The First 50 Years of Science & Mechanics

(Editor's note: The following excerpt is taken from the 1980 “50th Anniversary Issue of Science & Mechanics.” A special thanks goes to member Bill Robertson for making available this interesting issue.)

Contributing Editor Nikola Tesla, famed inventor of the alternating current motor, wrote several science articles for S&M. In his article “Our Future Motive Power,” he analyzed methods of tapping the earth's hidden resources which would provide energy for future generations.

Thus, one experiences the delight of recognition upon opening one of the earliest issues of S&M and finding a story by Nikola Tesla, the Croatian genius who harnessed Niagara Falls and singlehandedly revolutionized industry and communication with his alternating current motors and distributing systems. Tesla's output was incredible. To name only a few of his inventions - the synchronous AC electric motor, the neon and fluorescent lamps, the ultra-high voltage transformer using an air coil, and many devices essential to radio and television, and even a proposed system for the wireless transmission of power. It was more than enough to earn him the Nobel Prize in Physics which he refused. The man upon whose work almost the entire electrical system of this country was established and is still operating today, had the foresight fifty years ago to concern himself and S&M readers with the question of obtaining power to replace wasted fuel. Tesla suggested a method of tapping the earth's hidden resources which he claimed would support the industry of future generations.

In his article, entitled, “Our Future Motive Power,” Tesla quoted himself from a lecture he had given 40 years earlier, in 1891: “We are whirling through endless space with inconceivable speed, all around us everything is spinning, everything is moving, everything is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly....”

Fifty years later the question Tesla and S&M put before the public is the big question for us in 1980. It did not go away.

Each copy of the magazine, now firmly established, was peppered with such engaging material as the new television, the “Singing Arc and Tesla Coil,” the human aura which was allegedly violet in color....

Another of Tesla's articles for S&M, the illustration for which is below, described possible methods of breaking up tornadoes. Appearing in the December, 1933 issue, the article suggested that detonating explosives in the heart of a tornado would destroy it. The idea probably would not have worked, but it is a good example of the kinds of bold proposals for solutions to common problems that was the hallmark of S&M.


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