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Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla (July 9, or July 10, 1856 - January 7, 1943) was a Serbian inventor and electrical engineer.
His most famous contribution to the world was the theory of polyphase alternating current electricity, which he used to build the first induction motor, invented in 1882, as well as developing the designs of numerous other electrical machines and related technology. His theory and many of his patents form the basis for the modern electric power system.

Nikola Tesla

Tesla is also noted for inventing the Tesla coil and a blade turbine that functioned on fluid viscosity. The scientific compound derived SI unit measuring magnetic flux density or magnetic inductivity[?], the tesla, was named in his honor.

Biography Tesla was born in the village of Smiljan in Lika[?] area which is today in Croatia to Serb parents. His family moved to Gospic[?] in 1862.

Tesla studied in Karlovac[?], present day Croatia, then studied electrical engineering at the Austria Politechnic in Graz. He was soon designing improvements to electric motors and equipment. In 1881 he moved to Budapest to work for the telegraph company. In 1882 he moved to Paris to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company.

In 1884 Tesla moved to the United States of America to accept a job with the Edison Company in New York City. In 1889 he became a USA citizen.

Tesla was fluent in seven languages and was a good friend of Mark Twain.

For a while he stayed in Maribor.

Though he had worked for Thomas Edison for a time, he would soon become his adversary due to Edison's promotion of direct current for electric power distribution[?] over the more efficient alternating current advocated by Tesla. At the time, direct current was the standard, and Edison was not disposed to lose all his patent royalties to a former employee. A huge political battle ensued, including the use of Tesla's patents (by one of Edison's employees) to construct the first electric chair for the state of New York in order to promote the idea that alternating currents were deadly. But with the financial backing of George Westinghouse, Tesla's alternating current gradually replaced direct current, enormously extending the range and improving the safety and efficiency of power distribution.

During the period 1893 to 1895, Tesla investigated high frequency alternating currents. He discovered the skin effect, designed tuned circuits, invented a machine for inducing sleep, as well as cordless gas discharge lamps, and transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, effectively building the first radio transmitter. He also built an X-ray (Röntgen ray) tube, and took photographs of the bones of his hand with it, but failed to recognise its potential. In later years, Tesla experimented with high voltage electricity and the possibility of transmitting and distributing large amounts of electrical energy over long distances without using wires or cables. He also conceived the science of telegeodynamics, now known as seismology, and explained that a long sequence of small explosions could be used to find ores underground and create earthquakes large enough to destroy the earth - he did not experiment with this as he felt there would not be "a desirable outcome."

Nikola Tesla also developed the rotating magnetic field model.

In his later years Tesla exhibited more pronounced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He often felt compelled to walk around a block a number of times before entering a building, demanded a stack of a certain number of folded cloth napkins be beside his plate at every meal, etc. The nature of OCD was little understood at the time and no treatments were available, so his symptoms were considered by some to be evidence of partial insanity and this probably hurt his career.

When he was 81, Tesla challenged Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, announcing he was working on a dynamic theory of gravity and argued that a field of force was a better concept and did away with the curvature of space. Unfortunately the theory was never published, but Tesla may have been developing a theory about gravity waves. This theory provides a basis for plasma cosmology. This theory is a logical extension of the Rotating magnetic field model.

Tesla died of heart failure some time between the evening of January 5 and the morning of January 8, 1943. Despite selling his AC electricity patents, Tesla was essentially destitute and died with significant debts. At the time of his death, Tesla had been working on some form of teleforce weapon, or Death Ray, the secrets of which he had offered to the US War Department on the morning of January 5. Immediately after his death became known, all of Tesla's personal effects were seized by the Alien Property Custodian and the FBI, on the advice of presidential advisors. J. Edgar Hoover declared the case most secret, because of the nature of Tesla's inventions and patents.

Of the 700-plus patents accumulated by Tesla, the most controversial today is his Wardenclyffe Tower. The tower was meant to be the start of a national (and later global) system of towers broadcasting power to users as radio waves. Instead of supplying electricity through a current grid system, users would simply "receive" power through antennas on their roofs. At the time the power grid was quite limited in terms of who it reached and the Tower represented a way of significantly reducing the cost of "electrifying" the countryside.

Though never completed successfully in Tesla's lifetime due to lack of funding, and finally dismantled for scrap during wartime, its principles are being implemented by a U.S. military project in Alaska, spanning several hundred acres. However, Project HAARP, as it is called, supplies a different objective. While Tesla's tower was to be his supreme test of the applicability of transmitted power, HAARP is being used to study ionospheric effects on radio communication. Wardenclyffe was also the genesis of the current search for practical applications for focused wave and particle beams, such as the laser and maser.

Tesla's Serbian-Orthodox family and the Yugoslav embassy struggled with American authorities after Tesla's death due to the potential significance of some of Tesla's research. Perhaps because of Tesla's personal eccentricity and the dramatic nature of his demonstrations, conspiracy theories about applications of his work persist. The common Hollywood stereotype of the "mad scientist" mirrors Tesla's real-life persona, or at least a caricature of it -- which may be no accident considering that many of the earliest such movies (including the first movie version of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein) were produced by Tesla's old rival, Thomas Edison.

Tesla disputed the claim that Marconi invented radio. An ongoing lawsuit regarding this was finally resolved after his death, with the government granting Tesla the patent on radio devices. At the time, the United States Army was involved in a patent infringement lawsuit with Marconi regarding radio, leading some to posit that the government granted Tesla the patent on order to nullify any claims Marconi would have to recompensation.

There are at least two films describing Tesla's life. In the first, arranged for TV, Tesla was portrayed by Serb actor Rade Šerbedžija[?].

Nikola Tesla Memorial at Niagara Falls. Tesla was the first to successfully convert the mechanical energy of flowing water to electrical energy.

External links and resources


  • The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century: Nikola Tesla, Forgotten Genius of Electricity, Robert Lomas, Headline Book Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0747262659

  • Tesla, Man Out Of Time, Margaret Cheney, 1981 (first edition), 1993 (Barnes & Noble Books). ISBN 0-88029-419-1. 320 pages.

  • Tesla, Master of Lightning, Margaret Cheney & Robert Uth, Barnes & Noble Books, NY, 1999. ISBN 0-7607-1005-8. 184 pages.

  • Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla, John J. O'Neill, Angriff Press, ISBN 0-913022-40-3. 326 pages.

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