He spoke eight languages fluently. He produced the first AC motor. The underlying technology of wireless communication was founded by him. There were about 300 patents under his name. Also, he claimed that he developed a special weapon called ‘superweapon’ that can end all wars. Yes, we are talking about Nikola Tesla and the above is just a fraction of his unmatchable biography. Although many individuals might have heard this great scientist’s name, only a few know much about his contribution to modern-day science and technology. Allow us to say that he was the greatest scientist this mankind have ever had.
Early stages of Tesla’s life
Nikola Tesla was Serbian, born in 1856 in Smiljan (formerly Austrian empire), today’s Croatia. According to sources, Tesla was born during a lighting stormy night and as a result, his midwife has called him ‘a child of the storm’.
However, his mother called him ‘a child of the light’ considering the lighting that appeared with the storm. As Tesla grew up, he proved that his mother was right.
When it comes to his life as a student, Tesla was a very remarkable student particularly because of his exceptional abilities to solve mathematical problems. In fact, teachers accused Tesla of cheating (for which he never did). When he was a teenager, he became very ill. However, he recovered from his serious illness and became an engineering student at Polytechnic School.
Regardless of his outstanding capacity, Nikola Tesla wanted to withdraw from his school (Polytechnic School). He actually did so and found a job at Continental Edison Company. In fact, working for that company opened up great opportunities for Tesla to focus mainly on lighting experiments and motors. Later on, he wanted to meet Edison in person so he arrived in the U.S. as an immigrant in 1884. According to what he claimed, Edison’s company had faced a very serious series of engineering problems at that time. Thomas Edison had promised an amount of $50,000 for Nikola Tesla if he can solve those issues. Well, Tesla was able to solve all those issues as expected. However, Edison had cheated on Tesla claiming that the respective offer was nothing more than a joke. After about 6 months, Nikola Tesla left Edison’s company.
Then, he was able to develop a business relationship with two other entrepreneurs. That combination was the beginning of Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing. Tesla was able to file various patents pertaining to electrical inventions. All those electrical patents were assigned to the company, Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing. However, later on, his business partners wanted their company to solely focus on the electrical supply. All the intellectual properties that were licensed under the name of the company were taken by Tesla’s partners. Once again, fortune didn’t favor Tesla as his partners left nothing for him.
According to what Tesla claimed, when he arrived to U.S., he had to work as a ditch digger for living. He was paid $2 per day and no one knew how precious this great man’s capacity, knowledge, education, and talent.
Nikola Tesla as an inventor
In 1887, Nikola Tesla and two other investors partnered to form a company called Tesla Electric Company. Tesla’s laboratory was set up in Manhattan.
He started to do plenty of research in this lab and he was able to develop the first induction motor that works on alternating current. Because of the invention of the AC induction motor, a large number of technical issues related to other designs were solved.
Tesla demonstrated his new AC motor at an engineering meeting. Impressed with the performance and the functionality of the concept, a company called Westinghouse Company took all the measures to license the respective technology. Also, Tesla was paid an upfront payment and on top of that, he was paid royalties for each horsepower generated by the motor.
1880 was a remarkable decade because there was a huge competition among scientists to research more about current. In fact, the intense competition was nicknamed ‘War of the Currents’ because of how competitive it was. Edison was always in favor of direct current (DC) claiming that it was safe to use compared to AC (Alternating Current). However, George Westinghouse talked in favor of AC because of its ability to transfer electricity to distant locations. Eventually, the competition became very intense and both the parties started to undercut the prices of each other. As a result, the Westinghouse Company started to run short of capital. Westinghouse had a discussion with Tesla and said that the company is in trouble. Also, he requested Tesla to sell the patents he holds and earn some capital. Tesla did what Westinghouse wanted. However, had Tesla not sold his patents, he would have ended up as a billionaire even by then.
In 1893, World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago. George Westinghouse wanted Nikola Tesla to assist them by supplying power. They wanted to demonstrate the benefits associated with AC during this event and make it popular. Tesla used his technology and illuminated the entire fair with a massive number of light bulbs. Those numbers impressed the crowd. In addition to that, Tesla introduced a jaw-dropping technology that can transport electric light without wires.
Later on, George Westinghouse was able to win a lucrative contract in which he was asked to generate electricity at Niagara Falls. Needless to say, that Westinghouse won this contract with the assistance of Nikola Tesla. As per the contract, Nicola Tesla helped to build the world’s first large-scale AC powerplant.
When George Westinghouse got in financial problems again, he asked Tesla for help. Tesla torn their agreement, refusing Westinghouse to pay royalties for every horsepower that Niagara Falls power plant made. We are talking about billions of dollars in today’s money, that Tesla just threw away to help Westinghouse.
