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Nikola Tesla.

posted Jan 1, 2015, 10:50 PM by   [ updated Jul 22, 2019, 9:12 PM by Upali Salpadoru ]

 Nikolai Tesla.  

                          1856 -1943

Date of Birth:-10 July           Country :    Croatia.

Wizard of West.

By the application of his findings a few gained Nobel prizes and some others earned a fortune. He only got a temporary glow and died as a beggar in a lonely Hotel room.

  We that watch TV, use Alternating Current, and the doctors that employ  equipment such as MRI scans and X' Ray machines, are directly indebted to the  principles discovered  by this forgotten and unsung hero, Nikola Tesla. 

1856.  Age  0

 Tesla was a child prodigy, with an exceptional memory (eidetic memory). An object that comes to his mind, he could perceive as a picture, with minute details.  His mathematical mind was superior to a computer. 

 His father, Milutin Tesla, was a religious minister and the mother a highly intelligent, lady. They had 5 children; Nikola being the fourth. Tesla accredits his mother for the innovative talents he has inherited.

1861 Age 5 years

 Tesla studied German, Arithmetic and Religion in the primary school.  His elder brother had a fatal accident while horse riding.

1863 Age 7 years.

 At this tender age he was able to earn the respect of his neighbours due to a very clever performance. A fire brigade was trying to get water from the river. However much they tried water was not coming. “I know what to do”.  Tesla said and swam to the end of the suction hose and did some jugglery. Hey Presto! Water gushed up coming down showering all around. 

1969   Age 10 yrs.

  His teachers could not fathom how he was giving quick answers to complex problems. They thought he was cheating. Tesla could outsmart every child in his class in all disciplines except in drawing.

In addition to his native tongue Serbo, he mastered three other languages.

1870, Age 14 yrs.

 He read most of the books in his father’s library and then used the city library. He became the most knowledgeable lad in the province.

 At the High school in Karlovac city the teachers found that he could do integral calculus in his head.

 Once a teacher gave a very low mark for mathematics, Tesla headed towards the director and requested the strictest test be given to him. He answered the test in the presence of the director and the teacher. The answers were nearly perfect.

 He finished the four year course in three years.

1873 Age 17 yrs.

 His father had made up his mind for Nikola to join the clergy. Tesla wanted to be an electrical engineer. When he came home, he contracted Cholera. His father had no strength to ignore the pleadings of his feeble son. Giving into the son, he promised to send him to the best engineering school if he recovered.  

While he had given up hopes to live he read a book by Mark Twain. (Samuel Clemens). This ignited the enthusiasm to live.

1874, Age 18 yrs.

 Tesla avoided the army by running away to the countryside. The time he spent close to nature helped him recuperate.

1875 Age 19 yrs.

 The young man entered the Polytechnic in Austria with fantastic dreams in his head such as these.

  • To deliver mail through tubes submerged in the sea.
  •  To tap the kinetic energy of Niagara Falls in US, and distribute in the cities.
  •  To place a steel structure around the globe which could facilitate speedy travel around the world.

1976 Age 20 yrs.

 First year he was assessed as a “student star”.  When he spoke about his achievements to his parents they were quite indifferent.

1977  Age 21 yrs.

 During the second year he was compelled to reduce the number of subjects. He took the second year very lightly. He used to gamble and whenever he won a jackpot he compensated the losers.

 A professor showed a generator cum motor using a direct current. Tesla thought that the sparking could be stopped by continuously changing the direction of the current. His professor devoted one whole lecture to show why that cannot be done and concluded by saying, “Tesla, it would be as difficult as changing the direction of gravity”. This was bothering Tesla for a long time.

Tesla lost his scholarship.

1879 Age 23 yrs.

Fig.2 Nikola Tesla as a young man.

 Milutin Tesla passed away.

 Tesla found a letter from his professor to his father. 

 It warned that if he were not removed from the University, Tesla would get killed due to overwork. (He had been working over 20 hours a day.)

1881  Age 25 yrs.

 He got a job for a very low salary but they soon upgraded it. Then he became the chief of the Budapest Telephone exchange. Although he made several improvements in the Telephone system his first invention is recognized as the ‘Telephone repeater’, which is really the “Loudspeaker” of today (If this was patented royalties from it alone would have sufficed him to live out of debt in his old age)

He again worked very hard, with less than 5 hours of sleep.

He developed a serious illness. Soft sounds reached him as thunder, sun light gave him a glittering glow and the city traffic was a jackhammer. For sleeping he required eye covers and a bed placed on rubber cushions to avoid noise. The doctors could not help him as the malady was an exceptional one.

