraday and Hippolyte Pixii were working with Alternating Current and electric motors in the early 1800s, years before Tesla was born.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) British physicist and chemist, demonstrated the first simple electric motor in 1821. Faraday published the results of his experiments of producing an electrical current in a circuit by using only the force of a magnetic field in 1931. Faraday's discovery is known as Faraday’s Law of Electromagnetic Induction.

Hippolyte Pixii (1808–1835) was an instrument maker from Paris. Pixii built an early form of alternating current electrical generator in 1832, based on the principle of magnetic induction discovered by Michael Faraday.

George Westinghouse looks to Europe

As George Westinghouse began studying the debate surrounding AC (alternating current) versus DC (direct current) he looked to various European inventors for ideas and inspiration for AC designs.

The ZBD Transformer, created in 1878, was based on the work of Károly Zipernowsky, Ottó Bláthy, and Miksa Déri of the Austro-Hungarian Empire First designed and used the transformer in both experimental, and commercial systems. The Ganz Company uses induction coils in their lighting systems with AC incandescent systems. This is the first appearance and use of the toroidal shaped transformer. The reliability of AC technology received impetus after an 1886 installation by the Ganz Works that electrified much of Rome, Italy.

A power transformer developed by Lucien Gaulard and John Dixon Gibbs was demonstrated in London in 1881. In 1884 Lucien Gaulard's transformer system on display at the the first large exposition of AC power in Turin, Italy.The 25 mile long transmission line illuminated arc lights, incandescent lights, and powered a railway.

Westinghouse purchased the American rights to Gaulard and Gibbs patents for AC current transformers. The transformers initially designed for the Westinghouse company were originally based on Gaulard-Gibbs A.C. transformer designs that the company had imported for testing. Westinghouse and his staff worked on improving and redesigning the transformers, and the Westinghouse Electric Company was started in 1886.

Galileo Ferraris (1847-1897) was an Italian physicist and electrical engineer known for introducing the concept of the rotating magnetic field, and the invention of the rotating magnetic field asynchronous motor. Ferraris was involved in early experiments in AC power distance transmission which occurred in Germany and Italy in the early 1880s.

Nikola Tesla patents provide the final piece

Westinghouse was in a race to be the first company to commercially develop AC power, and George Westinghouse saw that Nikola Tesla's U.S. patents for his AC induction motor and related transformer design were the quickest way to make the final push to win the War of Currents. Nikola Tesla was also hired for one year to be a consultant at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company's Pittsburgh labs.

Some sources say the discoveries and inventions of Nikola Tesla and Galileo Ferraris regarding the invention of induction motor where made entirely independently of each other. Some sources name Galileo Ferraris as the inventor of induction motors based on his research of the rotary magnetic field started in 1885. Some sources name Nikola Tesla as the inventor of induction motors based on his filling of US patent 381968 on May 1, 1888.

Not taking any chances as to who did it first, Westinghouse also purchased a U.S. patent option on induction motors from Galileo Ferraris.

Was Nikola Tesla a patent thief?

In the world of the modern Internet Thomas Edison is often called a patent thief who took advantage of the great inventor Nikola Tesla. Ironically, there is a case to be made that the Polyphase Electric Motor, the invention that made Nikola Tesla famous, was based on a design that Tesla copied from from Italian inventor Galileo Ferraris.

Westinghouse engineer William Stanley stated in a letter to the Electrical Review published in March, 1903, "I myself have seen the original motors, models, and drawings made by Ferraris in 1885, have personally talked with the men who saw these models in operation and heard Ferraris explain them at that date."

Graphic: The great triad of Miksa Deri, Otto Titusz Blathy, and Karoly Zipernowsky (left to write) connected by the invention of the transformer and worked at the famous Ganz factory in Budapest.

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Who discovered electricity?

Asking who discovered electricity is the equivalent to asking who first discovered fire. Electricity existed before humans walked the earth. You could probably make the case that the first human to discover fire also discovered electricity as they watched a bolt of lightning strike the earth to start a fire. The bolts of static electricity we see in the sky in the form of lightning during a thunderstorm show the power of electricity.

Ancient writings show that various cultures around the Mediterranean knew that rods of amber could be rubbed with cat fur or silk to attract light objects like feathers. Amber is fossilized tree resin gemstone used in making a variety of decorative objects and jewelry. Amber has been used as a healing agent in folk medicine. The first particle known to carry electric charge, the electron, is named for the Greek word for amber, ēlektron.

If you are looking for a name of someone "who discovered electricity" you could possible look to the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (624 B.C. to 546 B.C.). Thales was known for his innovative use of geometry, but his writings are some of the first to document the principles of magnetism and static electricity. Thales documented magnetism through his observations that loadstone attracts iron, and static electricity through his observations of static electricity by rubbing fur on substances such as amber.

