NIKOLA TESLA MEMORIAL IN NEW YORK ------------------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc www.nyskies.org firstname.lastname@example.org 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 industry. 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 States. 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.