In spite of the illness, his mind was focused on a recurrent problem; "How to run an electric motor without sparks". He was determined to achieve this, which the professor had discouraged. So he had to live. This induced a gradual recovery. During his convalescence, the solution dawned at sun set one day.

Watch me ! There !  Its running . No sparks ! I can even reverse it. See !  He exclaimed to his friend. His friend got stunned. “What can be reversed ? How can you reverse the setting of the sun?” He asked. The magnetic field rotates and drags the armature around. No commutator,  no sparks.” Tesla replied.

That is how Tesla invented the AC motor in his mind.

“ Now I can die in peace!"   "No ! I must live and build it for the world. That will take the people out of strenuous work”

 He built this mentally tested motor, and added dynamos and transformers innovating a complete new system to Produce and Distribute Electric Current over great distances. At the time every village had to have a Power Station. Starting with only a two phase motor, he improved them to many phases later. This system came to be known as “Polyphase Power System” which has stood the test of time.

 Along with the joy of these discoveries came a sudden blow; he lost his job.

 The Young man came to Paris with a whole lot of ideas. He knew he had a fortune in this, yet his anxiety to donate this wealth for the human kind superseded the money making concerns. Keeping a multitude of plans to be developed using AC for the future, he enlisted as an engineer in Continental Edison Company.

 The senior engineers there were not even prepared to listen to the advantages of his AC system. The Company promised a handsome grant on the completion of a special task, but they failed to keep their word. They owed him around $25,000. As they did not pay even a part of this Tesla resigned.

1884  Age 28 yrs.

                                Tesla sold his books and other possessions and purchased a ticket to US. One of his colleagues gave him a letter to Thomas Alva Edison introducing him as, “I knew only two great men. One was you and the other was this man"   When he was about to board the train he found that his bag and the wallet with the tickets were stolen.

He quickly jumped the train. The loose change he had in his pocket was sufficient for the rail-fare. At the port he was able to claim his berth as no one had come to occupy that. Adding to all his miseries, after a few days of suffering without proper clothes, all of a sudden he was in the midst of a mutiny. It was mainly his height and newly gained robust health that made him survive.

When Tesla reached Manhattan he had a $ 4. note, a book of his own poems, some mathematical scribblings and the letter of introduction to Mr Edison. On his long trudge to a friend, he saw a man trying to start an electric machine. Tesla readily volunteered and got the thing started. Tesla courteously refused  a job man offered but accepted the  $20. with reluctance. Then he had $24 to begin a new life in United States.

Next day he met Mr Edison and marvelled at his achievements.  Direct Current was the baby of Edison, while Tesla preferred Alternating Current. Yet Edison employed him as a junior engineer as he had done some good work on DC motors. Tesla tried to explain the advantages of the AC system but Edison would not listen. Yet Edison described Tesla as a “Damn good man”.

Once Tesla took up a challenge to improve the efficiency of the DC dynamos, Edison said, “I’ll give you $50,000 if you could do that”. Within a few days Tesla achieved the target and met his master. Edison's comment was, “Tesla, don’t you understand the American humour?”

1886.   Age 30yrs.

The young blood and his extreme confidence in future tasks made him walk out without a fuss. Edison owed him a large sum due to him for overtime and his designs, some of which were patented, in Edison's name. 

Tesla' s friends and admirers introduced him to a financier who assigned him to make an arc lamp. He made a very efficient lamp for street lighting and even obtained a patent. The company gave him some shares which did not bring him any financial benefit.

Ultimately he got thrown out into the street. What a lot the mankind would have lost when such a man went on digging ditches on a daily wage for 2 years?

1888  Age 32 yrs.

He started  the Tesla Electric Company when two financiers helped him to set up a laboratory very close to Edison labs. Tesla had to compete with a giant, dealing with DC. Very little was known about AC except  for the fact that it was used in the electric chair. Edison in his attempts to illustrate the hazardous nature of AC electrocuted an elephant.  (

Through sheer hard work Tesla demonstrated that his AC system was far superior to DC in many ways. Highest practical potential for DC was 220 Volts; whereas AC could be transmitted at a several thousand volts which would reduce energy losses. As he obtained patents, his popularity gained momentum The American Institute of Electrical Engineers invited him to deliver a lecture. This established him as the leader of the AC system.

"In our dynamo machines, , we generate AC which we direct by means of a commutator, DC cannot be utilized in the motor but has to be changed to AC. In view of this fact, AC would be a direct application of electrical energy''.

