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Tesla

Article #202 • Written by Jason Bellows

Being born at precisely midnight on the night of 9 July/morning of 10 July 1856 during a fierce lightning storm proved to be a portent of what the future had in store for Nikola Tesla. In 1884, when he first arrived in the US, Tesla had little more than the clothes he was wearing and a letter of recommendation written by his previous employer addressed to Thomas Edison; the letter read in part:

“I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man.”

Tesla was hired, and worked for Edison for a time before the two engaged in the “war of currents” as equals. Tesla prevailed to become the man who shaped the 20th century. He claimed to have invented a “death ray” that could “send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 250 miles from a defending nation’s border and will cause armies of millions to drop dead in their tracks”. You’ve used one of his inventions today. However, despite celebrity and wide acclaim, a bumpy road led him to die destitute and alone.

From a young age, Tesla encountered moments of elaborate inspiration-- able to picture a the workings of something from a mere concept. He worked for a time for the American Telephone Company before he moved on to Edison Machine Works in Paris. While there he first conceptualized the induction motor–the device that brought about the Second Industrial Revolution. Not knowing that he’d changed the world with that one invention, Tesla continued working, and in 1884 moved to the United States bearing the aforementioned letter of recommendation. Thomas Edison did give Nikola Tesla a job–a job at which the young man excelled, and was soon entrusted to work on some of the company’s most vexing problems. Among the problems that Edison’s company faced was a need to redesign his DC generators. Tesla reported that Edison promised $50,000 for redesign and improvement of the generator, which Tesla did. However, when he inquired after the promised bounty, he claimed that Edison scoffed and said: “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” He later quit Edison Machine Works when he was refused a raise.

Modern Tesla coil in action
Modern Tesla coil in action

After establishing his own company in 1886, Tesla and Edison found themselves at odds on the future of electrical power. Edison believed in using Direct Current (DC) electricity whereas Tesla was a proponent of Alternating Current. The term “War of Currents” was used because of the extreme measures taken in the dispute. Up to this time, the primary form of power used was DC–which was fine for the task of lending light to a city, but Tesla saw and understood the limitations of DC. Such limitations included that one could not convey the power very far, thus there would need to be a large number of local generators; and that most motors actually used AC, thus would need to be converted. If AC power supplanted DC, however, Edison was poised to lose fortunes in patents. Thus the battle was begun, with Edison electrocuting animals–mostly stray dogs and cats–to show the “dangerous nature” of AC. He even electrocuted an ill-tempered elephant named Topsy from Coney Island’s Luna Park, and filmed the execution for posterity.

Despite the propaganda, DC proved less effective, and Tesla’s AC became the current used throughout the world’s electrical grids today. Nevertheless, the conflict left both participants nearly bankrupt. Tesla wasn’t one to stay down for long; he wasted no time in conducting further research, and laid the groundwork for radio, wireless remote control, wireless power transmission, the spark plug, use of the ionosphere in manipulating radio, and many other concepts. Some ideas were financial failures, but for all those that made money, he ended up reinvesting it in further experiments. Eventually, “The Great War” (World War I, as it would later be known) robbed Tesla of his European investors, and many of his works had to be torn down to either use the metal for the war effort, or because people feared his inventions could be used by the enemy.

Upon Edison’s death, most of the remarks made in his epitaph were kind, save those from Tesla, who said of his former employer: “He had no hobby, cared for no sort of amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene.”

100 Serbian dinar banknote front
100 Serbian dinar banknote front

In 1891, Tesla became an official citizen of the United States, but later in his life, Tesla was considered to be the archetypical mad scientist. He was an outspoken proponent of human eugenics. He claimed to have devised a “Dynamic theory of gravity” which disagreed with the model of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity; but his theory was never published, and no comprehensive notes are to be found on the subject. We therefore have no real means of measuring the theory’s validity. Later, Tesla made another grand claim that he’d designed a “teleforce weapon”–the death ray capable of dropping entire armies and swarms of airplanes. He offered to sell this weapon to the state department, but no one took him up on the offer.

