on December 29, 2003
Seifer's comprehensive look at Nikola Tesla is unexpected. It is neither dry, formulaic or predictable - even for those familiar with the enigmatic genius. Simply put, it is fascinating, exciting reading. Tesla was credited with the invention of modern AC power generation, remote control, fundamental advances in radio, wireless voice- and data-transfer, the first laser, advanced flight concepts, and a myriad of other inventions. Yet he died without ever achieving the financial rewards one would expect for a man who was truly ahead of his time.
Taking advantage of ill-defined intellectual property laws and the vagaries of international court systems, other well-known inventors such as Pupin, Marconi, and Steinmetz either "borrowed" his discoveries or helped write him out of the history books. While many rode Tesla's coattails to public recognition and, often, staggering financial success - the great man was left penniless and alone.
Seifer pulls no punches. Tesla made a series of startling gaffes. From ill-conceived contracts with Westinghouse (leaving him with no ongoing revenue from his discovery of the AC polyphase system) to poor management of critical projects backed by J.P. Morgan, Tesla disappointed his financiers time and time again. Lack of prioritization, spinning off in too many directions simultaneously, poor project management - all contributed to Tesla's inability to achieve the breakthrough he needed (and deserved) for true financial independence.
Seifer covers Tesla's life in exceptional detail. His bizarre work habits (often sleeping only two hours a night), his odd social life (never married and apparently a lifelong celibate), and his many other idiosyncrasies are described with fascinating anecdotes. You don't need to be an Electrical Engineer, or a Scientist, or even technically savvy to thoroughly enjoy _Wizard_. In a nutshell: superb.
on January 8, 2003
Marc did great job covering life and work of Nikola Tesla, a serbian-american inventor who made great contributions to modern science and engineering. Book covers all of the important aspects of Tesla's inventions and scientific discoveries. It covers the broader historical background and explains the importance of Tesla's work to a great detail. It is also very good at explaining "mysteries" surrounding Tesla's personal life. It presents Tesla both as one of the greatest scientist ever as well as a human being. This book is so good since it makes the right balance between technical information (very accurate, with rich bibliography) and Tesla's personal life and social interactions. Therefore it is interesting for both serious scientists who would like to learn from Tesla's work as well as for general population who would like to learn about this extraordinary personality.
Overall, this is the number one book on Tesla so far. The best starting point and reference regarding Tesla's life and work.
on May 12, 2001
If the following snippets from author's preface grab you, you're likely to enjoy this book:
"In 1976...I stumbled across a strange text entitled Return of the Dove which claimed that there was a man not born of this planet who landed as a baby in the mountains of Croatia in 1856...his name was Nikola Tesla."
"...I also examine such questions as whether Tesla received impulses from outer space..."
"Using a psychohistorical perspective..."
As for me, I was hoping this book was going to be a serious scientific biography. I've learned a bit, but I have also been left with the distinct feeling that Mr Seifer (a community college psychology instructor) simply doesn't understand historical research and writing well enough to filter through Tesla's own self-contradictory and self-congratulatory statements. The result is a book that reads more like idle speculation than a rigourously researched and analysed biography. Finally, the points others have made on this site about the book's scientific overstatements are well taken
on December 13, 1997
A note from the author.
WIZARD: THE LIFE & TIMES OF NIKOLA TESLA has taken me 20 years to write. My key reasons for writing the book were to try and answer many of the questions left unanswered by the other authors, such as why Tesla's name dropped into obscurity, whether or not he really received signals from Mars, how his magnifying transmitter really worked, what exactly happened to cause his failure with JP Morgan, what happened to his secret particle beam weaponry papers, and would his particle beam weapon have really worked.
The book is set up completely chronologically, and begins with a quote for each chapter. It also differs from the other biographies in a number of other ways mainly because I had access to hundreds of documents which had never been published before, many received through the Freedom of Information Act.
For instance, for the first time ever, WIZARD explains why Tesla stopped working for Edison, why Steinmetz dropped Tesla's name from his textbooks on AC power, why Michael Pupin never mentioned Tesla's name in his physics courses at Columbia University, how Tesla pre-dated Rutherford, Bohr and Einstein in theories on the structure of the atom and on what came to be called Quantum physics, how Marconi pirated Tesla's apparatus, why Tesla had a falling out with his editor TC Martin, John Jacob Astor, JP Morgan and John Hayes Hammond Jr, what Tesla's link to the Navy was, how Franklin Roosevelt used the Tesla patents to block payments on wireless apparatus to Marconi, yet at the same time cut Tesla out of the Marconi/Sarnoff/Westinghouse deal to create RCA, how Tesla interacted with Telefunken, the German wireless concern during WWI and the US War Department during WWII to help them design a particle beam weapon, and how and why Tesla's name has been picked up by cult circles.
It has been praised by PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY as "revelatory" and definitive, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN as "a serious piece of scholarship", "deep, comprehensive, definitive" and "highly recommended" by THE AMERICAN ACADEMY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE, "meticulously researched" by BOOKLIST, "utterly absorbing" by NEXUS, called "a masterpice" by best selling author NELSON DEMILLE and "recommended for all levels" by CHOICE.