George Westinghouse, the man who invented Air brakes for trains, got so impressed by the Tesla’ s designs  offered,  “ A million cash and one dollar  royalty per Horse Power” . He also persuaded Tesla to supervise the implementation of his scheme at Pittsberg.  Tesla accepted it but he had problems with the company engineers who often disagreed with him. In spite of strong pleadings to continue by the employer Tesla returned to New York. He later learned that the engineers who objected to his specifications had ultimately adhered to them.

He illuminated a vacuum tube wirelessly—having transmitted energy through the air.

1891 Age 35 yrs.

Based on the Electromagnetic theory, Tesla believed that illumination could be obtained by increasing the frequency of AC to that of light. Transformers he developed for the purpose came to be known as ‘Tesla Coils’ and are still in use. He had the patent for this. When he got the opportunity to address the American Engineers he made the maximum use of high voltages and UHF Alternators. He got the glass tubes to glow without wires.

As a high class magician he got the High Voltage current to pass through his body and spark out at his fingertips. He explained that high frequency current gave no chance for the nerves to conduct the current in one direction and as such you don’t feel the pain. As the total energy entering the body is low it cannot damage the tissues. After this lecture his fame spread across the globe.

Using HF it was he who had first taken shadowgraphs (X’ ray photographs) of bones long before Rontgen who has been given credit for it.

He became the most eligible bachelor in New York City. Although he was always elegantly dressed cultured and a handsome man he could not afford to get involved in romance. His only motive was to divulge the secrets of electricity to the people.

Energy from Niagara Falls.

In order to harness the Niagara falls a worldwide search began. A think tank of the world’s brightest minds met in England. Lord Kelvin who formerly opposed AC, headed the commission, Against the advice of stalwarts like Thomas Edison, alternating electrical current was selected as the standard to be used.

George Westinghouse, undertook the contract and handed over the project to Tesla. Tesla had the entire plan in his head but the investors were anxious.

1896 Age 40 yrs.

Tesla’s boyhood dream was fulfilled and the AC system got firmly established when power from the Niagara Falls reached Buffalo on the 16th. of November. The Niagara Falls Gazette reported that day, "The turning of a switch in the big powerhouse at Niagara completed a circuit which caused the Niagara River to flow uphill."

Tesla showed endless possibilities of employing High Frequency Alternating Current.(HF) One of the important inventions that led to a few Nobel Prizes for the subsequent scientists was the HF /AC, Carbon Button Lamp.

Fig.3 Carbon Button Lamp.

It was an extremely a simple device of unlimited applications. There is a partially evacuated glass globe. A conducting wire enters the globe and at the tip of it a substance of very high melting point, may be Carbon or crystal of diamond is attached. The other end of the wire is connected to a High Frequency AC supply. Red arrows indicate how the particles rush from the crystal to glass and back.

What happens is the crystal develops a charge and attracts particles from the air. These get thrown out and strike the glass. They get reflected and come back. This process heats up the crystal and disintegrates. It also produces a brilliant light. He also found that while even carbon and diamond disintegrates, carborandum can withstand the battering and supply the light for a longer time.

He compared his lamp to be a miniature sun. He presumed particles to be thrown out of the sun constantly. The scientists at the time did not take him seriously but it was long afterward they discovered the Solar wind and the cosmic rays.  This also explained the cause of Northern lights

According to him it would be practical to illuminate the entire sky at night using HF technology as the upper sky is similar to a rarefied gas in a closed container. This has not been achieved, not due to lack of technical know-how  but due to unwillingness of man. He also detected various rays prior to their discovery and even predicted that elements would emanate secondary radiation. Joliot Curie got the Nobel Prize for the latter discovery.

Mark Twain , once hopped on to a vibrating plat form in Tesla’ s Laboratory. He enjoyed it so mush and went on paying least respect for warnings. After a few minutes he had to exclaim to the technician to stop, as it had induced a call of nature.

On a subsequent day, shutters in all the shops around Tesla’s laboratory rattled and articles dripped down from the shelves. Soon the tremors increased and buildings including the Police station oscillated furiously as in the case of an Earth quake.

When a policeman arrived, Tesla said, “You just missed an interesting demonstrations”. He was not aware of the havoc caused around his neighbourhood. When Tesla realised that the resonance exceeding his expectations, he hammered out an iron rod and brought the vibrations to cease at once. Later Tesla   explained that the vibrations that developed, massive power due to resonance, originated only from a pocket size gadget. He vouched that it could be carried to the Empire state building and demolish it within a few minutes.

Although it is not clear his intention of the above experiments vibratory research led to many applications. He believed this could be used  in following ways.