The last time Tesla was seen alive, he was retiring to room in The New Yorker Hotel on the evening of 5 January 1943. Sometime thereafter he died of heart failure, and was not discovered until the maid was required to open the door and found him three days later. Almost immediately, the US Office of Alien Property moved into Tesla’s home and labs to take possession of all his notes and property–it was a highly unorthodox move since Tesla was a citizen.

For those who could make it, Tesla is immortalized as a statue at Niagara, New York depicting the master of lighting; a Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia; and he is featured on the Serbian 100 dinar banknote. Despite the fact that Nikola was a bit of a nutter, it was his work that allowed the 20th century to unfold as it did. His contribution far exceeds what one could convey in a short article.

Article written by Jason Bellows, published on 09 July 2006. Jason is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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83 Comments
Asshe
Posted 09 July 2006 at 05:38 pm

Woo hoo! First.

Very nice article. I've always found it fascinating that those who are so very intelligent tend to be those who find it diffcult to relate to the world that surrounds them.

Perhaps it's nature's way of balancing: brilliant at one thing, tragically bad at most other things.


Gerrywide
Posted 09 July 2006 at 05:56 pm

Very Interesting! But I thought conventional wisdom specifies George Westinghouse as the developer and champion of Alternating Current technology.


Meeshymeg
Posted 09 July 2006 at 06:06 pm

Hey, sweet! I wanted to know more about Tesla after seeing the statue in Niagara and then Jack White's Tesla coil in the movie Coffee & Cigarettes. My partner Dan (the mad physicist) and I have twin sister cats named Tesla and Acey (AC). Tesla is the smart, outgoing one, crazy and inventive. Acey is a little more mercurial, she changes her mind a lot, which seems fitting as well. It was just fun for me to come to the page and read about Tesla with Tesla on my lap. Nice post!

This is my first comment on the site, but I'm sure there will be more. I found DI a few weeks ago and have been spending a huge amount of time here, it's addictive. Thanks for all the great articles, Meg.


gerwitz
Posted 09 July 2006 at 06:43 pm

many of his works had to be torn down … because people feared his inventions could be used by the enemy.

This is the first mention of this I've ever run across. Can anyone provide some good sources? (Not that I doubt it in the slightest!)


Furnace
Posted 09 July 2006 at 07:12 pm

Tesla is the most underrated person in history. I honestly believe if he were alive today, we’d have a version of anti-gravity that we only see in science fiction films.


Jeremy
Posted 09 July 2006 at 07:31 pm

Gerrywide said: "Very Interesting! But I thought conventional wisdom specifies George Westinghouse as the developer and champion of Alternating Current technology."

Tesla was the one who convnced Westinghouse of AC's superiority. The Tesla Electric Company was founded with money he made from selling the patents for his AC generators to Westinghouse.


solitas
Posted 09 July 2006 at 08:43 pm

After seeing the footage of the elephant, One could wish that the same had happened to Edison.

Gerrywide: Tesla did a lot in AC, and its application to motors, but Charles Steinmetz (working for General Electric) was the father of AC distribution.


joshuats
Posted 09 July 2006 at 10:05 pm

Tesla is my hero.

I've heard rumors (from many different sources) that the US Government currently has such a death ray in Alaska.


Drakvil
Posted 09 July 2006 at 10:48 pm

I recall reading that when Edison paid kids to kidnap dogs for his public executions to show how dangerous AC was, he would pronounce that the animal had been "Westinghoused!" From what my college electronics professor taught, this was generally because Edison didn't understand AC very well so he didn't trust it. More or less everything he made was DC. Unfortunately Tesla didn't write much of anything he ever worked on down in any kind of notebook - he trusted it all to his famously good memory. So we've lost the secret of how he created ball lightning in his laboratory and had it floating all around in front of witnesses - the closest I've heard of anyone coming to that is someone got it created in a laboratory and it almost lasts 2 seconds! And Tesla didn't have much good to say about Marconi... I think it was along the lines of, "He did make radio, but he violated two of my patents to do it!"


systmh
Posted 09 July 2006 at 11:00 pm

damn. i wish his notes on the dynamic theory of gravity survived. we still don't know what the hell gravity is. i would bet money that he was totally right, whatever his theory was. he was a genius. he could visualize all the complex behaviors of electromagnetic waves in his head, as if they were second nature to him. his design for a death-ray was interesting, too. not much survives of the design, but basically it was a huge tesla coil that 'painted' a charge difference on a target and sent a hypersonic stream of ionized liquid mercury droplets towards it. once the particles made contact, the tesla coil would pour its energy into this conducting strand, nuking the target. if someone could make it work, tesla could.


blademonki
Posted 09 July 2006 at 11:25 pm

If I may provide a link,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnHXSL5jW-c

Edison's elephant footage.


