Nikola Tesla    

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Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla received an advanced education in engineering and physics in the 1870s and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, where he would become a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own. With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company would eventually market.

Attempting to develop inventions he could patent and market, Tesla conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He also built a wireless-controlled boat, one of the first ever exhibited. Tesla became well known as an inventor and would demonstrate his achievements to celebrities and wealthy patrons at his lab, and was noted for his showmanship at public lectures.

Throughout the 1890s, Tesla would pursue his ideas for wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. In 1893, he made pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. Tesla tried to put these ideas to practical use in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but ran out of funding before he could complete it.

After Wardenclyffe, Tesla went on to try to develop a series of inventions in the 1910s and 1920s with varying degrees of success. Having spent most of his money, he lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills. The nature of his earlier work and the pronouncements he made to the press later in life earned him the reputation of an archetypal "mad scientist" in American popular culture. Tesla died in New York City in January 1943. His work fell into relative obscurity following his death (possible explanation in next section), but in 1960, the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density the tesla in his honor. There has been a resurgence in popular interest in Tesla since the 1990s.



  Comments From George K9GDT

  • During the 1960's I learned a lot about my personal hero Nikola Tesla. I would read any book or article about him I could find. One of those books was written by a person who knew him reasonably well.
  • Although a brilliant scientist and engineer, Tesla was not a businessman. His motivations were mostly altruistic. He wanted to invent a means of harnessing the electricity he claimed was abundant in the atmosphere and distribute it at no cost to everyone. This noble goal did not endear him to the wealthy, which may explain the "mysterious fire" that destroyed his first lab.
  • Tesla had over 300 US patents and 700 worldwide. He would routinely grant royalty-free rights for his creations to engineers he felt could bring those ideas to the marketplace. Many of his inventions were not even protected by patents.
  • Radio Tesla first sent a wireless transmission from his lab at Houston Street in New York City to a boat on the Hudson River 25 miles (40 km) away in 1897. He would have done this sooner except for the fire that destroyed his previous lab in 1895. Tesla invented everything we associate with radio antennas, tuners etc. An inventor named Guglielmo Marconi was given the actual credit. In 1943, after his death, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Tesla's patent had precedence. However, the public already considered Marconi the father of radio.
  • Tesla successfully demonstrated to the U.S. military a radio-controlled torpedo with simple digital control that could be guided remotely, just in time for the Spanish-American War. The military failed to understand what Tesla offered and passed on the technology.
  • He was an amazing man. Here are just some of the things I learned:
    • He had the uncanny ability to construct and debug new inventions in his head.
    • Tesla spoke eight languages.
    • He was well groomed and sociable, with a brilliant sense of humor. The ladies found him attractive. He never married, claiming his work would be impacted.
    • Tesla was close friends with American humorist Samuel Clemens (a.k.a.Mark Twain)
    • He helped George Westinghouse build his business. It has been reported that Westinghouse was the anonymous benefactor who covered Tesla's living expenses during his last years when he was broke and in debt, living in a hotel room in New York city.
  • The Edison Experience
    • Upon his arrival to the US, Tesla was hired by Thomas Edison, who was in the business of supplying D.C. electricity to wealthy Manhattan customers.
    • Friction started when Tesla rightly tried to convince his new boss that AC was a better option, especially for long distance transmission. Edison's response? ...a campaign designed to convince the public that AC was dangerous. He financed demonstrations where animals were sacrificed via AC electrocution to "prove" his point. Large animals, such as horses and elephants, were reported to be his favorite victims.
    • Tesla was not paid in full for the engineering work he did for Edison. Some reports state he received no compensation at all.
    • Since Edison's customers were wealthy influential people, Tesla had a hard time advancing the state of the art until he met George Westinghouse.
  • After passing, his laboratory was ransacked by the U.S. Federal Government and all of his engineering documents and materials were seized and hauled away, not to be seen for over half a century. This might explain why Tesla faded from public view. Why do you suppose this happened?
  • Here are only some of his many inventions Radio, the AC motor, fluorescent lights, the wireless remote control boat, neon lights (which he bent into letters), wireless bulbs lit by energy from the earth, an AC power plant that harnessed the hydroelectric power of Niagara Falls. He even had a hand in the creation of robotics.
  • Tesla's wireless light bulb (pictured above) was lit by free energy from the earth and never brought to market. I would have expected this invention to be very much in demand if it's existence were known. Why do you suppose this happened?
  • By the time Tesla died in 1943, his money was gone and his fame had faded. However, his inventions and discoveries have made much of our current technology possible. It has been written that Tesla invented the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • My favorite Tesla quote "There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact."

The Story of Nikola Tesla   (53:09 minutes)   The Short Story of Nikola Tesla   (2:56 minutes)

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