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Karen Preston

Associate Professor of Physics & S.T.E.M. Club Sponsor, Eastern Arizona College

Tesla— Edison and Tesla: The wizard and the mad man

Physicist Karen Preston discusses why Edison is considered the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” while Tesla is thought of as a mad scientist. She'll compare and contrast the public’s ideas of these two men, provide additional history, shed more light on their relationship, and contrast the very different outcomes of their lives.

Willcox Theater and Arts Willcox, AZ

Film Synopsis

Through Promethean struggles, Nikola Tesla attempts to transcend entrenched technology—including his own previous work—by pioneering a system of wireless energy that will change the world.

Brilliant, brooding inventor Nikola Tesla (Ethan Hawke) fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition. Increasingly displeased by the greed of fellow inventor Thomas Edison (Kyle MacLachlan), Tesla forges his own virtuous but arduous path toward creating the innovative alternate-current motor. His European nature is at odds with budding American industrialism, and the landscape of intellectual property is treacherous—and Tesla slowly becomes jailed in his overactive mind. His associate Anne Morgan (Eve Hewson) analyzes and presents his story as it unfolds, offering a distinctly modern voice in this scientific period drama.

Sundance Film Festival veteran Ethan Hawke returns in this informative and engaging historical piece directed by Michael Almereyda (A Hero of Our Time, Marjorie Prime). With Tesla's controversies, legal battles, entrepreneurial clashes, and romantic interests, Almereyda weaves together a portrait of a man struggling against the interests of his time. The profundity of his electrical mind is unearthed through this rediscovery of the development of electricity in the United States, ultimately posing existential questions about invention, industry, greed, love, and lightning. (Sundance Institute)

Photo credit: IFC Films