Drakvil
Posted 09 July 2006 at 11:34 pm

I hadn't heard about Edison electrocuting the elephant (it may have been in Margaret Cheney's book, which I've had for years, and I just don't remember it), but that footage really makes me sad and sick to my stomach. And people still idolize that guy for inventing the incandescent light bulb. Tesla invented the fluorescent light, and what are we all switching over to these days to save electricity?


Alan Bellows
Posted 10 July 2006 at 12:01 am

Drakvil said: "And people still idolize that guy for inventing the incandescent light bulb."

Technically, he ca't really take credit for that: http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=416


noface
Posted 10 July 2006 at 12:39 am

"many of his works had to be torn down … because people feared his inventions could be used by the enemy."

gerwitz said: "This is the first mention of this I've ever run across. Can anyone provide some good sources? (Not that I doubt it in the slightest!)"

"Tesla built the Telefunken Wireless Station in Sayville, Long Island. Some of what he wanted to achieve at Wardenclyffe was accomplished with the Telefunken Wireless. In 1917, the facility was seized and torn down by the Marines, because it was suspected that it could be used by German spies."
........from wiki


Extherium
Posted 10 July 2006 at 05:59 am

Hmm... where did that picture of the massive tesla coil in suburbia come from?


elgatitoandaluz
Posted 10 July 2006 at 06:05 am

Tesla is the most prominent inventor of the 20th century...and still most of scientist nowadays dont know anything about him :( sad history of science

great article


kc0dxh
Posted 10 July 2006 at 07:18 am

There used to be a Tesla museum in Colorado Springs with a giant Tesla Coil in the center of the audience. Anyone know if this is still operational?


crei0
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:14 am

Another scientist that invents stuff like the tesla inventions is Jean-Louis Naudin (I think he works now at NASA)
He can make flying saucers for real, in his site you can see his stuff, he is a scientist so his site is badly organized...

http://jnaudin.free.fr/


mfilip62
Posted 10 July 2006 at 09:13 am

Teslas mother was a Croat and his father was Serb Eastern Ortodoxy priest,he was born in the central Croatian region named"Lika and Gorski Kotar" in the small mount village named "Smiljani".

When some reporter tauntingly asked him where has he come from and which nationality is he
He has said;"Ponosim se svojom Hrvatskom majkom,Hrvatskom zemljom i Srbskim ocem!"
("I pride myself with mine Croatian mother,Croatian land and Serb father!")

I wondering, what do you think,which nationality is he!?


mrak
Posted 10 July 2006 at 09:37 am

Tesla also invented radio, patent which was originaly granted to Marconi was later transfered to Tesla.

DC power is actually more dangerous then AC power. If a person is exposed to DC with high enough voltage it will start the process of electrolysis in his body and that person will surely die. If you apply AC current, if amperage is low enough person wil survive without damage to the body. So if you apply DC and AC current of same voltage and amperage there is better chance of survival with AC current.


WolfManDragon
Posted 10 July 2006 at 10:13 am

Tesla also created soft light (light without a source point), displayed it to the public and friends, lost interest and now we have no clue how it was done.

As for a Damn Interesting book about Tesla "Tesla: Man Out of Time"
by Margaret Cheney
also
http://www.frank.germano.com/tunguska.htm


aurifex
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:04 am

Tesla was an amazing inventor. It's a shame history has forgotten him and fails to credit him with many inventions we still use to this day, including the biggest contribution, AC power.


rp2
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:10 am

joshuats said: "Tesla is my hero.


I've heard rumors (from many different sources) that the US Government currently has such a death ray in Alaska."

you've got to be joking..


TeyNur
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:14 am

Belongs in the same catefory as Einstein, Bacon, Coperinicus, Archimedes. Perhaps one of the most intelligent people to ever live on this rock.


