The Dovetail Cultural Resource Group Lecture
Thanks to Elon Musk choosing to name his electric car company after him, the name Nikola Tesla is again in the news. At the same time, Tesla is also a cult figure appearing in comic books, video games, and sci-fi television shows. Yet who was this tall, dark, and mysterious inventor in real life?
Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions formed the basis of modern AC electricity and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his rival Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America's first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. In this talk, Professor Carlson will describe his rapid rise to fame in the 1880s and his equally sudden fall from grace in the 1890s, always with an eye to what Tesla can teach about the role of innovation in American society.
Speaker: W. Bernard Carlson
Bernie Carlson is the Joseph L. Vaughan Professor of Humanities at the University of Virginia. He is also Chair of the Department of Engineering and Society and holds appointments in UVa’s History Department as well as the Bjoring Center for Nursing History. Bernie studied history and physics as an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, received his Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science from the University of Pennsylvania, and did his postdoctoral work at the Harvard Business School.
As a historian of technology, Bernie has written widely on inventors as well as on the role of technology in the rise and fall of civilizations. His books include Innovation as a Social Process: Elihu Thomson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1991) and Technology in World History, 7 volumes (Oxford University Press, 2005). His most recent book, Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age. (Princeton University Press, 2013) has been translated into nine languages. In 2015, Bernie won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology as well as the IEEE’s Middleton Award in Electrical History. In addition to his books, Bernie has filmed 36 lectures on "Understanding the Inventions that Changed the World" for The Great Courses.
Bernie currently directs Engineering Business Programs at UVa and teaches a course on “Engineers as Entrepreneurs.” He has advised a variety of companies on innovation, and for over a decade, he was a consultant to Corning Incorporated.