  • To reduce the intensity of Earth quakes by letting out small vibrations to cancel the seismic waves.
  • The detection of different strata in the Earth which would reveal fissures and deposits of various mineral ores

1898 Age 42 yrs.

Tesla was probably the first person to demonstrate remote control in a very vivid way. he had a large boat floating in Madison square. He stood at a distance and controlled it.One sad thing is this had to be done on money gifted by a friend as The Tesla Company had spent the entire sum, $40,000, obtained by the Niagara Project.

Westinghouse Electric Company was in trouble due to the depression. In order to tide over the crisis the financial advisers insisted that Royalty payment to Tesla should be stopped. With the utmost reluctance, not expecting him  to give up millions, Westinghouse explained the situation to Tesla., “ You have been my friend. When everybody doubted, you decided to give my Polyphase system to the world. The benefits that will come to society is more important than the money I should get”

Tesla saying this destroyed the contract. This probably is the greatest financial sacrifice ever made over friendship.Tesla was hitched on two colossal projects

  • To transmit power to all parts of the globe as High Frequency Electric waves resonating through the solid earth.
  •  The other was to have a worldwide wireless communication system.

1899 Age 43 yrs.

In order to test the former, he built a vast wooden house in an open area in Colorado Springs. Here he assembled a Tesla coil having a diameter of 10 feet and a wooden tower up to 80 feet. An antenna like metal projection pierced the sky up to 142 feet which ended in a huge copper dome.

Here his coils and transformers could increase the potential of AC to   135 million.

1900 Age 44 yrs.

On the day of the experiment, when they passed the current, the reaction produced was as brilliant as real thunder and lightning during a storm.

After the Colorado experiments Tesla was very confident of distributing energy using the Earth and the Atmosphere instead of metal conductors. He also wanted to use the device to organize a worldwide transmission system for wireless and TV. ( TV was not even discovered, but he would have had the knowhow) His estimate for the project was around $1,000,000. J P Morgan handed him $150,000. He initiated the project in some land acquired in the Long Island at a place called Wardenclyffe. Here he erected a tower 180 feet high on a foundation going far deep as 120 feet deep which had 16 steel pipes driven further 300 feet, in order to have a " a good grip of the Earth" as he described. The mast was to have been capped by a 55 ton metal sphere.

When Marconi achieved wireless transmission without tremendous expenditure Morgan began to doubt the validity of the Tesla project. He refused to give further funds saying, " How can one fix a meter if anybody can get energy from the Earth and the Sky"

1905 Age 45 yrs.

 Tesla abandoned the dream which was described as " Tesla's million dollar folly" Tesla had a nervous breakdown "

1909,  Age 49 yrs.

Guglielmo Marconi gained the Nobel Prize for his development of Radio and soon accumulated wealth.

1912, Age 52 yrs.

Tesla trying to recover tested a revolutionary new kind of turbine engine. It developed such a high speed that could self-destruct. At the time Tesla did not have the courage or a clear mind to tame the Genie. So he abandoned it.

With no Laboratory or assistants he tried to earn a living by consultancy practice. He could not build up a satisfactory clientele. Penniless, physically week demoralized; lonely Tesla resorted to feeding the pigeons.

In spite of his limitations a few sparks flashed from time to time.

He described a phenomenon using High Frequency Radio waves which has evolved to be RADAR today.

The names of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison were announced by the Swedish Academy, as the Winners of the year’s Nobel Prize. The assumption is that Tesla refused to share it with Edison as he did not consider him to be a Physicist. Tesla was also badly hurt over the awarding of the Prize 3 years earlier to Marconi for the discovery of Wireless. Marconi had worked in Tesla Laboratory for some time.

(Tesla is now credited with inventing modern radio as well; since the Supreme Court overturned Guglielmo Marconi's patent in 1943 in favour of Nikola Tesla's earlier patents. Tesla has disclosed that "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents)

1917 Age 57 yrs.

Tesla was persuaded to accept the Edison Gold Medal.

1932 Age 72 yrs.

He received his last patent at the age of 72.(Apparatus for Aerial Transportation. This was the progenitor of the VSTOL (vertical short take off and landing) plane. Unfortunately, Tesla never had the money to build a prototype.

1943 Age 83 yrs.

Nikolai Tesla died in the room of 'New York Hotel' with unpaid bills. His patents and the help from his well-wishers would have taken care of it. He was cremated (not buried as Christians do) after a state funeral. His research papers were acquired by the State department and much later released. Three Noble Laureates addressed the Noble scientist and visionary who served as a demigod of an era.

.After death