Further, WIZARD is not only the story of Tesla's amazing life, but also a story about the rise of corporate America at the turn of the century as well as a story about numerous Tesla contemporaries such as Tom Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, George Westinghouse, Robert & Katherine Johnson, John Jacob Astor, JP Morgan, Stanford White, Franklin Roosevelt and J. Edgar Hoover.
This new trade paperback edition has a new illustration of Tesla's flying wing VTOL which was a forerunner of Lockheed Martin's X-33 which will replace the shuttle, and also a new section on the June 1908 explosion at Tunguska Siberia. The book contains over 1400 endnotes including references to 250 documents never published before, a full bibliography and index, and 16 pages of photos.
Marc J. Seifer, Ph.D. Author
on July 16, 2002
If anyone has ever been interested in a the fascinating inventions of Tesla, this book will satisfy this interest and do so much more. It tells of his intellectual genius, and egotistical and financial failings. Tesla was his best and worst enemy, and this book does a nice job of proving both points. A really interesting read, with no slow parts as you might think. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
on May 4, 2000
Seifer did a comprehensive job of documenting Tesla's life but failed in appraising the contributions he made to science. From an engineers point of view, I feel that Seifer either did not have the technical knowledge to judge Tesla's endeavors or he was determined to undertake a crusade to make a scientific saint out him and ignored Tesla's follies.
Tesla did make significant advancements in alternating current machinery and in his work with coils and oscillators. But Tesla's concepts on the propagation of electromagnetic waves, as well as Seifer's interpretation was greatly lacking. Tesla believed that electromagnetic waves traveled as compression waves through the ether. Seifer, on page 102 refers to the 1881 Michelson and Morely experiments as "unsuccessfully tried to measure the ether..." Those experiments proved that, as far as electromagnetic propagation is concerned, there is no ether. Tesla claimed that he could communicate throughout the whole world from one location and went through hundreds of thousands of dollars in attempts to develop this. All one has to do is to look atTesla's Wardenclyffe tower as described and shown in the book to realize that if Tesla were the only one working on wireless communication we might not even have it today. On page 475, Seifer tells of a coil "50 miles in length or one forth the wavelength of light ...." The wave length of light is less than one millionth of a meter. The book describes many other concepts that Tesla raised money for but never brought to fruition. Tesla, as described in the book, was a showman and, perhaps a con artists promising his investors, such as Astor and Morgan, large returns but never accomplishing anything of merit for them. Tesla and Seifer seemed to believe that there was conspiracy against him and used that as an excuse for his lack of success in any of his endeavors after his original contributions to AC machinery.
The author, Seifer, attempts to credit Tesla's half baked concepts to everything we have today from communications to guided missiles, vertical take off airplanes, space defense, plus many other things. Unfortunately, many who read this book with a lack of technical knowledge may believe this. Tesla did contribute to alternating current technology but he was far from the genius Seifer tried to make of him.
on February 23, 1998
Having read several books on Tesla, I found this the most fascinating. The meticulous research, combined with insight in filling in the gaps of the research, put together what is probably the most accurate story of Tesla and his dealings. The cast of supporting characters is a "Who's who" of American history, and it's all real. No fictionalized encounters or make believe dialouge. I can't understand the massive oversight of Hollywood, to a story far bigger and vastly more influential on our century than the Titanic ever could be. I would love to write a screenplay for Tesla, but I know Mr. Seifer has already done it. Being an engineer, I found Mr. Seifers technical presentation much more satisfying than the fictional hype of other Tesla books.
on February 3, 1999
I read the 1998 softcover edition and LOVED IT! I first saw the name "TESLA" as a "brand" name on the television sets in eastern Europe. My curiosity up, I searched Amazon.com and found this book. I became a TESLA fan immediately! TESLA had the greatest inventive genius of the 20th century, and most of his key patents were filed in the 1890's !! HE WAS SO FAR AHEAD OF HIS TIME that some of his work is still labeled "TOP SECRET" by the U.S. government today. This book is a lesson in history, conspiracy, industrial espionage, science, corporate power and the sheer awesome genius of TESLA, whose name SHOULD be taught to every school child....before that of EDISON !!!
That Tesla was a genius is a given.
This book goes deeper than that and at times he does appear to be a wizard. Highly educated, fluent in 12 languages, and a prolific reader Tesla even when young would not just accept something as fact just because some authority figure told him. If it didn't make sense he would investigate it with vigour.
That was both a positive and negative attribute as once he got something in his mind to work on he would do so without appropriate rest until he collapsed. He was driven in the true sense of the word.
Seifer's research for this book must have been intensive as it comprehensive in what is included.
Great mind, Great Book
on June 28, 2002
What a great find. I have been through this book twice and still find myself overwhelmend by the accomplishments of Tesla. The Author was detailed and objective in his writing. Considering the family ties he writes about. What I especially found interesting is the later chapters, addressing the so called occult theory's about Tesla and his works. For the most part, he laid them to rest. Again Bravo! However I am a bit disapointed that there wasn't more on his Invention's and Patent's. I was hoping for a detailed list or drawings on his invetion's. Still, the pictures and accounts of his life, is one of the best I have seen. Over all a must to read.