- Education and Science
Biography of Nikola Tesla - Engineer, Scientist & Inventor
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in Croatia. He was an electrical engineer, physicist, and a genius inventor. Nikola Tesla is well known for inventing the modern Alternating Current (AC) electricity supply system and the induction motor.
This article is about the life story of Nikola Tesla and his inventions that have made the world what it is today.
Who was Nikola Tesla?
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan Lika, a region of Croatia.
His father Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor of household appliances.
Nikola Tesla studied at the Realschule, Karlstad in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague.
Nicola Tesla was keen on studying Mathematics and Physics, but soon his interests turned to the field of electricity.
Rotating Magnetic Field - Nikola Tesla's First Breakthrough
Nikola Tesla's first breakthrough came when he was in his native place, Croatia. There a professor told Tesla that it was impossible to make a motor powered by Alternating Current (AC) instead of using the Direct Current (DC).
Nikola Tesla performed experiments for two years in his mind before he arrived at a solution. The solution was a rotating magnetic field that would allow alternating current to power an engine without using the direct current.
Nikola Tesla - Beginning of his Career
Nikola Tesla started his career as an electrical engineer in a telephone company in Budapest in the year 1881.
During the year 1883 when he was living in Strasbourg, Nikola Tesla built a prototype of the induction motor and was able to run it without any glitch. Since no one was interested in the induction motor he was not able to promote it.
Nikola Tesla worked at the Continental Edison Company in Paris before he left for America where he designed dynamos.
In the year 1884, Nikola Tesla accepted an offer to work for Thomas Alva Edison, in the city of New York, America.
Conflict between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison
Nikola Tesla arrived in the United States in the year 1884 with an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Alva Edison.
The letter stated the following – “I know two great men, one is you and the other is this young man” (source – telsasociety .com).
After he joined the Company of Thomas Alva Edison in New Jersey, he worked on improving Edison’s dynamos. It was during this time the conflict between Edison and Nikola Tesla began. The topic of disagreement between the two was about the efficiency of the Direct Current (DC) versus the Alternating Current (AC).
The letter stated the following – “I know two great men, one is you, and the other is this young man” (source – telsasociety .com).
The War of the Electrical Giants
Thomas Edison was all for Direct Current (DC). Thomas Alva Edison had built electrical powerhouses that powered distribution lines with Direct Current along the Atlantic Seaboard.
Nikola Tesla pointed out that the many powerhouses built by Edison were not efficient because they supplied Direct Current through the power lines for distribution.
Nikola Tesla wanted to use Alternating Current (AC) because Alternating Current changes direction 50 or 60 times per second and can easily be stepped up to deliver high voltage levels thereby minimizing power loss across long distances.
Disadvantages of Thomas Alva Edison’s method
Using direct current for distribution through power lines was not efficient because direct current could not be transported to distances that exceeded 2 miles. This is because direct current flows continuously in one direction and does not have the capability of stepping up to higher voltages that were necessary for long distance transmissions.
Since direct current could not be transported for more than two miles a direct current power station had to be built at every two-mile intervals.
Thomas Alva Edison refused to accept Nikola Tesla's ideas, and he started a propaganda against Nikola Tesla claims.
Alternating Current changes direction 50 or 60 times per second and can easily be stepped up to deliver high voltage levels thereby minimizing power loss across long distances
Nikola Tesla's Partnership with George Westinghouse
Nikola Tesla presented his paper “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in the year 1888. George Westinghouse, an industrialist and inventor, was impressed with Nikola Tesla and visited his laboratory.
During his visit, he was very much impressed with a Nikola Tesla's model polyphase system made up of an alternating current dynamo, step-up and step-down transformers with an AC motor at the other end.
After the visit to Nikola Tesla’s lab George Westinghouse entered into a partnership with Nikola Tesla and together they planned to set up a power plant to supply the whole of America with electricity.
Nikola Tesla's Induction Motor
During 1887 and 1888 Nikola Tesla set up an experimental shop at 89, Liberty Street New York where he invented the induction motor.
