On an Influential Teacher

My mother was my first teacher. She instilled a love of telling history stories in a way that captured a young boy’s interest and attention. Mrs. McConatha, an English teacher of mine in Alabama, taught me to love words and how to best use them to tell the stories my mother inspired. And there are others. You probably have teachers who influenced you as well. This is the story of a physics teacher who taught over 150 years ago named Martin Sekulic.

Sekulic not only taught physics, but he also taught Math in several high schools across the Austria-Hungarian Empire. He himself was Croatian, and, like many people in Austria-Hungary, he was a polyglot out of necessity. He could speak and read German, Hungarian, and other languages as well as Croatian. He published scientific articles in several journals over the years, many of them demonstrating the successful testing of theories about light refraction and electromagnet oscillation.

Like many effective teachers, Sekulic brought demonstrations into the classroom. He wowed his students with hands-on experiments in a time when such lab-type work was fairly rare in high school. He paid for apparatuses to be constructed that would allow his students to see the direct application of his lectures for themselves. Imagine a student in the late 1800s not only seeing electromagnetic experiments but also being able to perform them for themselves. By the time he retired, Sekulic had managed to assemble a collection of almost 300 machines that demonstrated physics principles for his eager pupils.

One of Sekulic’s students wrote about him after his death, and the description of the pedagogic methods of the teacher shows how influential he truly was. “He made me want to know more about these wonderful forces,” the former student recalled. For this man, Sekulic’s demonstrations pulled back the curtain on physics and revealed the wonder behind what he called “these mysterious phenomena.”

In fact, this particular student decided to dedicate his life to pursing physics and electro-magnetic experiments and projects, and he invented and patented many important machines and concepts that are still in use today.

Yes, it’s not a stretch to say that, without the considerable influence of professor Martin Sekulic’s lessons, Nikola Tesla wouldn’t have help to create the modern world.


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