Soon after I left Mr. Edison’s employment a company was formed to develop my electric arc-light system. This system was adopted for street and factory lighting in 1886, but as yet I got no money — only a beautifully engraved stock certificate. Until April of the following year I had a hard financial struggle. Then a new company was formed, and provided me with a laboratory on Liberty Street, in New York City. Here I set to work to commercialize the inventions I had conceived in Europe.
After returning from Pittsburgh, where I spent a year assisting the Westinghouse Company in the design and manufacture of my motors, I resumed work in New York in a little laboratory on Grand Street, where I experienced one of the greatest moments of my life — the first demonstration of the wireless light.
I had been constructing with my assistants the first high-frequency alternators (dynamos), of the kind now used for generating power for wireless telegraphy. At three o’clock in the morning I came to the conclusion that I had overcome all the difficulties and that the machine would operate, and I sent my men to get something to eat. While they were gone I finished getting the machine ready, and arranged things so that there was nothing to be done, except to throw in a switch.
When my assistants returned I took a position in the middle of the laboratory, without any connection whatever between me and the machine to be tested. In each hand I held a long glass tube from which the air had been· exhausted. “If my theory is correct,” I said, “when the switch is thrown in these tubes will become swords of fire.” I ordered the room darkened and the switch thrown in — and instantly the glass tubes became brilliant swords of fire.
Under the influence of great exultation I waved them in circles round and round my head. My men were actually scared, so new and wonderful was the spectacle. They had not known of my wireless light theory, and for a moment they thought I was some kind of a magician or hypnotizer. But the wireless light was a reality, and with that experiment I achieved fame overnight.
Following this success, people of influence began to take an interest in me. I went into “society.” And I gave entertainments in return; some at home, some in my laboratory — expensive ones, too. For the one and only time in my life, I tried to roar a little bit like a lion.
But after two years of this, I said to myself, “What have I done in the past twentx-four months?” And the answer was, “Little or nothing.” I recognized that accomplishment requires isolation. I learned that the man who wants to achieve must give up many things — society, diversion, even rest — and must find his sole recreation and happiness in work. He will live largely with his conceptions and enterprises; they will be as real to him as worldly possessions and friends.
In recent years I have devoted myself to the problem of the wireless transmission of power. Power can be, and at no distant date will be, transmitted without wires, for all commercial uses, such as the lighting of homes and the driving of aeroplanes. I have discovered the essential principles, and it only remains to develop them commercially. When this is done, you will be able to go anywhere in the world — to the mountain top overlooking your farm, to the arctic, or to the desert — and set up a little equipment that will give you heat to cook with, and light to read by. This equipment will be carried in a satchel not as big as the ordinary suit case. In years to come wireless lights will be as common on the farms as ordinary electric lights are nowadays in our cities.
The matter of transmitting power by wireless is so well in hand that I can say I am ready now to transmit 100,000 horsepower by wireless without a loss of more than five percent in transmission. The plant required to transmit this amount will be much smaller than some of the wireless telegraph plants now existing, and will cost only $10,000,000, including water development and electrical apparatus. The effect will be the same whether the distance is one mile or ten thousand miles, and the power can be collected high in the air, underground, or on the ground.
“Making Your Imagination Work for You.” By M. K. Wisehart. The American Magazine, April 1921.