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Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943)

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in the village of Smilijan in the Croatian province, Lika. His father, Milutin Tesla, was a minister, leading a Serbian Orthodox church. His mother, Duka Mandic, originated from west Serbia, and although she enjoyed no formal education, she possessed an amazing memory. She could quote entire volumes of national and European poetry word-for-word. Nikola had four siblings. Daniel, the eldest and seven years older than Nikola, was the favorite of his parents. At the age of 12, Daniel died in mysterious circumstances. Different rumors spread concerning Nikolas and his hand in the incident. Whether it was due to a fall on the cellar stairs, or a fall from a horse, there was no clear cause of death established. The first signs of neurosis became apparent at an early age. For example, he abhorred earrings on women. Furthermore, in order to enjoy a meal he first had to calculate the volume of soup bowls or cups. He was also unable to touch other people's hair, as well as his personal numbers needing to be divisible by three, and so on. On top of this, unexplainable images flashed into his head when he was in a disturbing situation, or in particularly high spirits. He possessed a photographic memory as well as extraordinary abilities in the realm of foreign languages (English, French, German, Italian and so on) and mathematics. At the age of 10, he began attending the high school in Gospic, where he pursued his love for physics. In 1875, he enrolled himself at the Austrian Polytechnic Institute in Graz. He relocated to Prague in 1880, however he was not officially enrolled at the university. His father died in 1879. During 1881, in Budapest, he found employment at the telegraph office of the Hungarian Government. At this time, Tesla's senses were so heightened that, after suffering a nervous breakdown, he could sense a fly landing on a table, as well as gaining bat-like abilities in the dark. Only through the pursuit of sporting activities did this phenomenon normalize.

Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943)
Photo, German Museum, Munich

In 1882, he discovered the rotary field and invented the first alternating-current motor. In the autumn of 1882, he moved to Paris, to a telephone branch of Edison. Charles Batchelor recommended that Tesla move to America, in order to work and research with Edison. He arrived in Manhattan in June of 1884, beginning work for Edison, where he mainly performed repairs. Edison believed in the utilization of a continuous current and was therefore uninterested in Tesla's concept of an alternating current. After Edison dishonored his promise to pay Tesla a large sum of money upon the completion of the conversion of the Edison dynamo, he resigned after a year under his employment. From early spring, 1886, to the following year he was a worker in a New York road band, until he became acquainted with A.K. Brown, the director of the Western Union telegraph company. With his help, he founded the Tesla Electric Company (South Fifth Street 33-35) in April, 1887. Within only a few months, he filed the patent for his multi-phase alternating current electricity system. George Westinghouse bought Tesla's 40 patents through his company - Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Co. Tesla agreed to work as an advisor to Westinghouse, in Pittsburgh. The 133 Hz alternating current used by Westinghouse was not compatible with Tesla's induction motor, which worked with 60 Hz. Since this time, 60 Hz has become the standard in America. In 1889, he built his Tesla coils, concerning himself with radio transmission and diathermy, building his first vacuum tubes for high-frequency tests. On the 30th of July, 1891, Tesla became an American citizen. His mother passed away at the beginning of 1892. The Niagara Falls were equipped with a power station using an alternating current. In 1894, Tesla received his LLD (Doctor of Law) from the University of Columbia.

On March 13, 1895, his laboratory (South Fifth Avenue 33-35) burnt down, destroying all of his equipment and the results of his work. In 1896, Tesla promised Westinghouse that he would only ask for a lump sum payment of approximately 220,000 Dollars for the past and future percentage of profits arising from his alternating current patents. If not for this, Westinghouse would have faced financial ruin. Through this agreement, Tesla lost millions of Dollars for his projects. In 1897, Tesla managed to transmit a signal from his laboratory to a ship on the Hudson River (40 km). He submitted his radio patents ideas, which were only confirmed after many years of battling with Marconi, by the Supreme Court on June 21, 1943. From 1899, Tesla set about developing a transmitter with up to 12 million volts in Colorado Springs. From 1902, he started building the Waardenclyffe tower, which was to act as a world broadcasting radio station, and from which he wanted to manage the transmission of wireless energy. However, he terminated the project due to a lack of funds. The tower was demolished in 1917. From 1917, Tesla described the fundamental workings of radar and patented his mini airplane according to the VTOL aircraft principle. Around 1934, he worked on a particle-beam weapon for the electronic national defense organization. In 1937, he was hit by a car and badly injured. On January 7, 1943, he died at the age of 86 years in the hotel 'New Yorker'. Apart from the aforementioned research, he also worked in a number of other areas, filing a number of patents: Mechanics of liquids, geothermal power stations, frequency meter, tachometer, lightning conductor, Teslaturbine, logical "AND" circuit, reception of space signals, remote-controlled torpedoes, isolation of high voltage devices by oil, strand wires, modern electrical clock, diathermy, forerunner of the waveguide for microwaves, air liquefaction, solar machines and so on. He owned approximately 700 patents.

Last Update: 2010-12-15