History : Jul-Aug 2016
82 JULY/AUGUST 2016 But to commercialize his incandescent lamp, Edison now had to design an entire electrical system to power it, which he modeled after the gas lighting systems used in large cities. Gas sys- tems included central stations, underground conductors, meters, and lamp fixtures. Edison built his first central station on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan in 1882. The area included the Wall Street financial district and the offices of New York’s newspapers, ensuring that Edison had access to both financiers and the media. Before installing the station, he had his men survey the district to find out how many gas and kerosene lamps were used that might be replaced by his new lights. To offset the high costs of the copper mains needed to carry power to his lights, Edison designed his DC system for densely populated urban centers, and it was most efficient serving customers within a mile of the central station. The Rise of Alternating Current Edison was right that there was a huge market for smaller electric lights that could take the place T ESLA’S MOST FAMOUS LAB, WARDENCLYFFE, was located on Long Island. In 1901 J. P. Morgan loaned Tesla $150,000 to fund a plan for broadcasting power around the world. Famous architect Stanford White designed the main brick building, in which electric current waves would be generated before traveling via cables to a nearby tower and underground shaft. There, the tower functioned as a gigantic Tesla coil, increasing the current to millions of volts and sending it down the shaft to propagate through the Earth’s crust. Tesla believed that consumers would tap these subterranean currents in order to power lights and motors. He was also confident that everyone would carry a small receiver, “no big- ger than a pocket watch,” which could receive news and telephone calls. Unfortunately, Tesla couldn’t secure more funding to continue his work. He suffered a nervous breakdown in 1905 and was forced to give Wardenclyffe to his creditors. Today it is being restored with the support of thousands of Tesla fans, including Elon Musk. TESLA’S WORLD POWER PLAN WI-FI AT WARDENCLYFFE? BUILT IN 1901, TESLA‘S MASSIVE TOWER WAS AN EARLY WIRELESS TRANSMISSION STATION. IT WAS DEMOLISHED IN 1917. AKG/ALBUM ULLSTEINBILD/GETTYIMAGES NEW YORK DYNAMO THIS WOODCUT SHOWS ONE OF THE CENTRAL POWER STATIONS IN NEW YORK BUILT BY THE EDISON LIGHT COMPANY IN 1882.