Nikola Tesla(July 10, 1856 - January 7, 1943) (Baptism name: ; Nikolaj) was a Serbian-American inventor and electrical engineer. Tesla's most famous contribution was the theory of polyphase alternating current electricity, which he used to build the first induction motor, invented in 1882, as well as developing the designs of numerous other electrical machines and related technology. His theory and many of his patents form the basis for the modern electric power system.
Tesla is also noted for inventing the Tesla coil and a bladeless turbine (which functions on the principles of fluid viscosity and the boundary layer effect). Tesla's contributions to the modern world are widely regarded as more important and long-lasting than those of his nemesis, one-time employer, Thomas Edison. Life magazine, in a special double issue, listed Tesla in the "100 Most Important People in the Last 1000 Years". He occupied the 57th position, citing him as "[one of] the most farsighted inventors of the electrical age". They state his work on the rotating magnetic field and alternating currents helped electrify the world. The scientific compound derived SI unit measuring magnetic flux density or magnetic induction (commonly known as the magnetic field B), the tesla, was named in his honor (at the Conference general des poids et mesures, Paris, 1960).
Tesla was born "at the stroke of midnight" with lightning striking during a summer storm. He was born in Croatia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The midwife commented, "He'll be a child of the storm," to which his mother replied, "No, of light." Tesla was baptised in the Old Slavonic Church rite. His Baptism Certificate reports that he was born on June 28 (Julian calendar), and christened by the Serbian priest, Toma Oklobdžija. His Serb father, Reverend Milutin Tesla, was a priest in the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Karlovci which gathered to Serbs of the "Greek-rite" as they were legally referred to in Austria-Hungary at the time. His mother, Djuka Mandic, from a prominent Serbia family of the Banija, made craft tools. He was one of five children, having one brother and three sisters. His godfather, Jovan Drenovac, was a Captain in the Krajina army. His family moved to Gospic in 1862. Tesla studied in Karlovac, present day Croatia, then studied electrical engineering at the Austria Politechnic in Graz, Austria (1875). While there, he studied the uses alternating current. He also developed a telephone repeater (or amplifier). In 1881 he moved to Budapest to work for the telegraph company, American Telephone Company. For a while he stayed in Maribor, Slovenia. He was employed at his first job as an assistant engineer. Tesla suffered a nervous breakdown during this time. In 1882 he moved to Paris, France, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company. He worked designing improvements to electric equipment. In the same year, Tesla conceived of the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields (for which he received patents in 1888). Tesla visualized the rotating fields and thereby designed the induction motor. Tesla hastened from Paris to his mother's side as she lay dying, arriving hours before her death in 1882. Her last words were to him were, "You've arrived, Nidzo, my pride." After her death, Tesla fell ill. He spent two to three weeks recuperating in Gospic and Tomingaj. All his life, Tesla kept a home-spun embroidered travel bag from his mother.
In 1884, leaving the warfare of his birthplace behind, Tesla moved to the United States of America to accept a job with the Edison Company in New York City. He arrived in the US with 4 cents to his name, a book of poetry, and a letter of recommendation (from Charles Batchelor, his manager in his previous job).
Telsa worked for Thomas Edison for a time. Edison offered him $50,000 for improvements in Edison’s DC dynamos. Tesla worked nearly a year to redesign the inferior construction. Upon returning to Edison and inquiring about the $50,000, Edison replied, "Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor." Tesla resigned. In 1886, Tesla formed his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. The initial financial investors disagreed with Tesla on his plan for an alternating current motor and eventually relieved Tesla of his duties at the company. Tesla was unemployed for a time. Tesla worked on a New York street gang, as a laborer, from 1886 to 1887 to raise capital to eat and for his next project. In 1887, he constructed the initial brushless alternate-current induction motor. He demonstrated the brushless two-phase one-fifth horsepower induction motor to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. Also in 1888, he developed the principles of his Tesla coil. In the same period, he began working with Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Westinghouse's Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania labs. Westinghouse listened ti Tesla 's ideas for polyphase systems. These systems would allow alternating current [AC] electricity to be transmitted over large distances.
X-rays and friendships
In April 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own devices as well as Crookes tubes. He did this by experimenting with high voltages and vacuum tubes. His technical publications indicate that he invented and developed a special single-electrode X-ray tube. Tesla's tubes differed from other X-ray tubes in that they had no target electrode. He stated these facts in his 1897 X-ray lecture before the New York Academy of Sciences. The modern term for this is the bremsstrahlung process, in which a high-energy secondary X-ray emission is produced when charged particles (such as electrons) pass through matter. Around 1889, Tesla became a USA citizen. When he was 36 years old, the first patents concerning the polyphase power system were granted. He continued researching rotating magnetic field principles and polyphase power distribution.
