New York City, 1890: Nikola Tesla & Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, were good pals. Did Nikola Tesla cure Mark Twain’s constipation? They were known to get into their share of trouble after a night at the gentlemen’s club. Twain lived just a few blocks from Tesla’s Laboratory at 35 South Fifth Avenue. He was known to visit Tesla’s lab.
One of their more famous escapades (a.k.a. experiments) involved Nikola Tesla’s “earthquake” machine. It supposedly shook his building and nearly brought down its walls. It was a high frequency oscillator that was powerful, but not enough to destroy his lab. A piston set underneath a platform shook violently as it moved.
When Mark Twain complained to his friend of chronic digestive problems, Tesla reasoned that vibration could cure constipation. Twain was a trusting friend who was always up for a good time. He stood on the oscillator’s platform. Tesla flipped the switch. Reportedly in less then two minutes, Mark Twain jumped from the gizmo and ran to the toilet.
The photo at the top of this post illustrates another experiment in Tesla’s lab. Tesla (to the left) watches in the darkness. Twain peers into what looks like a plasma ball hovering between his hands. The photo was published to illustrate an article in Century Magazine in April of 1895:
“IN Fig. 13 a most curious and weird phenomenon is illustrated. A few years ago electricians would have considered it quite remarkable, if indeed they do not now. The observer holds a loop of bare wire in his hands. The currents induced in the loop by means of the —resonating— coil over which it is held, traverse the body of the observer, and at the same time, as they pass between his bare hands, they bring two or three lamps held there to bright incandescence.
Strange as it may seem, these currents, of a voltage one or two hundred times as high as that employed in electrocution, do not inconvenience the experimenter in the slightest. The extremely high tension of the currents which Mr. Clemens is seen receiving prevents them from doing any harm to him.”
Take a tour through the pbs.org interactive lab of Nikola Tesla here.
Bisland snakes Bly out of her exclusive, undercover Tesla story in this fictional account, Chapter 7 and 8 of the Book, About Racing Nellie Bly.
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