Electricity

Inventor Nikola Tesla turned to an old trick to sell the brilliant concept of alternating current, which would enable the electrical power grid and the modern machines that run off it

In the fall of 1887 Nikola Tesla was scared. Three years earlier he had emigrated from Europe to New York City, set on becoming an electrical inventor. Read more >>

It changed the course of capital punishment in America

Capitalism sometimes operates in unexpected ways and turns up in unexpected places. It can even be involved in what has been, legally, a monopoly of the state since the time of King Henry II—capital punishment. Read more >>

A leader in the emerging field of technological history speaks about the inventors who made our modern world and tells why it is vital for us to know not only what they did, but how they thought

When people say that technology is a juggernaut dragging a helpless society along behind it, Thomas Hughes shakes his head. History shows otherwise, he says. Read more >>

The decline and fall of the lamppost

I DON’T THINK of myself as having a “thing” about lampposts, but when I walk Manhattan’s streets at night— streets naked to the greenish glare of 1,000-watt lights vaulting three stories high—I realize how much I miss those graceful, human Read more >>

Lighting Up America

“Remember,” Thomas Edison liked to say, “nothing that’s good works by itself, just to please you; you’ve got to make the damn thing work.” One hundred years ago this October, after trying to make the damn thing work for thirtee Read more >>
The outdoor electric-light spectacular that transformed cities all over the world was born at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, where a single lighted column glowed with no fewer than four thousand incandescent lamps. Read more >>

So Richmond proudly described its electric trolleys, the first truly successful system in the world

For the citizens of Richmond, Virginia, in 1888 the city’s new trolley system was a source of inordinate pride. Read more >>

OF BALLOONS, THE FIRST AIR-MAIL LETTERS, AND THE EVER-ENTERPRISING FRANKLIN FAMILY

Seventy-seven-year-old Benjamin Franklin was at the top of his form in the fall of 1783. Minister to the court of France since 1776, this revered figure from the new young country had scored widely in France. Read more >>