Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Abraham Lincoln's lecture, and wind energy

In 1858 or 59 Lincoln wrote a lecture, "Discoveries and Inventions". The following year he gave the lecture in Springfield Illinois, and I think he gave it at least once more, in another Illinois town. Lincoln had two great passions, ending slavery, and advancements in technology. By the time he was in the White House the turn of events and moral imperative tied him to only one of his goals.
Below is the passage of the lecture dealing with wind energy.  The written text of the lecture was left with a friend of Lincoln and not published until 1904, it is rarely picked up and is rarely cited as a speech or writing of the President.  If anyone gives a flip, I can let you know where and how to read the whole thing.

Of all the forces of nature, I should think 
the wind contains the largest amount of mo 
tive power that is, power to move things. 
Take any given space of the earth s surface 
for instance, Illinois; and all the power ex 
erted by all the men, and beasts, and running- 
water, and steam, over and upon it, shall not 
equal the one hundredth part of what is ex 
erted by the blowing of the wind over and 
upon the same space. And yet it has not, so 
far in the world s history, become propor- 
tionably valuable as a motive power. It is ap 
plied extensively, and advantageously, to sail- 
vessels in navigation. Add to this a few wind 
mills, and pumps, and you have about all. 
That, as yet, no very successful mode of con 
trolling, and directing the wind, has been dis 
covered; and that, naturally, it moves by fits 
and starts now so gently as to scarcely stir a 
leaf, and now so roughly as to level a forest 
doubtless have been the insurmountable dif 
ficulties. As yet, the wind is an untamed, and 
unharnessed force; and quite possibly one of 
the greatest discoveries hereafter to be made, 
will be the taming, and harnessing of it. That 
the difficulties of controlling this power are 
very great is quite evident by the fadt that they 
have already been perceived, and struggled 
with more than three thousand years; for 
that power was applied to sail-vessels, at least 
as early as the time of the prophet Isaiah. 

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