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Egg of Columbus: Nikola Tesla's and Christopher's

Updated on February 29, 2020

In the grand span of the Earth’s history, many popular phrases were born based on events and situations frequently starring the most famous names and minds of our times.  This is the case in regard to the expression “The Egg of Columbus.”  To understand an expression, the root history behind it should be examined.  This case in particular takes us back to Christopher Columbus during the time briefly following his discovery of the Americas.

The "Origin" Story

Girolamo Benzoni, an Italian Historian born in the early 1500’s, tells a story in his 1565 book “Historia del Mondo Nuovo” – History of the New World – in which Christopher Columbus was challenged and informed that like Columbus, any adventurer with the wit and resources such as men of Spain had could have discovered the New World as Columbus had done.

In response, Columbus had an egg brought out, and bet his guests that they could not make the egg stand on its tip without assistance.  Puzzled, and eventually failing, they returned the egg to Columbus, who then slightly flattened the tip of the egg against the table, giving it a flat surface upon which to stand.  Understanding blossomed – now that they knew it could be done, and for certain how, of course it could be done.

Like any good intellect challenging problem, the more popular of the stories is not in fact the true origin.  It is likely that Columbus derived his little trick from scholarly readings or, like modern days, in urban legend passed ‘round from town to town.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Tesla's Egg of Columbus
Tesla's Egg of Columbus
Tesla's Egg of Columbus

The Other Egg of Columbus

In the late 1800’s, Nikola Tesla, the father of electricity as cited in many circles, unveiled an invention at the World’s Columbian Exposition which he called the Egg of Columbus. This project began similarly to Columbus’ story, in that Tesla was reported to have made a bet with financial backers that he could make an egg spin on its end indefinitely.

Tesla’s Egg works by creating a rotating magnetic field, which thanks to angular momentum and by spinning on its major axis (what we would call top to bottom, not side to side in this case,) caused the copper egg used on the device to spin on its tip.

In the following video you can see an Egg of Columbus in action.

Tesla's Egg of Columbus Example

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    • Jesse-James profile image

      Jesse-James 

      10 years ago

      Awesome hub, I heard stories about this but I never really followed up on it. It's quite amazing the things Tesla as well as Columbus outsmarting some stuck up people wonderful.

    • itsjustmee profile image

      itsjustmee 

      10 years ago from Hyderabad

      niceeeeeee!!!!

    • Sue Adams profile image

      Juliette Kando FI Chor 

      10 years ago from Andalusia

      Thank you for this I didn't know the second story.

    • Kitchen_Witch profile image

      Kitchen_Witch 

      10 years ago from The Green Studio of Musings

      good one!

    • RedSonja94 profile image

      RedSonja94 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for the info. That is a great story.

    • gamergirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Kiz Robinson 

      10 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Thank you so much. :)

    • James Agbogun profile image

      James Agbogun 

      10 years ago

      Very intelligent! from columbus to tesla. What a construction.

    • gamergirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Kiz Robinson 

      10 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      I had an eggcellent time writing this Hub, that's for sure!

    • profile image

      lyricsingray 

      10 years ago

      Great Write-Thanks for the eggformation-I know, nerd. Cheers!

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