In 1891, Tesla established his Houston Street laboratory in New York. He lit vacuum tubes wirelessly in the lab, providing evidence for the potential of wireless power transmission. Around this time, Tesla developed a close and lasting friendship with author and humorist Mark Twain. They spent quite a bit of time together in Tesla's lab and other areas. By 1892, Tesla became aware of certain characteristics later identified by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen as effects of X-rays. He performed several experiments (including taking photographs of the bones of his hand). Tesla did not make his findings widely known. Much of his research was lost in the 1895 Houston Street lab fire. He did obtain pictures of the human body with X-rays and subsequently sent the images to Röntgen. His later X-ray experimentation by vacuum high field emissions led him to alert the scientific community first to the biological hazards associated with X-ray exposure.
Wireless and the IEEE
Tesla served as the Vice-President of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers from 1892 to 1894. From 1893 to 1895, Tesla investigated high frequency alternating currents. He generated one million volts of alternating currents using a conical Tesla Coil. He developed the skin effect in circuitry, 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 St. Louis, Missouri, Tesla made the first public demonstration of radio communication in 1893. Addressing the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the National Electric Light Association, he described and demonstrated in detail the principles of radio communication. The apparatus he used contained all the elements that were incorporated into radio systems before the development of the vacuum tube.
World's Fair Exposition
World Columbian Exposition At the 1893 World's Fair Exposition, in Chicago, Illinois, Illinois, celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage to America, an international exposition was held, in which, for the first time, a building was devoted to electrical exhibits. It was a historic event and the beginning of a revolution as Tesla and Westinghouse introduced visitors to AC power by providing AC energy to illuminate Chicago's Columbia Exposition. The public at large observed firsthand the qualities and abilities of AC power. All the exhibits were from commercial enterprises. Edison, Brush, Western Electric, and Westinghouse all had exhibits. General Electric Company (backed by Edison and J.P. Morgan) proposed to power the electric fair with direct current at the cost of one million dollars. Westinghouse proposed, armed with Tesla's AC system, to illuminate the exposition for half as much. Tesla's high-frequency high-voltage lighting produced more efficient light with less heat. A two-phase induction motor was driven by current from the main generators to power the system. Edison tried to prevent the use of his light bulbs with Tesla's system. GE banned the use of Edison's lamps in Westinghouse's exhibits. Still, Westinghouse's proposal was chosen over the inferior DC system to power the fair. Westinghouse displayed several polyphase systems.
The exhibits included a switchboard, polyphase generators, step-up and step-down transformers, transmission line, commercial size induction motors, commercial size synchronous motors, and rotary direct current converters (one of which was operating a railway motor). The working-scale system allowed the public a view of a system of polyphase power which could transmit long distances. Meters and other auxiliary devices were also present. Tesla displayed the first neon light tubes at the exposition, demonstrating his phosphorescent lighting powered without wires by high-frequency fields. Tesla's lighting inventions exposed to high-frequency currents would bring the gases to incandescence. Tesla displayed the first practical phosphorescent lamps (a precursor to fluorescent lamps). His innovations in this type of light emission were not regularly patented. Also in the exhibits were Tesla's demonstrations, most notably the "Egg of Columbus". This device explains the principles of the rotating magnetic field and his induction motor. The Egg consisted of a polyphase field coil underneath a plate with a copper egg positioned over the top. When the sequence of the coils were energized, the magnetic field arrangement inductively created a rotation on the egg and made it stand up on end (appearing to resist gravity). On August 25, Elisha Gray introduced Tesla for the delivery of a lecture on mechanical and electrical oscillators. Tesla explained his work for efficiently increasing the work at high frequency of reciprocation. As Electrical Congress members listened, Tesla delineated mechanisms which could produce oscillations of constant periods irrespective of the pressure applied and irrespective of frictional losses and loads. He explained the working means of producing constant period electric currents (not resorting to spark gaps or breaks) and how to produce these with reliable mechanisms. The Exposition's illumination with electricity using Tesla's and Westinghouse's alternate current removed any doubt of the utility of the polyphase alternating current.
War of currents
During this time, direct current was the standard, and Edison was not disposed to lose all his patent royalties to a former employee. Adversaries due to Edison's promotion of DC for electric power distribution over the more efficient alternating current advocated by Tesla, Edison (or, reportedly, one of his employees) employed the tactics of misusing Tesla's patents to construct the first electric chair for the state of New York in order to promote the idea that alternating currents were deadly. In his work with the rotary magnetic fields, Tesla devised the system for transmission of power over long distances. He partnered with George Westinghouse to commercialize this system. Westinghouse had previously bought the rights to Tesla's polyphase patents and other patents for AC transformers. Experts announced proposals to harness the Niagara Falls for generating electricity. Against General Electric and Edison's proposal, Tesla's AC system won the international Niagara Falls Commission contract.
