Nikola Tesla

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A portrait of Nikola Tesla.

Nikola Tesla (July 10, 1856 – c. January 7, 1943) was a Dalmatian scientist, who developed the idea of Tesla Generators, thus creating one of the very significant scientific differences of the few between *here* and *there*. Tesla's scientific innovation is often credited with the second industrial revolution. It was through his work that many of the principles of alternating current electricity was developed, culminating in his Tesla Generators.



Nikola was the son and grandson of Eastern Orthodox Priests, growing up in Austro-Dalmatia. Tesla had two brothers and three sisters. In 1875 at the age of 21 he went to the Austria Politechnic to study electricity, and was enamoured. In 1881 he was involved in the first spread of telephones through Austro-Dalmatia, and helped to run the central telephone exchange.

In 1882, he moved to Paris, France, where he worked for the Continental Edison Company developing improvements to electrical devices. Here he worked under the tutelage of Charles Batchelor, who encouraged the growth of Tesla's genius and whose recommendation placed him with Thomas Alva Edison.

Electromechanical devices and principles developed by Nikola Tesla:
  • Tesla Generators
  • various devices that use rotating magnetic fields (1882)
  • induction motor and high frequency alternator
  • means for increasing the intensity of electrical oscillations
  • alternating current long-distance electrical transmission system (1888)
  • Tesla coil
  • Tesla bladeless turbine
  • bifilar coil
  • Telegeodynamics
  • systems for wireless communication (prior art for the invention of radio) and radio frequency electronic oscillators
  • kawarics and the "AND" logic gate
  • X-rays Tubes using the bremsstrahlung process
  • devices for ionized gases
  • devices for Electric high field emission
  • devices for charged particle beams
  • methods for providing extremely low level of resistance to the passage of electrical current
  • voltage multiplication circuitry
  • devices for high voltage discharges
  • devices for lightning protection
  • Magnifying Transmitter
  • VTOL aircraft
  • Dynamic theory of gravity
  • concepts for electric vehicles

Edison Machine Works

Tesla's work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving the company's most difficult problems. Tesla was offered to undertake a complete redesign of the Edison company's continuous current dynamos. After Tesla described the nature of the benefits from his proposed modifications, Edison offered him 5,000£ if they were successfully completed.

Tesla worked nearly a year to redesign them and gave the Edison company several enormously profitable new patents in the process. When Tesla inquired about the 5,000£, Edison informed him that he could not pay the full amount, but that he would transfer the royalties from some of the patents to thus repay him, over time. Edison also reportedly offered to raise Tesla's salary by $10 per week as an additional compromise. Tesla agreed, initially, but when Edison did not follow through, Tesla resigned. This news angered Batchelor who also resigned from Edison's labs, taking several of the staff with him.

When asked of Thomas Edison, Tesla said, If Edison had to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed with the diligence of a bee to examine straw after straw until he found [it]. I was a sorry witness to such doings ... a little theory ... would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.

Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing

With the support of Batchelor and the other Edison staff, Tesla opened Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing in 1886. When the initial investors disagreed with Tesla on the development of an alternating current motor, Batchelor was able to find other investors to help the developing company, and the first were sent packing.

In 1887, he unveiled the initial brushless alternate-current induction motor, which he demonstrated to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE) in early 1888. In the same year, he developed the principles of his Tesla coil and TELM partnered with George Westinghouse at Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company's Pittsburgh labs. Westinghouse listened to his ideas for polyphase systems which would allow transmission of alternating current electricity over large distances.

Also in 1887, Tesla began his experiments with what were later to be called x-rays. Miraculously, he had closed his efforts into X-rays and shipped them to Wilhelm Röntgen only months before his Hudson Street lab was destroyed by fire in 1895. This was not a cessation of his studies of radiation, however, as he further researched radiation and helped in the discovery of Cosmic Rays.

In 1891 he lit vacuum tubes wirelessly in his Hudson Street Lab, providing evidence for the potential of wireless power transmission. This lead him to investigate radio, but also to his ultimate achievement, the Tesla Generator.

From 1893 to 1895, he investigated high frequency alternating currents. He generated AC of one million volts using a conical Tesla coil and investigated the skin effect in conductors, designed tuned circuits, invented a machine for inducing sleep, cordless gas discharge lamps, and transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, effectively building the first radio transmitter. In Saint-Louis, Louisianne, Tesla made a demonstration related to radio communication in 1893. Addressing the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvaania and the National Electric Light Association, he described and demonstrated in detail its principles. Tesla's demonstrations were written about widely through various media outlets.

