ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology

History's Most Important Inventor: Nikola Tesla and His Inventions

Updated on August 19, 2016

The Genius of Nikola Tesla

Most people have never heard of Nikola Tesla, outside of a passing reference to one of his inventions - the Tesla Coil. However, I promise you that he has probably influenced your life - and that of almost everyone else on the planet - more than anyone else in history.

At his zenith, he was as famous as any other inventor of his day, and has been known by many monikers: "The Genius Who Lit the World," "The Wizard of the West," "The Inventor of the 20th Century," and much, much more. His genius is evident all around you at this very moment. Don't believe me? Read on!

Tesla Popularity Poll

Have you ever heard of Nikola Tesla?

See results
Nikola Tesla in 1893
Nikola Tesla in 1893 | Source

Tesla and Thomas Edison

Nikola Tesla was born an ethnic Serb in 1856 in what is now part of Croatia. He later became an American citizen and did cutting-edge work in numerous fields, including mechanical and electrical engineering. He was a polyglot - fluent in more than half a dozen languages - and also had a photographic memory.

When he arrived in the U.S. in 1884, he had a letter of introduction to Thomas Edison that had been written by another inventor and close friend of Edison. Supposedly, the letter to Edison simply said, "I know of two great men. You are one; this young man is the other." Edison hired him.

Tesla's genius quickly became evident, and before long he was working on some of the most difficult problems faced by Edison's company. According to Tesla, Edison promised him a $50,000 bonus if he could solve a particularly thorny mechanical/electrical problem (which he did). When he asked about his bonus, Edison purportedly made a comment about Tesla not understanding American humor. Tesla quit. (Later, he and Edison would again clash as rivals supporting different forms of electrical power: AC vs. DC.)

You Like Listening to the Radio? Thank Nikola Tesla

When I was in grade school, they taught us about all the great inventors who shaped our current way of life: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone; Edison invented the light bulb; Guglielmo Marconi invented wireless radio. As it would turn out, the first two were true; the third wasn't.

Sure, Marconi was able to achieve wireless radio transmission; the history books were right about that part. Heck, he even received the 1909 Nobel Prize for his work. But what they didn't say was this: he did it using 16 of Tesla's patents! Although Tesla fought for his patent rights, it wasn't until nine months after his death in 1943 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor and declared Tesla to be the true inventor of wireles radio.

So the next time you hear your favorite song coming on over the airwaves, thank Nikola Tesla.

Like Having Electricity in Your Home? Thank Tesla

The term AC/DC is familiar to most people. It refers to the two forms in which electrical power is delivered: alternating current and direct current. Late in the 19th century, Thomas Edison - considered by many to be America's greatest inventor - was a proponent of direct current. However, DC power was costly, impractical and highly inefficient.

Tesla was a proponent of AC power. Basically, he and his partner, George Westinghouse, engaged in a "War of Currents" - AC vs. DC - that almost bankrupted both Edison's company (General Electric) and their own (Westinghouse Electric). Tesla even gave up the royalties on his Westinghouse patents in order to help the company survive. In comparing the two currents, AC was highly efficient and more easily transmitted over long distances. In the end, thanks to Tesla's development of the AC electric supply system (which is still used today), AC won out and is currently the dominant form in which electricity is delivered to homes and businesses today.

In other words, every time you flick on a light switch, plug in a toaster, watch a television or do practically anything that requires electricity, it's a testament to Tesla's genius. Furthermore, the induction motor he invented as part of the power supply chain is used in almost every home appliance you can think of, from refrigerators to televisions to washers and dryers.

As to General Electric and Westinghouse, they are still duking it out: GE owns NBC, and Westinghouse bought CBS in 1995 (but then changed its own name to The CBS Corporation).

You Enjoy the Convenience of a Car? Yep, Tesla Again

I'm going to make this one short and sweet: the ignition system in your car? I'll give you three guesses as to who invented it.

Originally patented in 1898 as "Electrical Igniter for Gas Engines," it has remained essentially unchanged since its introduction well over a century ago. With 800 million vehicles on the road, there is no doubt about the impact Tesla had.

Tesla's Other Inventions

Tesla had over 800 patents at the time of his death (at which time all of his work was allegedly confiscated by the U.S. government). In addition to the items noted above, he also invented - among other things - flourescent lighting, vacuum tubes, remote control, and radar - not to mention discovering X-rays.

It's a shame that more people today don't know who Tesla is, as we all live in the shadow of his genius.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Claudia Anaya 6 weeks ago

      Very interesting I'm 70 years young and to this day not a day goes by with out learning something new this is a great way for me to continue in my journey thank you from the bottom of my hearth

    • profile image

      Deiz 2 years ago

      like one said: before people was working to create something-now work for money...

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      I have read a lot about Nikoa Tesla, and yes many of his inventions were covered up. Thomas Edison even had inventions that he stole from other people. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb? No he didn't. A man named Lewis Latimer's innovations towards it's developments really was the one, until Latimer's process for making carbon filaments, Edison's light bulbs would only burn for minutes. Latimer's would burn for hours.

      So, what I am trying to say is people stole the "honor" of being the person who invented things.

      Now Nikola Tesla goes way above and beyond any other inventor in history. But, the government stole everthing from him. The government would not let anyone know much about his true inventions, at least that is what I think. I also think there is more, but the government will never let us know.

    • profile image

      leann2800 5 years ago

      Hadn't thought of that but he was mentioned in a biography written in Yugoslavia about Nikola Tesla. My grandfather met them overseas when he was a reporter in the military. He came back an electrician and saw Edison again in the states.

    • Hypersapien profile image

      Hypersapien 5 years ago

      Wow. Your grandfather must have lived quite a life to have rubbe shoulders with guys like that. You need to do a hub about him!

    • profile image

      leann2800 5 years ago

      Great hub. This has long been my fathers hero. My grandfather knew both Edison and Tesla. It is a shame more people do not know who Tesla is.