A Serbian Scientist In 1891 displayed his latest inventions before an astonished audience at Columbia University. “Tubes held in the hand of Mr Nikola Tesla”, a reporter wrote, “appeared like a shining sword in the hand of an archangel representing justice”.
Nikola Tesla was already famous, the scientist whos experiments with electricity were destined to transform daily life in the 20th Century.
We live in an electric world. we take it all for granted. we have light bulbs, we run refrigerators, our air conditioners, our electric motors. All of that is all directly back to Tesla.
A Genius Who Patented The Technology For Wireless Communication
A hundred years ago Nikola Tesla indicated the approach towards robots, radio, radar, remote control, the wireless transmission of messages and pictures. He dreamed of harnessing the wind and the sun to make free energy available for everyone. At the turn of the 20th century, Tesla was acclaimed. Millions of Americans knew his name. But only decades later, he was forgotten by all but a few. His luxuriant imagination was the source of his genius and the fall of his downfall.
On June 6, 1884, 26-year-old Nikola Tesla arrived in New York City. One of the millions of immigrants who had begun to transform the fabric of American Society during the final decades of the 19th century. The young immigrant knew no one. Six feet two inches tall, he spoke with a heavy Serbian accent and weighed little more than 140 pounds.
“What I saw was rough and unattractive, Tesla wrote. ‘Is this America? I asked myself in painful surprise.”
Tesla had only four cents in his pocket along with some of his favourite poems. But he carried with him a recommendation to the man he admired more than any other- Thomas Edison.
35-year-old Thomas Alva Edison was already a celebrated inventor, an American folk hero. The Incandescent Lightbulb he had patented five years before, had captured the imagination of people all over the world.
Tesla meandered down the lanes of Lower Manhattan, heading toward Edison’s office. with a revolutionary idea, he was certain the celebrated inventor would be grateful for.
Beneath the ground ran 80,000 feet of copper conductors. The worlds first electric grid Thomas Edison’s creation. Lighting homes and powering factories on the lower tip of Manhattan. But Edison’s system generated direct current, DC. DC had severe limitations. Direct Current couldn’t go very far it was a very limited form of power. And this was a real problem, and Tesla had the solution, a brilliant solution.
With direct current a generator produces electricity. a stream of electrons that flow along a wire to a light bulb, or a motor, and then returns to the generator in one long continuous loop. But as the electrons travel, energy is lost to the resistance of the wire. Like a long river, the energy is spent the further the current travels. The alternative to Direct Current is AC, alternating current. With alternating current, the electron doesn’t flow in a single direction. Instead, they vibrate back and forth, like an ocean tide. Surging with power that could send electricity long distances. But no one had designed a motor that could run efficiently on Alternating Current. Even Thomas Edison himself was baffled.
But in waking vision, Nikola Tesla had imagined an AC motor when he was 26, two years before he met Edison as if he had been waiting for that astonishing revelation since he was a small boy in Croatia.
He was born in the tiny Croatian Village o Smiljain in 1856. As family stories have it on the stroke of midnight while a thunderstorm raged around him. “He’ll be a child of the storm,” the midwife said. His mother responded, “No, of Light.” His father was a Greek Orthodox priest. Who wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. But took after his mother, who invented a variety of ingenious devices for farming and housekeeping and encouraged the boy’s precocious gifts.
For the rest of his life, Tesla would be awestruck by the wonders of electricity. As a child, he spent hours playing beside a tumbling stream that ran beside his home. His very first invention, a hook designed to catch frogs, made him the envy of his friends. Before he was six, he had invented a motor consisting of a rotating spindle powered by June bugs.
“I wanted to harness the energies of nature to the service of man,” he wrote later.
From an early age, Tesla was afflicted by spontaneous, inexplicable visions that confused his picture of reality, yet empowered his preternatural gift for invention. When he was 12, in an extraordinary feat of mind control. he banished the images that haunted him. by willing himself to live in a visual world of his own invention. By the time Tesla was 17, he had honed a keen visual facility.
“When I get an idea”, he wrote, “I do not rush into actual work. I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements, and operate the device in my mind”.
When he was 21 Tesla won a scholarship to a polytechnic institute in Graz, Austria. He studied with a fierce determination, sometimes 20 hours a day. As Tesla immersed himself in the study of mathematics and science. The mysteries of electronics were waiting to be unravelled. When a professor told his class that it was impossible to construct a motor that could run on alternating current, Tesla objected.
“Mr Tesla may accomplish great things,” the professor told the class, ” but he certainly never will do this.” Tesla disagreed.
At first, Tesla didn’t see the solution, but he saw the problem. DC motors waste energy.
for four years Tesla’s imagination tormented him. and then it saved him. In 1882, walking in a Budapest park as the sun was setting. the solution, he wrote, “came like a flash lightning”. Tesla’s genius was to take a DC motor and reimagine it. He eliminated the mechanical parts. where metal rubbed against metal. replaced the inner cylinder with one made of copper. then sent an electric current through the outer ring, turning the outer ring and the cylinder into magnets. the interaction of the two magnets made the inner cylinder spin without any parts touching.
A Man Who Dreamed Of Giving The World An Unlimited Supply Of Energy!
Tesla was a 26 year old with an idea he was convinced would change the world. He went to work as an engineer for a branch of Thomas Edison’s company in Paris. But decided his main chance lay in New York with the great man himself.
In the spring of 1884, Nikola Tesla brought his invention to America to share with his hero Thomas Edison. Tesla worked for Edison redesigning generators 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Tesla desperately wanted Edison’s blessings as an inventor and needed his savvy as a businessman. But when he described his AC motors to his boss. Edison told him bluntly that he was wasting his time. There was no future in alternating current. Disillusioned by Edison’s rejection, after six months Tesla abruptly quit and struck out on his own. Tesla spent a year patenting designs for arc lights for two New Jersey businessmen, who cheated him out of his patents and left him penniless. When it came to business Tesla would always be naive.
Tesla was alone without family or friends. He had been in America for nearly two years and had nothing to show for it.