IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2017 - 21

brings us to the strange case of Marc
Seifer, the author of the introduction
to Cooper's book.
Marc Seifer wrote his Ph.D. thesis on Tesla for Saybrook University
of San Francisco. It evolved into
a published book in 1998. Aitken
had complained of the O'Neill and
Cheney books that they contained
no footnotes; there is just no way
to check their work. Seifer's volume has an abundance of footnotes,
as befits its thesis origins. He has
delved deeply into the correspondence between Tesla and his financial backers and friends - most
especially J.P Morgan but also Astor
a nd Westinghouse. Cooper cites
Seifer very frequently.
Despite his laborious scholarship, it is clear that Seifer has eaten
from the tree of Tesla buffs. The
title of his book Wizard: The Life
and Times of Nikola Tesla, Biography of a Genius, might make us
suspicious. We learn from Seifer's
own preface that as a boy he built
a crystal radio and learns as an
adult that Tesla was the "principal
inventor of the very device of I had
spent endless hours with..."
This is dead wrong and its appearance in the early pages makes
us suspicious of what follows. The
heart of the crystal radio is the crystal detector consisting of a thin
wire ("cat's whisker") touching
what is often a lead salt, galena.
Invention of this device is the work
of such people as the German, K.F.
Braun, and two Americans: General
H. Dunwoody and Greenleaf Whittier Pickard.

june 2017

Warming to his task, Seifer has
we learn from Cooper, four years
Tesla producing the "first true radio
earlier, a French inventor Lucien
tube" in the second month of 1892.
Gaulard and an Englishman John
Studying the lecture in which the
Dixon Gibbs publically demonstratinventor unveiled this device we see
ed long distance transmission of
that it exploits the properties of a
AC power. A little digging on my
sparse ionized gas; the essential feapart in IEEE publications revealed
ture of all radio tubes -thermionthe distance to be around 20 miles.
ic emission from a red hot filament
Overlooking the introduction,
in a near vacuum, is missing. Seifer
we can say that Cooper's book
would have done better to
credit Edison, or J.A. Fleming, or Lee de Forest.
There is more of the
same. A model radio-conTesla died alone, a weird
trolled boat that Tesla demonstrates in a tank in 1892
eccentric, in a hotel in New York
is the basis of the wireless
City in 1943.
telephone, car radio, fax
machine, cable TV scrambler. Yes, the man who
invented everything.
is a welcome and much needed
Tesla was a bachelor and Seifer
addition to the Tesla literature.
is uncomfortable accepting the likeIt's attractive and generally clear
lihood of his homosexuality. He
and unhurried in its discussion
compares Nikola to William James,
of electricity and electromagnetic
suggesting that both were intent on
theory. I look forward to seeing
"dedicating oneself to science at the
it on my next visit to Powell's,
expense of marriage." Sorry, bad
placed among the very sort of litexample. Dr. James married and
erature it condemns.
fathered 5 children.
Reviewer Information
Given the sloppiness of his
A. David Wunsch is Book Review
scholarship and his exaggerated
Editor of this magazine. He is Proclaims for his hero, it is astonishing
fessor Emeritus in the Dept. of
that Cooper enlisted Seifer to write
Electrical and Computer Engineerthe introduction to his book. Seifer
ing at the University of Massachuand Cooper even contradict each
setts in Lowell, MA. Email: A_Wunsch@
other. The former asserts in Cooper's
uml.edu.
book that prior to a speech given
by his hero in 1888 "the prevailing
thought was that electricity, whethReferences
er AC or DC could only be trans[1] M. Gladwell, "In The Air,", New Yorker,
May 12, 2008.
mitted about a mile...". In fact, as

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IEEE Technology and Society Magazine

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