He used the principle of the rotating magnetic field for the construction of an alternating current induction motor and the polyphase system (another invention of Tesla) for the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical power.
Today, Nikola Tesla’s induction motor and the polyphase system is used in household and industrial appliances worldwide.
More of Nikola Tesla's Achievements
Nikola Tesla designed the first hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls in the year 1895. The Tesla Coil that he invented in 1891 is used in the radio, television sets and other electronic equipment’s today.
In the year 1896 Nikola Tesla constructed an instrument to receive radio waves. He built an experimental station in Colorado Springs in 1899 to experiment with high-voltage, high-frequency electricity and other electrical phenomena. It was in Colorado Springs that Nikola Tesla discovered the terrestrial stationary waves.
Nikola Tesla patented the basic radio system in 1896 by publishing diagrams that described all the elements of the radio transmitter. These diagrams were used by Marconi later on.
Based on the transmission he received while testing a magnifying transmitter, Nikola Tesla claimed that there has been an extra-terrestrial presence on earth. He also stated that the universe harbors intelligent extraterrestrial life forms
Nikola Tesla's Vision
Nikola Tesla built a laboratory and transmitting tower in Wardenclyffe, Long Island between 1901 and 1905. The tower was 187 foot tall and had a magnifying transmitter. This tower was supposed to be the first wireless broadcasting system transmitting signals and power to any place in the world.
Nikola Tesla stated that the magnifying transmitter could turn earth into a gigantic dynamo and could project electricity in unlimited amounts to any place in the world. He wanted to provide the world with free electricity.
Tesla also claimed that the wireless power could be used for interplanetary communication.
J.P Morgan, who financed Nikola Tesla's project, did not agree with his idea of broadcasting power wireless to any place in the world. The following question was his concern – “If anyone can draw on the power, where do we put the meter?” J.P.Morgan withdrew his funds leaving Nikola Tesla stranded.
Even though Nikola Tesla had patented many of his inventions, he was penniless towards the end.
Nikola Tesla died on January 7th, 1943 in the Hotel New Yorker. He lived there for the last ten years of his life. A state funeral was held at St. John the Divine Cathedral in the New York City.
Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison - Mutual Respect for Each Other
Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison were not on fighting terms all the time.
Once when Edison attended a conference where Tesla was giving a speech, Edison slipped into the back of the auditorium because he did not want to be seen by the crowd.
Nikola Tesla on seeing him requested the crowd to give Edison a standing ovation.
More Interesting Facts About Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was a handsome man who remained a bachelor during his lifetime. He was fashion savvy and took great pride in how he dressed.
Tesla had his personal tailor, and he believed that to be successful one had to dress to look favorable.
Nikola Tesla had a photographic memory and could memorize books and images. He was able to visualize in three dimensions.
He could not stand the sight of anyone wearing pearls and if any of his employees wore pearls he sent them right back home. He hated jewelry and any round object. Tesla was averse to touching anybody's hair.
Nikola Tesla was obsessed with hygiene because he almost died of cholera when he was a teenager. Tesla was also obsessed with the number "3".
Nikola Tesla did not think about the remuneration part for his inventions and did not make sure that he got his dues. Telsa was only bothered about the money that he needed for his experiments.
During his lifetime, Nikola Tesla won many awards and accolades but he died as a poor man.
Honoring Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was truly a great scientist, inventor and genius whose inventions have made the world what it is today.
In honor of Nikola Tesla -
- Many states in the USA including New York City declared July 10th, the birthday of Nikola Tesla, as Nikola Tesla Day.
- The corner of the 40th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan was named "The Nikola Tesla Corner".
- The Statue of Liberty Museum has a large photo of Nikola Tesla
- The Liberty Science Centre in Jersey City, New Jersey holds a daily demonstration of the Tesla Coil creating a million volts of electricity in front of spectators
- His supporters opened a Tesla Science Center at the lab in the giant transmitting tower that Tesla built in Wardenclyffe, Long Island, New York
- The Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia was built to dedicate and honor the life and work of Nikola Tesla.