Richmond Astronomical Society

Tesla lecture

Jul 22nd, 2009 | By | Category: Events

This was a Lunch Break Science event at the Science Museum. The talk was given by the Byrd Theatre’s Todd Schall-Vess. He gave an excellent overview of Nikola Tesla’s contribution to science, and also the gut wrenching details of how he was cheated out of large amounts of money several times in his life.

Some of you in RAS may remember my presentation on Nikola Tesla at one of our meetings a few years back. So, you could probably tell I’m a big fan of his work. How could I not resist the temptation to attend this?

tesla_lecture_20090722Despite the adversity, though, Tesla prevailed. He battled with Thomas Edison for years over whether the national power supply should be AC or DC oriented. As we all know, Tesla won out, but the irony is that Edison’s name is much more well known than Tesla’s. Tesla also transmitted the first radio message, beating Marconi by a year, and Tesla has the patent, but Marconi is the one we read about in school textbooks.

tesla_speaker_Todd_Schall_VessTesla was a certifiable genius–he invented new machinery, like the first AC motor by visualizing it in his head first, without ever making any drawings first. He pretty much worked in obscurity, and the first chance he got to show off his achievements was at the 1893 Worlds’ Fair in Chicago.

The Fair had created a dazzling city within a city, specifically for the fair, and it was lit up at night by Tesla’s AC power. At night, it was so brilliant, the fair was nicknamed “The White City.” If you’ve ever read the book “Devil in the White City,” you will have seen this referred to. If you haven’t, be sure to read my review on my web site.

The lecture was well attended–I counted about 50 attendees. I heard a couple of interesting comments from the crowd on the way out: “I’d never heard of this guy,” and “One of the better lectures I’ve heard.” It was well worth going, and I’m glad I went.

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  1. Must have been an interesting lecture – wish I could have been there.