The commission was lead by Lord Kelvin and backed by entrepreneurs (such as J.P. Morgan, Lord Rothschild, and John Jacob Astor). Work began in 1893 on the Niagara Falls generation project and Tesla's technology was applied to generate electromagnetic energy from the falls. Some doubted that the system would generate enough electricity to power industry in Buffalo. Tesla was sure it would work, saying that Niagara Falls had the ability to power the entire eastern U.S. On November 16, 1896, the first transmission of electrical power between two cities was sent from Niagara Falls to industries in Buffalo from the first commercial two-phase power plants (known as hydroelectric generators) at the Edward Dean Adams Station. The hydroelectric generators were built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation from Tesla's AC system patent designs. Tesla's system designs alleviated the limitations of the previous DC methods. The nameplates on the generators bear Tesla's name. He also set the 60 hertz standard for North America. It took five years to complete the whole facility. With the financial backing of George Westinghouse, Tesla's AC replaced DC, enormously extending the range and improving the safety and efficiency of power distribution. Tesla's Niagara Falls system marked the end of Edison's roadmap for electrical tansmission. Eventually, Edison's GE company converted to the AC system.
Designs and Colorado
When Tesla was 41 years old, he filed the first basic
radio patent (No. US645576). A year later, he demonstrated a remote controlled
boat to the
In 1899, Tesla decided to move his research to
Tesla kept a diary of his experiments in the
Tesla, a local contractor, and several assistants commenced the construction of the laboratory shortly after arriving in Colorado Springs. Tesla established his lab on Knob Hill in Colorado Springs, (east of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and one mile east of downtown). The primary purpose of the laboratory was to experiment with high frequency electricity and other phenomena. The Colorado Springs lab's secondary purpose was to research wireless transmission of electrical power. Tesla's design for the lab consisted of a building fifty feet by sixty feet with eighty-foot ceilings. A one-hundred-forty-two foot conducting aerial with a thirty-inch copper-foil-covered wooden ball was erected on the roof of the lab. The design also implemented a roof that rolled back to prevent fire from sparks and other dangerous effects from the experiments. The laboratory possessed sensitive instruments and equipment.
Tesla constructed many smaller resonance transformers
in his lab and discovered the concept of tuned electrical circuits. Tesla
also developed a number of coherers for separating and perceiving electromagnetic
waves. In his
On July 3, 1899, Tesla discovered terrestrial stationary
waves within the earth. He demonstrated that the Earth behaves as a smooth
polished conductor and possesses electrical vibrations. He experimented
with waves characterized by a lack of vibration at points, between which
areas of maximum vibration occur periodically. These standing waves were
produced by confining waves within constructed conductive boundaries. Tesla
demonstrated that the Earth could respond at predescribed frequencies of
electrical vibrations. At this time, Tesla realized that it was possible
to transceive power around the globe. He also produced the effects that
are now refered to as "free electron lasers." Tesla conducted
experiments contributing to the understanding of electromagnetic propagation
and the Earth
Tesla in the
In 1900, Tesla began planning the
Due to the fact that the Nobel Prize was awarded to
Marconi for radio in 1909, it was believed that Tesla and Edison were to
share the Nobel Prize of 1912 (or 1915; some accounts differ). Tesla
Prior to the First World War, Tesla looked overseas
for investors to fund his research. When the war started, Tesla lost funding
he was receiving from his European patents.
Nikola Tesla, in August 1917, first established principals
regarding frequency and power level for the first primitive RADAR units
in 1934. In the 1917 The Electrical Experimenter, Tesla stated the principals
of modern military radar in detail. Tesla
"For instance, by their [standing electromagnetic waves] use we may produce at will, from a sending station, an electrical effect in any particular region of the globe; [with which] we may determine the relative position or course of a moving object, such as a vessel at sea, the distance traversed by the same, or its speed."
Tesla proposed to use electromagnetic waves to determine the relative position, speed, and course of a moving object and other modern concepts of radar. Tesla had proposed it may help find submarines (which it isn't well-suited for), though it was first applied successfully to find aircraft (after their later proliferation) and surface ships during World War II. Emil Girardeau, working with the first French radar systems, stated he was building radar systems "conceived according to the principles stated by Tesla". By the twenties, Tesla reportedly negotiates with Great Britain's Prime Minister Chamberlin government over a ray system. Tesla also had stated efforts had been made to steal the "death ray" (though they had failed). The Chamberlin government was removed though before any final negotiations occured. The incoming Baldwin government found no use of Tesla's suggestions and ended negotiations.
