One of the more memorable exhibits at the fabulous Griffith Park Observatory is the Tesla coil. Its lightning discharges thrill crowds of locals and tourists alike, usually every hour on the hour.
The Tesla coil is enclosed in a newly designed alcove for maximum wow factor, and its giant arcs and wonderful zapping noises are better than ever. While our favorite tragic science figure Mr. Tesla designed the coil to someday transport the world’s electricity by air, this coil’s loftiest chore is lighting up a neon sign – nevertheless, it remains a sight to see.
This particular coil was once owned by Dr. Fredrick Finch Strong – physician, theosophist and enthusiastic electrotherapeutics experimenter. Finch Strong was fascinated by Tesla’s 1893 description of the effects of alternating currents on his research team and began experimenting with high voltage therapies himself. He went on to write a book in 1908 – High Frequency Currents – about his theories on using electricity to affect patients’ “vibrations.”
Finch Strong donated the major components of the coil to the City of Los Angeles. It was rebuilt and given a home at the famous observatory where it has been on display since 1937.
The Tesla coil is free to see anytime during normal observatory hours.
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L.A. Science Weekend: Natural History and Space
Join New York Times Journeys and Atlas Obscura for three days of scientific learning in Los Angeles, focused on natural history and zoology or space and aviation. This two-track program includes panels, exclusive visits and special access to scientists and venues to get up close to everything from telescopes and taxidermy to dinosaur skeletons and space artifacts.