Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

by Richard Munson


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Tesla’s inventions transformed our world, and his visions have continued to inspire great minds for generations.

Nikola Tesla invented the radio, robots, and remote control. His electric induction motors run our appliances and factories, yet he has been largely overlooked by history. In Tesla, Richard Munson presents a comprehensive portrait of this farsighted and underappreciated mastermind.

When his first breakthrough—alternating current, the basis of the electric grid—pitted him against Thomas Edison’s direct-current empire, Tesla’s superior technology prevailed. Unfortunately, he had little business sense and could not capitalize on this success. His most advanced ideas went unrecognized for decades: forty years in the case of the radio patent, longer still for his ideas on laser beam technology. Although penniless during his later years, he never stopped imagining. In the early 1900s, he designed plans for cell phones, the Internet, death-ray weapons, and interstellar communications. His ideas have lived on to shape the modern economy.

Who was this genius? Drawing on letters, technical notebooks, and other primary sources, Munson pieces together the magnificently bizarre personal life and mental habits of the enigmatic inventor. Born during a lightning storm at midnight, Tesla died alone in a New York City hotel. He was an acute germaphobe who never shook hands and required nine napkins when he sat down to dinner. Strikingly handsome and impeccably dressed, he spoke eight languages and could recite entire books from memory. Yet Tesla’s most famous inventions were not the product of fastidiousness or linear thought but of a mind fueled by both the humanities and sciences: he conceived the induction motor while walking through a park and reciting Goethe’s Faust.

Tesla worked tirelessly to offer electric power to the world, to introduce automatons that would reduce life’s drudgery, and to develop machines that might one day abolish war. His story is a reminder that technology can transcend the marketplace and that profit is not the only motivation for invention. This clear, authoritative, and highly readable biography takes account of all phases of Tesla’s remarkable life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393358049
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/15/2019
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 82,236
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 4.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Richard Munson is the author of several books, including From Edison to Enron and Cousteau: The Captain and His World. Based in Chicago, Illinois, he directs Environmental Defense Fund’s clean-energy efforts in the Midwest.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Everywhere Is Energy 1

1 Born Between Today And Tomorrow 9

2 A Glorious Dream 35

3 Reverberation Of Heaven's Artillery 47

4 A Whirling Field Of Force 67

5 As Revolutionary As Gunpowder Was To Warfare 73

6 Order Of The Flaming Sword 87

7 Divine Organ Of Sight 97

8 Earthquakes And Friends 119

9 Fire And Robots 137

10 Like A God Controlling Nature's Power 151

11 Sheer Audacity 167

12 Too Much Of A Poet And Visionary 191

13 So Far Ahead Of His Time 207

Epilogue: Boldness Of Ignorance 237

Appendix: The Marvel Of Electricity 253

Acknowledgments 261

Notes 263

Index 291

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Tesla: Inventor of the Modern 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
CPetersCP More than 1 year ago
Excellent biography. Tesla was both a remarkable inventor -- giving us electric motors, robots, and radio -- but a fascinating individual. Well written and engaging.
Cole2 More than 1 year ago
Fascinating biography of a remarkable individual. Richard Munson shows both the inventor and the person. Well written. Great stories. Provides Tesla his due as a great scientist.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book, thankfully, is about the man, not the car. What a fascinating genius! What a dramatic life! Munson effectively reveals both in a fast-paced, but fact-filled, biography. "Tesla: Inventor of the Modern" is a real treat of a read.
TMaze More than 1 year ago
I received this book compliments of the author. "Day after day I asked myself what is electricity and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it." - Nikola Tesla Tesla was a very complicated human being. He was intelligent, neurotic and driven. He accomplished great things, but also sabotaged his own efforts. He couldn't work well under others and had no savvy regarding money. He was a bigger bundle of contradictions than most of us. Richard Munson does a fine job of showing the contradictions while pointing to the importance of Tesla's contributions to the life we take for granted today. Because of Tesla's work with alternating current, electric power is not confined to factories, businesses and homes of the very rich. He and George Westinghouse had to put up a serious fight against Edison and his allies who pushed the safer direct current. That was a huge and very concrete gift toward modern living. Tesla never had interest in producing commercially viable products and as his interests shifted financing became harder to obtain. To my mind he became a 'theoretical inventor'. The things he foresaw make it easy to see why Steve Jobs and Elon Musk became fanboys. Munson's assessment that Tesla deserves greater recognition is hard to argue against. Munson includes a brief chapter called The Marvel of Electricity as an appendix. You may want to read it early on. The story Munson tells is of a fascinating life a lack of understanding about currents and motors shouldn't keep you from reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I hadn't read much, I had long been fascinated by Nikola Tesla, although my initial image was that he was quite odd. This biography admits his quirks, but also explores his brilliant inventions and reveals Tesla as a charming individual with much drama in his life. This now is one of my favorite biographies.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very nice to see this book and its subject gaining traction recently. Tesla was a remarkable man and reading this book, it feels like you're getting to know him. I actually prolonged the process of reading this book. I could have read it in a couple of weeks but I liked my new friend too much and I didn't want to say goodbye. I reread that first chapter a few times, it's adorable. I sped up the reading process in the last few chapters when he kept on being ripped off by investors because it was quite sad. There are also numerous points in the book I laughed out loud at Tesla's own quotes - Munson does a good job finding a balance between using quotes to tell the story through Tesla's own perspective, and also giving the flamboyant and dramatic inventor a warranted reality check every once in a while. But my point is, the author does not sacrifice the personality of the man behind the inventions to tell the story of his amazing achievements and visions, and I appreciate that in a good biography. It definitely benefits it. I also have to give this book 5 stars because I used it as a source in an essay I wrote last semester, and then that essay won a contest. Plus my dad read it and liked it too. Nice work, Munson.