Nikola Tesla–Who He Was, What He Had Done, and Where He Dreamed to Lead Us
Nikola Tesla is a man from the past whom the general public still knows very little of. Recently, his name has been sensationalized with all sorts of things, from conspiracies to the newest technology, but even so, people today still know only a small percentage of what the great inventor and discoverer has truly done for the science and technology we take for granted today.
I get asked all the time why Nikola Tesla isn’t as popular today as other well-known historical figures, but to be honest, Tesla is partly to blame. It is true that he was blackballed by corporations, such as General Electric and Radio Corporation of America, but to deny Tesla’s responsibility for the today’s lack of knowledge of himself would be leaving a big part of the story out. His fault was that he wasn’t the kind of person who needed attention to feel special. He hated the praise and notoriety he recieved for his work and accomplishments. He preferred to be hidden from the public and left alone. He did get a great joy out of sharing his work and discoveries to those who cared, and would also protest anyone who stole his work and claimed it as their own, but he hated the spotlight and hoped his inventions, discoveries, and writings would speak for themselves.
To talk about what Tesla has done for science would lead one into a maze of technical terms unsuited for the mind uneducated in electricity. To even go into the technicalities of it all would be about as entertaining as an eighth period lecture on Donald Trump’s fraudulent business career on the last day of school. So I will only dwell on who he was, what he had done, and what he hoped to accomplish for the future.
Nikola Tesla is of the Serbian race and was born in Smilja, Lika, which during his time was located on the border of Austria-Hungary, today known as Croatia. His mother was a very talented inventor, and his father was a clergyman in the Greek Church. Tesla received his early education at Gospic in a public school, and later spent three years in the Higher Real Schule at Carstatt, Croatia. There he saw his first steam engine, which triggered his interest in electricity, and encouraged him to go against his father’s wishes, who wanted him to enter the ministry. It took Tesla surviving a cholera outbreak to persuade his father into allowing him to study science. Giving up to Tesla’s wishes, his father proposed that he become a college professor of mathematics and physics, and sent the young man to the Polytechnic School at Gratz.
At this new school, Tesla witnessed a gramme dynamo. It was one of the first industrial motors that produced direct current electricity. Its one fault was that it had commutator that caused great friction and resistance, making it highly inefficient. Tesla believed it was possible to run the dynamo without the commutator, but his professors scolded him, and dedicated an entire lecture on how it was completely impossible. Tesla began then and there to disprove his professors, and began working on ideas that would soon develop into one of his greatest inventions, the rotating magnetic field motor.
After finally making this discovery, the plan of becoming a professor disappeared, and the young student turned inventor took up engineering instead. He left for Paris to work with a telephone company, which gave him the opportunity in 1884, to move to America in hopes of capitalizing on his new discovery. Here is where the great genius would revolutionize and practically create the 20th century.
So what has he done?
Nikola Tesla literally has more original inventions to his credit than any other human in history. As mentioned above, he is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system that we rely on today. All electricity using or generating alternating current is due to Tesla, without which, all our power lines extending out to all businesses and households, providing light and power, would be far less advanced. Tesla invented the Induction Motor, the Tesla Rotary Converter, the Tesla Phase System of Power Transmission, the Tesla Steam and Gas Turbine, the Tesla Coil, and the Oscillation Transformer. All these inventions helped advance America and its industrial revolution far beyond what any other country had done in history.
His popularity first rose when he first demonstrated wireless energy/power by lighting phosphorescent light bulbs wirelessly in a demonstration given before the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, 1893. In his laboratory, he conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and some of the earliest X-ray imaging, which he made more safe for medical use. He was the first invent and display neon lights, and is the father of remote control, building a wireless controlled boat exhibited in 1898. Although not recognized for, he was the first to discovery the electron, radioactivity, neutrons, cosmic rays, terrestrial resonance, and stationary waves. He was the first to explain the photoelectric effect, 4 years before Albert Einstein, and has a patent to prove it. He proposed a particle beam to be used for defense in war, which was based off his electrical experiments in Colorado Springs where he produced sparks up to 100 feet in length. He once said he could produce an artificial Aurora Borealis to light the night skies and help ships at sea in navigation with the same principle.
His ultimate goal was to unify all his inventions into one big machine, known as his “World System,” but lacked the investments and funds to finish his work on a large scale. This machine would have provided clean, and cheap energy to the whole world! His failure to accomplish his goals left him with a distorted persona of a mad scientist, and a dreamer whose imagination created an unrealistic hope for the future. This is why his name has been twisted today.
Tesla would eventually die penniless and alone in his New York apartment, but he cared very little about that. He chose to live through all his inventions and contributions to this world that will last until the end of us all.
And that is who Nikola Tesla was.
“Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.”
“A Visit to Nikola Tesla,” by Dragislav L. Petković. Politika, April 1927.