Publishers Weekly, 1996-10-28 Seifer's vivid, revelatory, exhaustively researched biography rescues pioneer inventor Nikola Tesla from cult status and restores him to his rightful place as a principal architect of the modern age. Based largely on firsthand documents including Tesla's writings, his patents and those of competitors, it credits the Croatian-born Serb, who moved to New York in 1884, with the invention of the induction motor, long-distance electrical power distribution, fluorescent and neon lights, the first true radio tube and remote control, besides making vital contributions to the technology underlying television, wireless communication, robotics, lasers, the facsimile machine and particle-beam weaponry anticipating the space-based "Star Wars" defensive shield. Though often depicted as a recluse, flamboyant nouveau-riche Tesla (1856-1943) lived in Manhattan's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for two decades, and hobnobbed with architect Sanford White, Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, conservationist John Muir, mogul John Jacob Astor III, Swami Vivekananda. Yet the electronic wizard, who competed fiercely with Marconi and with his one-time employer Edison, became swamped in debt, abandoned by a world he helped create, ending his days in seedy poverty, a bitter, anorexic eccentric obsessed with feeding pigeons and avoiding germs. Seifer, who teaches psychology at Community College of Rhode Island, attributes Tesla's downfall partly to his megalomaniacal, neurotic, self-destructive tendencies, partly to a quagmire of litigation and also to his Faustian pact with his ambivalent benefactor, Wall Street financier J. Pierpont Morgan, to whom he relinquished control of several patents. Morgan, suggests Seifer, stymied Tesla's visionary scheme for a global, wireless power-distribution system because, if realized, it would jeopardize electrical, lighting and telephone monopolies. Seifer provides the fullest account yet of Tesla as an entrepreneur, experimental physicist and inventor. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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