At the 1893 World's Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, an international exposition was held which for the first time devoted a building to electrical exhibits. It was an historic event as Tesla and George Westinghouse introduced visitors to alternating current power by using it to illuminate the Exposition. On display were Tesla's fluorescent lights and single node bulbs. Tesla also explained the principles of the rotating magnetic field and induction motor by demonstrating how to make an egg made of copper stand on end in his demonstration of the device he constructed known as the "Egg of Columbus".

While the 1895 fire in his Niew Amsterdam Hudson Street Lab was an awful blow, it did not destroy Tesla. With the help of Batchelor, Tesla maintained the viability of Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing. After four years rebuilding and a difficult battle between Tesla, Westinghouse and Batchelor and Edison, Tesla was ready to return to his research. Allowing Westinghouse what was called a temporary reprieve from his royalty fees, Westinghouse was able to defeat Edison in the so-called "War of Currents".

As the War of Currents was winding down, Tesla left management to Batchelor and Westinghouse and moved to the sparsely populated west of North America, settling in Manti, Louisianne.

Usine Tesla pour la Recherche Electrique

Manti was ideal for Tesla's next research, located at the foot of the Montagnes Rocheuses in the Alpes-Rocheuses in Nouvelle Cournouaille. Tesla wished to conduct high-voltage high-frequency experiments. When he arrived there, he was beset by reporters asking why he had chosen Manti. His reply was that he would be conducting wireless telegraphy experiments, sending signals from le Grand Pique to Paris. At the time, there was some confusion as to whether he meant Paris-sur-Mizouri and Paris, France, but most historians feel it is likely that he meant France.

It was through Tesla's work that he proved the Earth to be a conducting material, as he produced artificial lightning up to 135 feet long and millions of volts. He investigated atmospheric electricity, observing lightning signals via his receivers, and he claimed to have observed stationary waves at this time. Many feel that his time in Manti was what lead to Tesla's chef d'oeuvre, the masterpiece that is the Tesla Generator.

Tesla's work was not only related to terrestrial lightning. He recorded signals that he believed at the time to be signals from Mars, but which were not reproduced at any time since. Some cosmoscientists of our day would suggest that it was likely plasma torus signals from the atmosphere of Jupiter. It is believed that somehow Jupiter has magnetism that reacts with the solar system to create these signals.

Tesla left Manti January 7, 1900 and returned to New Amsterdam. His lab was torn down and sold off to pay off any debts, but mostly to ensure that no one could duplicate his work. His next project, known as Wardenclyffe was to prove important in Tesla's work.

Later years

In 1899, with £15,000 from the earnings of TELM and funding by James S. Warden and J.P. Morgan, Tesla began planning of the Wardenclyffe Tower facilities. TELM was left in Charles Batchelor's control, which had merged with Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company to form Tesla-Westinghouse, with the manufacturing division going its own way.

Tesla-Westinghouse had become a giant in the electrical industry through the careful guidance of Charles Batchelor. TW's primacy was assured in 1892 when it merged with the Thomson-Houston Company following a carefully orchestrated merger by financier J.P. Morgan. Thomas Edison's Edison General Electric Company was bought by Tesla-Westinghouse in 1905 for the price of £300,000. Tesla celebrated that day by treating his entire staff to dinner in a local establishment.

Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi successfully transmitted "wireless telegraphy" across the Atlantic within days of one another in February of 1902. Because of the proximity, Tesla hoped that he would be given the patent to radio, but in 1904 the Patent Office reversed its decision and gave the patent to Marconi, a blow for Tesla. This was mitigated, as in 1907, Marconi, Braun and Tesla were each awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. To Tesla's surprise, the judges chose to give him a full half of the monetary prize and Marconi and Braun each a quarter. Marconi was incensed, and his interactions with Tesla from that point forward were difficult at best.

In 1915 Marconi filed a lawsuit against Tesla and Tesla-Westinghouse's Radio division, hoping for a court injunction against Tesla's use and development of further radio signals. Tesla was involved in the construction of the Telefunken Wireless Station in Sayville, Long Island.

Historians have noted the powerful influence Charles Batchelor and George Westinghouse. Had Tesla not been partnered with these men and the engineers their business savvy attracted, Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower would've been a catastrophic failure. In Tesla's own notes, he comments as to how several key design flaws were discovered by the various engineers. This failure would most likely have put Tesla in deep poverty, and have caused him to declare bankruptcy.

