October 29, 2018
When you think of a genius you may think of Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, but do you think of Nikola Tesla? The radio, x-ray, light and wireless technology are part of our everyday lives, but do you know the mind behind them?
During a lightning storm in Smiljan, Croatia, Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, to parents Djuka and Milutin Tesla. The storm at the time of his birth granted him the name “A child of child Light” by his mother, Djuka, an uneducated but skilled mechanical engineer. His father, Milutin, was an Orthodox priest, writer, and poet. His mother worked to create appliances that could aid work on the farm and in the house.
When Tesla began his education, he displayed a high skill level to calculate mathematical equations. Through time became eager to continue his studies in the fields of mathematics and science to pursue a career as an engineer. His dream of becoming an engineer was not welcomed by his father, who wanted him to become a priest. But when Tesla became sick during his teenage years, his father agreed he could attend engineering school if he promised that he would recover. Once he had recovered, he studied engineering at the Polytechnic School at Graz, Austria. While attending the school he developed plans for an alternating current motor which is used to change electrical energy into mechanical energy.
In 1882 he began working for the Continental Edison Company in Paris and two years later he moved to the New York and worked with Thomas Edison has an engineer. While working for Edison he claimed that Edison had offered him $50,000 if he came up with solutions for a few mechanical problems that the company faced. Taking the on the challenge he worked to find the solutions and once he presented them to Edison, Edison said that he was merely joking. Shortly after he left the company and founded Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing with the help of two businessmen whom he befriended. This partnership did not last long because they took the companies intellectual property and found another firm after they decided that they only wanted to work on supplying electricity.
From 1887 to 1888 he gained more than 30 patents for his work. In 1888 he was invited to address the American Institute of Electrical Engineers about his work. This gained the attention of an inventor and Thomas Edison’s competitor during the “War of the Current,” George Westinghouse, who went on to hire Tesla. Westinghouse went on to license the Tesla’s patents for his AC motor and provided him with his own laboratory. After the end of the current war, Tesla built his own laboratory. There he worked on many experiments and gave exhibitions to suppress people’s fear of alternating currents.
In May 1899, Tesla traveled west to Colorado Springs, Colorado after his lab burned down destroying years of research and equipment. There he discovered that the Earth can be used as a conductor of electricity.
When he returned to New York in 1900 he gained the help of J.P. Morgan, a financier. With the financial help, he began working on a wireless world broadcasting tower, Wardenclyffe, which was located on Long Island. But in a matter time the money ran out and Tesla lost Morgan’s support.
With no money, Tesla spent the rest of his life moving from place to place leaving all of his unpaid bills behind and continued to design new inventions. During the last decade of his life, he found a home at the New Yorker, a New York hotel, where his rent was paid for by George Westinghouse. During his stay at the New Yorker, he struggled with his fading mental health and could be seen spending his time communicating with the city’s pigeons.
On January 7, 1943, Nikola Tesla died in his room at the age of 86.
Today much of Tesla’s influence can still be seen today in the AC system that he invented which remains the global standards for the transmission of power and is also used in the electric car known as the Tesla.
History.com, A&E Television Networks, www.history.com/topics/inventions/nikola-tesla.
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“The Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 5 Jan. 2018, www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/extraordinary-life-nikola-tesla-180967758/.
Gunderman, Richard. “Nikola Tesla: The Extraordinary Life of a Modern Prometheus.” The Conversation, 12 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/nikola-tesla-the-extraordinary-life-of-a-modern-prometheus-89479.
PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, www.pbs.org/tesla/ll/ll_colspr.html.
Thomas Edison.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 4 Aug. 2017, www.biography.com/people/thomas-edison-9284349.
(Picture of Thomas Edison)
Ugc. “Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Laboratory.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 9 July 2012, www.atlasobscura.com/places/tesla-s-wardenclyffe-laboratory.
(Picture of Wardenclyffe Tower)