Nikola Tesla

A biography: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born to Milutin Tesla, a Serbian Orthodox Priest, and Djuka Mandic at midnight on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, a village in the province of Lika, Croatia. Tesla completed his elementary education in Croatia and continued his education at the Realschule, Karlstadt, the Polytechnic Institute in Austria and the University of Prague. Nikola originally intended to study physics and mathematics in school, but his fascination with electricity led him to become an electrical engineer.

In 1881, Nikola Tesla began his career as an electrical engineer for a phone company in Budapest. It was in Budapest that he came up with a solution for the rotating magnetic field; in 1883 he built a prototype induction motor which used a rotating magnetic field. Tesla’s successful prototype did not generate a lot of interest in Europe and he accepted an offer to work for Thomas Edison in the United States.

Tesla moved to the United States in 1884 to improve Edison’s line of dynamos. It was here in New Jersey that the war of electrical currents began. Thomas Edison had invested a lot of time and money in to developing Direct Current (DC); Tesla felt that Alternating Current (AC) would be a better choice for powering the globe, this difference of opinion led to Tesla’s departure from Edison’s lab.

In 1885 George Westinghouse, the founder of Westinghouse Electric Company, bought the patent rights to Tesla’s alternating current system. Westinghouse had shown the world how superior alternating current was when in 1893 he successfully lit the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The year 1891 saw Nikola Tesla become a United States citizen; it was at this time Nikola was at his inventive height. He developed a fluorescent light and the Tesla Coil, both are still in use today. Around this time Tesla also became fascinated with the wireless transmission of electricity.

Tesla invented the first hydrostatic power plant in 1895 at Niagara Falls in New York. This was a great victory for alternating current and possibly the final nail in the coffin for Edison’s direct current when it came to powering the industrialized world.

The Electrical Review published x-ray pictures taken of a man that were made by Tesla in 1896. This is around the same time that Wilhelm Roentgen discovered x-rays and Roentgen wrote a letter to Tesla congratulating him on his sophisticated X-ray photographs.

In 1898 Tesla announced that he had invented a teleautomatic boat which was remote controlled, this claim came with much skepticism. So Tesla had a demonstration at Madison square garden and in front of a large crowd proved his claim.

In 1899 at Colorado Springs, Colorado Tesla builds an electrical lab to experiment with high voltage and high frequency electricity. At his lab Tesla built a Tesla coil magnifying transmitter that sent sparks 30 feet in the air and sent power wirelessly for miles. This is also where Tesla said he made his greatest discovery, terrestrial stationary waves. Terrestrial stationary waves meant that the earth could be used as an electrical conductor and the world’s population would have access to free electricity.

Before departing Colorado Springs in 1900, Tesla claimed that he had been contacted by another planet; this claim was highly disregarded by the scientific community.

Tesla returned to Long Island, New York in 1900 and in 1901 began construction on the Wardenclyffe laboratory, a 187 foot tall wireless broadcast tower, with the financial help of J. Pierpont Morgan. J.P. Morgan later withdrew funding for the project and the incomplete tower was demolished in 1917 for reasons of wartime security.

The year 1915 found Tesla disappointed that original reports that he and Edison were to share the Nobel Prize were unfounded. This disappointment was later turned to elation when in 1917 Tesla was given the Edison Medal, the highest honor presented by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
In 1931 on Tesla’s 75th birthday, he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, 70 pioneers in the scientific and engineering fields, including Albert Einstein, wrote congratulatory letters to Tesla. These letters were arranged and given to Tesla in a testimonial volume of the magazine.

The last 10 years of Tesla’s life were spent at the Hotel New Yorker. On January 7th 1943 with over 700 patents to his name Nikola Tesla died on the 33rd floor of the Hotel New Yorker in suite 3327. A state funeral was held at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. The funeral was attended by over 2000 people, which included several Nobel Laureates. Tesla was than cremated Ardsley on the Hudson, New York. His ashes are on permanent display in the Tesla Museum in Belgrade.

“Were we to seize and eliminate from our industrial world the result of Mr. Tesla’s work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric cars and trains would stop, our towns would be dark and our mills would be idle and dead. His name marks an epoch in the advance of electrical science.” – Vice President Behrend of the Institute of Electrical Engineers.