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

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.

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


Jesse-James on January 17, 2010:

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 from Hyderabad on September 29, 2009:


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Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia, southern Spain on September 25, 2009:

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

Kitchen_Witch from The Green Studio of Musings on September 25, 2009:

good one!

RedSonja94 from Michigan on September 25, 2009:

Thanks for the info. That is a great story.

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on September 25, 2009:

Thank you so much. :)

James Agbogun on September 25, 2009:

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

Kiz Robinson (author) from New Orleans, Louisiana on September 25, 2009:

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

lyricsingray on September 25, 2009:

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

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