Some stories claim that various artifacts found shows some electricity production was possible in the Middle East thousands of years ago. For telling the story here at Geek History, and busting the myth that Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity we will start in more modern times offering the name of William Gilbert as the first person to define electricity around 1600. Each person on the list that follows contributed to our modern understanding of electricity.

William Gilbert (1544-1603) is regarded as the father of electrical engineering and one of the first scientists to document the concept of electricity in his book De Magnete published in 1600. William Gilbert made a careful study of electricity and magnetism and defined the distinction between electricity and magnetism in his series of books. Gilbert coined the term electricity from the Greek word elecktra.

Robert William Boyle (1627-1691) is regarded as the first modern chemist and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. Boyle is also credited with experiments in the fields electricity and magnetism. In 1675, Boyle published "Experiments and Notes about the Mechanical Origine or Production of Electricity."

Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790) is often credited in various books and websites as having discovered electricity in the 1750s. The legendary story of Franklin's experiments with flying a kite in a thunderstorm allegedly took place in 1752. Although Franklin was quite a scientist and inventor, which included inventing the lightning rod, scientists such as William Gilbert and Robert William Boyle began documenting the concept of electricity long before Franklin's experiments.

Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) was an Italian physicist that is regarded as one of the greatest scientists of his time. Before we move on to the next section where we look at AC power distribution we give thanks to Alessandro Volta, the scientist who discovered that particular chemical reactions could produce electricity. Volta invented the first battery in 1799 known as the Voltaic Pile. The unit of electromotive force, the volt, was name to honor Volta.

Michael Faraday (1791-1867) British physicist and chemist, demonstrated the first simple electric motor, in 1821, in London. The original "science guy," in 1826 Faraday founded the Friday Evening Discourses and in the same year the Christmas Lectures for young people at the Royal Institution. In 1832 Faraday demonstrated that three types of electricity thought to be different that induced from a magnet, electricity produced by a battery, and static electricity were in fact all the same. Faraday introduced several words into the electricity vocabulary such as ion, electrode, cathode, and anode.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) introduced his mathematical conceptualization of electromagnetic phenomena to the Cambridge Philosophical Society in 1855. The Scottish physicist's best-known discoveries concern the relationship between electricity and magnetism and are summarized in what has become known as Maxwell’s Equations. Maxwell's pioneering work during the second half of the 19th century unified the theories of electricity, magnetism, and light.

Graphic: Long before television Michael Faraday nineteenth century scientist and electricity pioneer took science to the people as illustrated here delivering the British Royal Institution's Christmas Lecture for Juveniles during the Institution's Christmas break in 1856.

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George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

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README 1ST GeekHistory II the sequel

The idea for the website GeekHistory started when I was teaching Internet and web building courses in 1996. I would start each course with a brief history lesson showing the evolution of the internet that started in the 1960s. Some students commented that it was a boring waste of time, some students praised it as an interesting and information introduction to the course.  It seems that history is a topic that people either love it or hate it.

Because of many positive comments by students on the brief history on the internet lesson I registered the domain GeekHistory.com back in 2001 with the hopes of developing a history of technology website. I still have a lot of notes collected over the years. With web site URLs as references for my material. some of my resources are notes from websites that no longer exist. Very few of the sites still exist in the from they did back then. I found a lot of good reference material on the Altavista website. Thankfully I printed a lot of that content and have paper copies of the material in a binder.

GeekHistory was just a shell of a website for many years, just an idea bouncing around in my brain. After more than a decade of owning the domain name GeekHistory.com I finally started devoting time to building the website on the history of technology. In recent years I have immersed myself into research on various topics, looking for the original sources, in order to tell the story of the history of technology based on various generations of ideas and timelines.

We are developing the website GeekHistory like a book with chapters focused on various generations of inventors and inventions.  As we sort through all the information we have gathered over the years, and continue to sort through, we decided to create the companion website GeekHistory II more in the format of an almanac with various lists, fast facts and quick answers to simple questions.

The goal of GeekHistory

My lifelong love of history and technology comes together at GeekHistory. I began working with radios and telecommunications in the Army National Guard in the 1970s and my first certification was a FCC general class radiotelephone license. A life long evolution from field service technician for various office automation companies through my current career in systems administration and telecommunications has inspired me as a writer and web developer of technology topics.