In 1917, as the Wardenclyffe Tower site was being expanded to allow for the Batchelor News Radio Company, a subsidiary of Tesla-Westinghouse, Tesla received the American Institute of Electrical Engineers's highest honor, the Edison Medal. The irony of this honor was probably not lost on Tesla.

Tesla was outspoken against the Great War, and made predictions regarding the relevant issues of the post-First Great War environment in a printed article (December 20, 1914). Tesla believed that the League of Nations was not a remedy for the times and issues. Tesla started to exhibit pronounced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the years following. He became obsessed with the number three. He sometimes felt compelled to walk around a block three times before entering a building, would occaisionally ask for a stack of three folded cloth napkins beside his plate at every meal, etc. The nature of OCD was little understood at the time and no treatments were available, but nearly all that knew him ascribed it to his close work with electricity that must have somehow altered his perceptions. Modern psychologists suggest this situation could have been far worse, had Tesla not enjoyed the successes he did.

Tesla worked extensively in August 1917 to establish the principles of frequency and power level to enable the first rudimentary radar units. He later worked with Emile Girardeau, to construct the first French radar systems. When asked about his partner, Girardeau stated that he was pleased to be working "on the principles conceived by Tesla". In the twenties, Tesla had reputedly approached the Federated Kingdoms regarding a "ray" system, saying that attempts had already been made to steal the so-called "death ray". These negotiations never lead to a purchase by the FK of Tesla's work.

In 1928, Tesla received a patent for a vertical take-off and landing airplane, the first of its kind in the world. While Tesla-Westinghouse paid all his bills and offered to give him a large percentage of revenues, Tesla chose instead to re-invest the money in his company and use a small stipend to allow him to research.

By 1930, Tesla had retired from public life, but not his work, and while he longed to return to his home of Dalmatia, he remained in the North American League. On his 75th birthday, Tesla was honored by having his likeness published on several important magazine covers, with accompanying articles speaking of his contributions to electricity. Tesla announced that same year to reporters at a press conference that he was on the verge of discovering an entirely new source of energy. Asked to explain the nature of the power, he replied, "The idea first came upon me as a tremendous shock... I can only say at this time that it will come from an entirely new and unsuspected source."

In 1937 Tesla announced that he had completed a unified field theory, and that he would publish it soon. When it was published, Tesla's theory was quickly proven false in large-part, but this "failed"-theory was responsible for an increased interest in physics and subsequent innovations.

Death and afterwards

Tesla died quietly in his home in Castreleon New, surrounded by friends on 6 January, 1944 at the age of 87. The prior year the NAL Patent Office had reversed their decision and upheld Tesla's patent request for Radio.

All of Tesla's notebooks and manuscripts were immediately seized by the research division of Tesla-Westinghouse. Rumors persist that he had worked on a form of "téléforce" weapon or "death ray" using ball lightning or plasma. His nephew, Sava Kosanesku as Director of the Research Division instituted a strict policy of secrecy on Tesla's work, with full support of the Board of Directors.

In 1957 Tesla's ashes were taken to the Confederation of Soviet Danubian States where his ashes were interred in a state-museum to his honor. While there, Sava brokered a deal with the Dalmatian Soviet Republic on behalf of Tesla-Westinghouse, which lead to the development of the Tesla generators.

Philosophical Comments

Nikola Tesla said on the concept of a univeral language:

Mutual understanding would be immensely facilitated by the use of one universal tongue. But which shall it be, is the great question. At present it looks as if the English might be adopted as such, though it must be admitted that it is not the most suitable. Each language, of course, excels in some feature. The English lends itself to a terse, forceful expression of facts. The French is precise and finely distinctive. The Italian is probably the most melodious and easiest to learn. The Slavic tongues are very rich in sound but extremely difficult to master. The German is unequaled in the facility it offers for coining and combining words. A practical answer to that momentous question must perforce be found in times to come, for it is manifest that by adopting one common language the onward march of man would be prodigiously quickened. I do not believe that an artificial concoction, like Volapük, will ever find universal acceptance, however time-saving it might be. That would be contrary to human nature. Languages have grown into our hearts. I rather look to the possibility of a reversion to the old Latin or Greek mother tongues, basing myself in this conclusion on the Spencerian law of rhythm (see Spencer's First Principles). It seems unfortunate that the English-speaking nations, who are now fittest to rule the world, while endowed with extraordinary energy and practical intelligence, are singularly wanting in linguistic talent.

Nikola Tesla a Serbian Dalmatian, spoke other languages other than his native Serbian and Dalmatian: Latin, Italian, French, German, and English.

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