Carslon awarded Sally Hacker, Middleton Prizes

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Engineering & Society Chair Wins Unprecedented Two Sally Hacker Prizes

Professor W. Bernard Carlson, chair of the University of Virginia Department of Engineering and Society, has earned a Sally Hacker Prize and a William and Joyce Middleton Electrical Engineering History Award for his book, Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age.

 He is the only author to achieve two Sally Hacker Prizes since the Society for the History of Technology established the award in 1999 to honor exceptional scholarship appealing to a broad audience. Carlson first earned the award in 2008 for his book, Technology in World History.

The William and Joyce Middleton Electrical Engineering History Award is bestowed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Princeton University Press, which published Tesla, says: “Nikola Tesla was a major contributor to the electrical revolution that transformed daily life at the turn of the twentieth century. His inventions, patents, and theoretical work formed the basis of modern AC electricity, and contributed to the development of radio and television. Like his competitor Thomas Edison, Tesla was one of America's first celebrity scientists, enjoying the company of New York high society and dazzling the likes of Mark Twain with his electrical demonstrations. An astute self-promoter and gifted showman, he cultivated a public image of the eccentric genius. Even at the end of his life when he was living in poverty, Tesla still attracted reporters to his annual birthday interview, regaling them with claims that he had invented a particle-beam weapon capable of bringing down enemy aircraft.

Plenty of biographies glamorize Tesla and his eccentricities, but until now none has carefully examined what, how, and why he invented. In this groundbreaking book, W. Bernard Carlson demystifies the legendary inventor, placing him within the cultural and technological context of his time, and focusing on his inventions themselves as well as the creation and maintenance of his celebrity. “

Tesla has been translated into eight languages and has sold more than 45,000 copies.

Carlson’s accomplishments also include establishing a strong network for support for UVA students interested in entrepreneurship, and his efforts helped lead to the Faculty Senate’s approval last spring of a University-wide entrepreneurship minor.