The challenges he faced
If you have read this article so far, you already know the unfortunate incidents and burdens Tesla faced during his life. However, more obstacles started to come his way. In 1895, there was a fire in his Manhattan laboratory and as a result, all of his prototypes and notes were destroyed. Needless to say, it was a great loss for him.
Then, in 1898 he decides to demonstrate a boat that is controlled through wireless technology. This demonstration took place at Madison Square Garden.
Tesla actually tricked the crowd claiming that he is controlling the boat through his voice commands. No one could imagine that the boat was controlled by radio signals because that invention is well ahead of its time. Some even believed that there is a trained monkey hidden inside the boat to control it according to Tesla’s commands.
Soon after this event, Tesla focused more on transmitting electricity over wireless technology. In addition to that, he saw an opportunity in his system not only to transmit electricity over wireless technology but also to communicate across the globe.
In order to put his concepts into practice, Tesla built a special laboratory. This lab was set up in Colorado Springs. As a result of dragging intense power, he ended up causing a regional power outage as well. In addition to that, he was able to detect signals that were believed to be emitted from an extraterrestrial source.
In 1901, J.P. Morgan agreed to invest in a special (Wardenclyffe) tower on Long Island. J.P. Morgan did this investment as a result of a request made by Nikola Tesla. The purpose of building this tower was to electrify the whole world. However, the concept didn’t succeed, Morgan eventually ended up withdrawing the funds and asking Tesla: “How can I charge free electricity?”
Then, in 1909, Marconi was able to receive the Nobel Prize for inventing the radio. However, Tesla wanted to sue Marconi in 1915 saying that Marconi infringed Tesla’s patent license. The attempt was not successful, but American court gave patent rights to Tesla posthumously. In the same year, many believed that the Nobel Prize would be shared by both Tesla and Edison (but it did not happen, since Tesla refused to share it). Nevertheless, Tesla was awarded various honors and awards during his lifetime. Interestingly, one of those awards was ‘Edison Medal’ given by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
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What’s so special about Nikola Tesla
It goes without saying that Tesla was a very remarkable person. He claimed that he possess a photographic memory and that’s the reason behind his ability to memorize books. The same ability helped him in learning eight different languages. Moreover, he always said that his best ideas were inspired in a light flashes. Also, he said that he had the ability to visualize his inventions (in the form of detailed pictures) even before building their prototypes. This is exactly why he didn’t have drawings and sketches for most of his inventions.
He was taller than 6’ (6’ 2” to be precise) and he had a very confident personality as well. Because of that, he was very popular among women. Interestingly, Tesla stayed single forever. He also said that staying single is a key reason behind his creativity.
He was extremely concerned about germs probably because of the serious illness he experienced during his teenage days. So, he maintained a very hygienic lifestyle and therefore, he was very strict in maintaining interpersonal relationships. According to reports, Tesla had some unusual phobias as well. For instance, he had an aversion to pearls. As a result, he never got close to any woman who wears pearls.
According to Tesla, his best ideas were inspired when he was all alone. However, he was not a solitary person. He had the company of many famous individuals and he was often seen at high-class dinner parties. For instance, Mark Twain was one of Tesla’s regular companions who frequently visited his laboratories. In fact, Twain even promoted some of Tesla’s inventions.
Apart from being a superb engineer and inventor, Tesla had a reputation as a philosopher as well. Moreover, he had poetic skills as well. He was even congratulated by Einstein (for his 75th birthday). Also, Tesla was featured on Time Magazine as an appreciation for the same birthday.
How his last years went by
Basically, some individuals called Tesla a mad scientist, particularly because his inventions are well ahead of time. He was constantly going against conventional theories. Once he said that he had developed a special motor that is powered by cosmic rays. He wanted to invent a new form of energy that goes beyond the physical theories introduced by Einstein. Also, he claimed that he developed a new ray that can be used as a superweapon with great power.
Regardless of his capacity, inventions and knowledge, Tesla’s last years were pretty much of a mess. He left behind with plenty of unpaid bills under his name and spend most of his time moving from one place to another. However, he decided to settle at a hotel in New York because Westinghouse agreed to pay the rent. He was often seen at the local park and feeding the pigeons was one of his favorite hobbies during his last years. At the age of 86, he died inside his hotel room on January 7, 1943.
As of today, the name Nikola Tesla is very popular. Particularly the name ‘Tesla’ is often heard in various areas. For instance, there is an electric car named after Tesla. Also, ‘Tesla’ is a measurement unit when it comes to measuring the magnetic field strength.