Tag Archives: Edison

Was Edison a Good or a Bad Conductor?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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Electrocute

The passengers not knowing his real name called the rude bus conductor “Groucho”. No one ever befriended him.

On that fateful Monday morning, exasperated by the surging crowd, the conductor blew the whistle. A girl standing on the footboard slipped off the crowded bus. The rear tire ran over her body. She died instantly.

The infuriated passengers beat the bus driver and the conductor and then dragged them to the nearest police station.

The police found fault with the bad conductor for blowing the whistle too soon. They let off the driver and produced the conductor before the magistrate. After six months, the court sentenced him to death.

On the day of the execution, Edison, the bad conductor, entered the electrocution chamber. He saw the electrocution chair in the center of the room and a banana placed on it. He loved bananas. The executioners waited till the grouch finished eating the banana. They strapped him firmly to the electric chair and switched on the high-voltage current. However, the grouch survived since the electric current failed to pass through his body to his brain and heart. The judge set Edison free.

The grouch reinstated to his former job as a bus conductor did not seem to have changed even a wee bit after the ordeal he had undergone. He went about his job bent on being ruder to his passengers than before.

Three months later, on a busy Monday morning the conductor blew the whistle when a middle-aged woman tried to board the bus. Unfortunately, the woman standing on the footboard lost her balance and slipped off the crowded bus. The rear tire ran over her body. She died on the spot.

The enraged travelers after thrashing the bad conductor and the bus driver dragged them to the nearby police station.

Again, the police found fault with the grouch for blowing the whistle too soon and let off the driver. They produced the conductor before the same magistrate. The hearing as expected ended early, and the court once again sentenced the bad conductor to death.

On the day of execution, on entering the death chamber, the grouch saw two bananas placed on the electrocution chair. He ate both bananas.

The executioners strapped the conductor firmly to the electric chair and switched on the high-voltage current. To the amazement of the assembled, the grouch survived. This time too, the electric current failed to pass through to his brain and heart. Again, the judge set the grouch free.

Once again, reinstated to his earlier job with a severe warning, the bus conductor went about his job assiduously as before but was kind to his passengers.

Three months later, on a busy Monday morning he saw an elderly gentleman trying to board the bus. Remembering his earlier experiences, Edison, now no more a grouch, blew the whistle after the elderly person got onto the footboard. However, to Edison’s misfortune the old man fell off the bus and succumbed to his injuries. As before, the passengers took the conductor to the police station.

After viewing Edison’s pas record, the judge decided to set an example. He sentenced the current good conductor to death by electrocution.

On the day of electrocution when the good conductor entered the same electrocution chamber, he did not find his favourite fruit, the banana, to appease him before his death. The executioners once again strapped the him to the chair and switched on the current. This time the conductor died instantly.

At the inquest, the coroner and the officials pondered why Edison did not die on the first two occasions, but died on the third occasion. Did the banana play any part in this?

To this day this story continues to be a mystery.

Recently, a science student after hearing this story came up with a plausible answer. He said: “On the first two occasions, Edison was a bad conductor, but transformed into a good conductor just before his death.”

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Nikola Tesla, the Obscure Genius


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Myself

By T. V. Antony Raj

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“When I saw this wonderful man [Thomas Alva Edison], who had had no training at all, no advantages, and who did it all himself, and saw the great results by virtue of his industry and application – you see, I had studied a dozen languages … and had spent the best years of my life ruminating through libraries. I thought to myself what a terrible thing it was to have wasted my life on those useless things, and if I had only come to America right then and there and devoted all of my brain power and inventiveness to my work, what could I not have done?” (Nikola Tesla, in My inventions: My early life. Electrical Experimenter; February 1919)

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Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla

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Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American, was born in what is now Croatia on July 10, 1856. He was a physicist, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, an inventor, and futurist. He is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

During his lifetime, Tesla obtained about 300 patents for his inventions. Today, we take many of his inventions for granted today. For example, we owe Tesla for the flip switch when we turn on the light.

