John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2001 July 15
    I was deeply honored to be invited to a most unusual and most 
welcome memorial ceremony on Tuesday 10 July 2001. The service was in 
memory of Nikola Tesla, the electrical engineer and inventor, who 
florished in the first third of the 20th century. I represented New 
York astronomy for the astronomy related ideas of Tesla and my own 
engineering career office for Tesla's work in the electric power 
    Briefly, Nikola Tesla was born and raised in what is now Serbia. 
He came to America in the 1890s as a new electrical engineer and was 
employed by Thomas Edison in the nascent electric utility in New York. 
    He parted company to work with George Westinghouse, mainly due to 
the fundamentally different philosophy between him and Edison. Edison 
favored only direct current for electric service while Tesla promoted 
alternating current. The two rivals of Edison and Tesla battled in -- 
and under! -- the streets of New York. Eventually by the early 1930s, 
the Tesla scheme of AC electricity won and the New York Edison Company 
interconnected by AC to electric companies in upstate New York. 
    He was not an astronomer but a lot of his work touched on 
celestial themes. He explored the existence and behavior of 
electromagnetic waves in space, tested wireless electric power for 
airplanes and possible spaceships, and, altho crudely, operated the 
first real radiotelescope. He had far-ranging ideas on the origin and 
fate of the Earth and of the life on it, on developing solar energy, 
and on extraterrestrial intelligent life. He tried beaming radio 
messages to Mars in search of its inhabitants. 
    Tesla died in the 1940s, spending his last years living in the 
hotel New Yorker. Altho he is acclaimed in science and technical 
circles, public recognition of Tesla remains weak in the United 
    The ceremony was on the 34th Street side of the New Yorker hotel, 
diagonally across from Madison Square Garden, beginning at quite 19h 
EDST on Tuesday 10 July 2001. I with delegations from the Institute of 
Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Tesla Memorial Society, hotel 
engineering crew, local politicians, and a large contingent from the 
Yugoslavian mission, constituted the 60 or so invited guests. 
    Assorted brief speeches, including one by Tesla's nephew and a 
proclamation of Nikola Tesla Day by an agent of Governor Pataki, 
culminated in the unveiling of a memorial plaque at this site. A 
threat of thunderstorms did not deter or impede the service, nor did 
an actual light drizzle. Umbrellas went up without so much as a hiccup 
in the procedings. 
    The plaque was cast in 1977 and was in the IEEE's historical 
collection. It was never exhibited publicly. It was given to the hotel 
to install on its facade where for the first time Tesla now ranks 
among the grand heros of the City. It's now in full view on the 34th 
Street flank of the hotel, about three meters above the sidewalk, 
halfway between the canopies of Manhattan Center and the New Yorker. 
    The ceremonies concluded at quite sundown and some of us marvelled 
at the Stonehenge effect of New York. The Sun set not quite squarely 
in the line of 34th Street! It will do so exactly on Thursday the 12th 
of July on any of the east-west streets within the Manhattan grid. 
    Following the outdoor event, with the rain well over and the sky 
breaking clear, we repaired to a reception at Saint Sava's Church. 
This is the central edifice for the Serbian Orthodox CHurch in New 
York, on 26th Street near Broadway. 
    The reception was in the parish house with light refreshments, 
soft drinks, and a hefty wine whose color is best called the red 
equivalent of navy blue. Most of the delegates spoke English and I got 
friendly with a cinematographer and a scriptwriter; they are 
assembling a new film on Tesla. Many of the guests were well educated 
and, while I was the only specific astronomer, some worked on space or 
astronomy projects in their careers. So there was good banter all thru 
the evening. 
    The convos among the 'locals' were in mixed English and Serbian. 
The singing and music, were in Serbian. If you must ask, no, I do not 
know any Serbiam. It does look like a romance language with clear 
imprints of Latin. 
    Going toward 22h, after a full liter of this wine, I had to say 
'Se basta!'. A quick walk-jog to Greeley Square got me to the subway 
to go home.