On Tesla's seventy-fifth birthday in 1931, Time magazine put Tesla on the cover. The cover caption noted his contribution to electrical power generation. In 1935, many of Marconi's patents relating to the radio were declared invalid by the United States Court of Claims. The Court of Claims decided that the prior work of Tesla (specifically US645576 and US649621) had anticipated Marconi's later works. Tesla got his last patent in 1928 on January 3, an apparatus for aerial transportation which was the first instance of VTOL aircraft.
Dynamic theory of gravity
When he was eighty-one, Tesla challenged Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, announcing he was working on a dynamic theory of gravity and argued that a field of force was a better concept and did away with the curvature of space. Unfortunately the theory was never published, but Tesla may have been developing a theory about gravity waves. This theory provides a basis for plasma cosmology.
Nikola Tesla Memorialat Niagara Falls Tesla was the first to successfully convert mechanical energy of flowing water to electrical energy.
Death and afterwards
Tesla died alone in the hotel New Yorker of heart failure, some time
between the evening of January 5 and the morning of January 8, 1943. Despite
selling his AC electricity patents, Tesla was essentially destitute and
died with significant debts. At the time of his death, Tesla had been working
on some form of teleforce weapon, or Death Ray, the secrets of which he
had offered to the United States War Department on the morning of January
5. Immediately after his death became known, the Federal Bureau of Investigation
instructed the Office of Alien Property to take possession of Tesla
View on war
Tesla was opposed to wars in general. Tesla did devise protective measures that would prevent wars. Tesla found exceptions in some wars and some justifiable situations. Tesla envisioned that more terrible weapons were going to be developed in the future. These weapons' destructive actions and ranges would have virtually no limit. Tesla's solution was to develope expedients for preventing any conflict. Tesla developed plans for known as "teleforce" [or, commonly, a "death ray"] (primarily a defensive weapon, but with characteristics of a weapon of offense). The "teleforce" weapon was a type of defensive particle-beam weapon. This would allow protection against invasion. The device would provide complete protection against enemies approaching by sea or air. Tesla could not find financing for demonstration of the "death ray" discoveries. It could be used as an offensive weapon. Tesla also advocated developing airplanes and wireless energy transmission.
Fluent in seven languages (English, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, French, German, Italian)
Elementary school: Gospic (Croatia)
Secondary school: Karlovac (Croatia)
*Undergraduate ** Baccalaureate of Physics: Austrian Polytechnic Institute (Graz) ** Baccalaureate of Mathematics: Austrian Polytechnic Institute (Graz) ** Baccalaureate of Mechanical Engineering: Austrian Polytechnic Institute (Graz) ** Baccalaureate of Electrical Engineering: Austrian Polytechnic Institute (Graz) *Graduate studies ** PhD in Physics: University of Prague (Prague)
"Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality." —Nikola Tesla
"Tesla has contributed more to electrical science than any man up to his time." —Lord Kelvin
"[Tesla is] an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents... I congratulate [him] on the great successes of [his] life's work." —Albert Einstein
"The world, I think, will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla's equal in achievement and imagination." - Edwin H. Armstrong
"... all scientific men will be delighted to extend their warmest congratulations to Tesla and to express their appreciation of his great contributions to science." —Ernest Rutherford
"Tesla is entitled to the enduring gratitude of mankind." —Arthur Compton
"The evolution of electric power from the discovery of Faraday to the initial great installation of the Tesla polyphase system in 1896 is undoubtedly the most tremendous event in all engineering history." —Charles F. Scott
"[Dr. Tesla's] lectures opened a new physical world to me... [He was] one of the kindest men I've ever encountered. The hours which I was permitted to spend together with [him] will always be among the fondest memories of my life." —Jonathan Zenneck
"We think of his contribution much oftener than that of Ampere and Ohm ... the induction motor and our power system are enduring monuments to Nikola Tesla." — Dr. E.F.W. Alexanderson
See also: Tesla patents
The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century: Nikola Tesla, Forgotten Genius of Electricity, Robert Lomas, Headline Book Publishing, 1999. ISBN 0747262659
Tesla, Man Out Of Time, Margaret Cheney, 1981, 1993 (Barnes & Noble Books). ISBN 0-88029-419-1.
Tesla, Master of Lightning, Margaret Cheney & Robert Uth, Barnes & Noble Books, NY, 1999. ISBN 0-7607-1005-8.
Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla, John J. O'Neill, Angriff Press, ISBN 0-913022-40-3.
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