Tesla was one of the few inventors who contributed to advances in science and engineering in the early 20th century. As one of the fathers of Electricity, Nikola Tesla did pioneering work on alternating current (AC) power system, electromagnetism, hydroelectric power, radio, radar etc.

Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before he immigrated to the United States in 1884.

In 1882, Nikola Tesla started working for two years at the Continental Edison Company in France designing and making improvements to electrical equipment. In June 1884, Tesla relocated to New York City. During his trip across the Atlantic, his ticket, money, and some of his luggage were stolen. Then, mutiny broke out on the ship and he was nearly thrown overboard. When he landed in the United States he had only four cents in his pocket, a letter of recommendation from Charles Batchelor, the English engineer who managed the Continental Edison Company in Europe.

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Thomas Alva Edison
Thomas Alva Edison

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Tesla met Edison. Knowing the famous American inventor had a hearing problem spoke up and introduced himself. He produced the brief message from Batchelor.

Edison snorted after glancing at the brief message. “I know two great men and you are one of them,” Batchelor had written. “The other is this young man!

A rumpled, weary, and deeply skeptical Edison asked Tesla what he could do.

Tesla humbly described the engineering work he had done in France and spoke of his designs for induction motors that could run smoothly and powerfully on alternating current. Edison, however,  knew very little about alternating current and believed it to be the work of the devil. Edison was a  bigot, who in the past had waged a propaganda war against the gas companies stating the use of gas as a source of power would endanger humans due to possible explosions.

Eventually, Edison hired Tesla to work at the Edison Machine Works in New York.

One year later after a disagreement over emoluments, Tesla struck out on his own. With financial backers, he set up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices that sparked the long-running, and bitter “War of the Currents.

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Laboratory where TEsla and Westinghouse engineers developed apparatus for AC systems.
Laboratory where Tesla and Westinghouse’s engineers developed apparatus for AC systems.

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George Westinghouse used Tesla’s patented AC induction motor and transformer under license and hired him as a consultant to help develop a power system using alternating current.

Tesla is also known for his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. His patented devices and theoretical work were used in the invention of radio communication, and in his X-ray experiments.

At that time, James S. Warden, a western lawyer and banker had purchased land in Shoreham, Long Island, about 60 miles from Manhattan. Here, he built a resort community known as Wardenclyffe-On-Sound. Warden believed that with the implementation of Nikola Tesla’s “world system” a “Radio City” would arise in the area. He offered Tesla 200 acres (81 ha) of land close to a railway line on which to build his wireless telecommunications tower and laboratory facility. In 1901, Tesla designed the Wardenclyffe Tower also known as the Tesla Tower, an early wireless transmission tower intended for commercial trans-Atlantic wireless telephony, broadcasting, and proof-of-concept demonstrations of wireless power transmission. It never became fully operational and the tower was demolished in 1917.

Tesla with his achievements and his seemingly miraculous inventions and his abilities as a showman became world-famous. Though he reaped much money from his patents, he also spent a lot on numerous experiments. For most of his life he lived in New York hotels. Finally, the end of his patent income and eventual bankruptcy led him to live in diminished circumstances. Even then, Tesla continued to invite the press to parties he held on his birthday to announce new inventions he was working on. Due to his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years, Tesla gained a reputation as the archetypal “mad scientist”.

Though Nikola Tesla was one of the world’s greatest inventors, as fate would have it, he died penniless and in obscurity on January 7, 1943, in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel.

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Monument for f Nikola Tesla at the entrance to the “Cave of the Winds” at Niagara Falls.
This monument to honour Nikola Tesla near the entrance to the “Cave of the Winds” on Goat Island (Niagara Falls State Park), New York, USA, the work of famous Croatian sculptor Krsinic was the gift of Yugoslavia to the United States, 1976. (Photo: T.V. Antony Raj – August 3, 2012)

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