Even though my personal collection of material for the study of geek history dates back to my early days in technology as far back as the 1970s, I am always finding new questions and new myths and legends to address. Through question and answer, Twitter wars, and various other social media outlets, I keep running across myths and misinformation represented as facts, sending me off on a quest to find the truth. Anytime a claim is made or a fact is stated from a website or blog that does not appear to have first hand knowledge of the subject I make a note to follow up on it.   I am continuously finding articles by allegedly credible newspapers and magazines and respected organizations that are based on popular myths, which sets me off in search of original sources of information to find the truth.

I am not a university professor with a team of editors and advisers working with me developing a website. I am one man who loves technology and history and is amazed by how little people know about the great minds in the world of technology. Geek History is not meant to be an authoritative source for technology history. We are just trying to get you to think about the many amazing people that have contributed to the work of technology. Our goal is to increase awareness, educate, and entertain.

One of my inspirations for the Guru42 Universe is the Oliver Wendall Holmes quote, "Man's mind once stretched never goes back to its original dimension." The more I learn about geek history, the more questions I have, and the more I want to know.

The who invented myth and eureka moment that never happened

Every question that begins with "who invented" should get this as an auto response, "it is usually a fallacy to credit a single individual with the invention of a complicated device. Complicated devices draw on the works of multiple people."

We spend a lot of time looking where to give credit to people for various invention when they were nothing more than the next step in the evolution of the world of technology.

Inventions during the Industrial Revolution involved a series of new devices and creations where man power, and literally horse power, was being replaced by machines. From steam engines that turned manual labor in mechanical contraptions, to the automobile, that turned the horse power of a live horse, to the horse power of an internal combustion engine. The inventions of the industrial age were an evolution of doing existing things in very new ways. The 18th century idea of an invention was genuinely more individual and less systemic.

It was a different world in the industrial age of the late 1800s and early 1900s. The greatest minds and the greatest laboratories were not inventing things at universities, but were working in what resembled an industrial machine shop. Thomas Edison institutionalized the concept of the individual inventor, his invention factory took the concept of one man in a lab tinkering with an issue and changed it into project management where one man hired a team to do more than he could as an individual. People say that Edison stole ideas because he had other people do the experiments and he took credit. No, that was the real genius, he created the invention factory. There are many menial tasks that need done, he automated the process.

When the internet and personal computers were being developed in the 1960s and 1970s, most of the geeks were doing their work at universities, much of the work sponsored by government agencies like DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.)

What does it take to become a great inventor?

Being an inventor is not a field of study, it is a state of mind. Great inventors, innovators, industrialists, all had one thing in common, a passion for their ideas, and a passion to turn their visions into reality. There are endless stories of "inventors" who were always tinkering with things. They had a burning desire to understand how things worked.

Using a tree branch to help us pry something apart, we have invented a lever. Using a tree trunk that rolls to help us move something heavy, rather than dragging it across a flat surface, we have the beginnings of a wheel. As these very simple solutions to very simple problems became refined, they become inventions.

The nature of man is solving problems, and the solutions to these problems are inventions. And the successful inventor will tell you, it is more than just having an idea, it is turning that idea into something people can use.

Inventor or innovator?

Often there is a bit of a smug attitude that favors giving someone credit for an invention versus just being an innovator. A good example for my thought is remarks I've seen is regarding Henry Ford, "he didn't invent anything."

Even if Henry Ford invented nothing, he changed everything. Ford did not invent the automobile, Ford did not invent the assembly line. What Ford did is improve upon the assembly line with a passion that drove down the price of an automobile significantly. He turned the automobile from just a rich man's toy, to something the average American could afford. Ford improved upon the design of the automobile and the assembly line and revolutionized an industry.

The concept of the automobile, and specifically the electric automobile, is an idea that has been around for more than 100 years. Henry Ford thought about electric automobile, as did other inventors, over a hundred years ago. But what is one of the hottest topics in modern technology? The electric car? There is a fascination in recent years of the work of Tesla Motors and recently Faraday Future made news with the showing of a new electric automobile prototype.

Isn't technology an ongoing evolution of ideas and innovations? Do you see the work of modern electric car companies like Tesla Motors and Faraday Future as inventing new things or combining existing things? The more important question I would ask, is why does that distinction even matter?

In search of the glorified eureka moment

There are many special individuals have those eureka moments, where one idea changes everything. There are visionaries who have an idea and see what is possible before the technology exists to make it real. There are inventors who take visions and made them real. There are innovators who take a good invention and make it great. There are the industrialists who take an invention and develop it into an industry.

Study people to learn from their success, and their failures. Try to understand when a burning desire can turn into a dangerous obsession.

Question everything. Find something that really interests you, and learn everything you can about the topic. How does it work, how could it be made better.

Geeks introduce us to brave new worlds, with visions of the future. Geeks pick up where others left off, to turn a vision into a reality.

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