WolfManDragon
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:23 am

Einstein and he were friends, even though Tesla laughed at the thought of Space-Time curvature.


bryane
Posted 10 July 2006 at 01:50 pm

Surprised there's no mention of Tesla and the 1908 siberia explosion... (try google :-)


frenchsnake
Posted 10 July 2006 at 05:05 pm

Anyone ever play Yuri's Revenge? Those Tesla coils my brother always used against me were the first time I heard the name, years ago ^_^


dmwit
Posted 10 July 2006 at 06:56 pm

>Perhaps it's nature's way of balancing: brilliant at one thing, tragically bad at most other things.
May I point you to Paul Graham's ramblings on this topic:
http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html


Jeremy
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:22 pm

bryane said: "Surprised there's no mention of Tesla and the 1908 siberia explosion… (try google :-)"

That may be because the Tunguska explosion has been pretty conclusively proven to have been caused by a meteor explosion.


plunki
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:23 pm

It sadens me that Tesla doesn't get more recognition... I've loved this guy since I was a kid and have always told poeple about him! It is great to finally see more poeple becoming aware of his briliance and impact on history. It still pisses me off that marconi gets all the credit for inventing radio... when he had to use a bunch of Tesla's patents to do it!


plunki
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:25 pm

rp2 said: "you've got to be joking.."

second picture down here is this supposed "death ray" i think...
http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=572#

google "HAARP"


just_dave
Posted 10 July 2006 at 08:32 pm

Happy Birthday, Nikola. Cheers to you.


Vivendi
Posted 10 July 2006 at 09:30 pm

frenchsnake said: "Anyone ever play Yuri's Revenge? Those Tesla coils my brother always used against me were the first time I heard the name, years ago ^_^"

Ahha. The Soviet Tesla Coils rocked :P Ofcourse you need to play Red Alert 1 if possible, much more fun than RA2, imo. (btw. Tesla coils are easily destroyed by tanks in that game) sorry couldn't help it. :P

For years I thought his name Telsa but finally got it right in grade 12 physics. It's sad that most people don't really know about this guy... look at physics textbooks for example, they usually have a brief introduction to scientists like Einstein and Newton, but Tesla is hardly mentioned in electronics (except the units).


tosa
Posted 10 July 2006 at 10:33 pm

Margaret Chainey is one of the biggest disinformation spreaders regarding Tesla, his life and personality.
Calling the greatest mind of all times a 'nutter' simply puts you in the basket with all the other pale minded.
There are many events that were intentionally misinterpretted, and these false informations were copied
over by many authors.
One of the not-so-talked-about topics would be his close friendship with Mileva Maric who did all
the calculations for Einsteins relativity theory - actually some letters imply that the theory might
originate elswhere, I will leave it to the readers to make a conclusion (not always the best choice).


profizzard
Posted 10 July 2006 at 10:41 pm

here's an interesting video about tesla:

The missing secrets of Nikola Tesla


Steveinpng
Posted 10 July 2006 at 11:51 pm

The elephant thing really blows me away.

Why?

Did anyone ever ask Edison what his reason was, outside of blatant sadism?

Everyone already knew that electricity could be fatal.

Great article. Great website.


Joshua
Posted 11 July 2006 at 07:29 am

From the article: "Tesla is immortalized as a statue at Niagara, New York depicting the master of lighting; a Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia; and he is featured on the Serbian 100 dinar banknote."

Don't forget, he also even had a rock band named after him.


sulkykid
Posted 11 July 2006 at 07:48 am

Tesla nuts are worse than conspiracy nuts.


becket
Posted 11 July 2006 at 08:27 am

That picture looks like Ralph Fiennes in a cheap fake mustache. Posting a link would be bad form, but you all have Google. I suspect Time Travel is part of the Great Teslaspiracy.


JJ
Posted 11 July 2006 at 02:26 pm

What an amazing man.


wbeaty
Posted 11 July 2006 at 03:04 pm

> Tesla nuts are worse than conspiracy nuts.

...because they're right! It's no fun to argue with crackpots about the failures of science if the crackpots have the audacity of actually being correct. (Note: look at Teslaphile claims, then look at skeptical responses. Usually the skeptics have no actual arguments, so they fall back to rhetorical tricks such as the above Ad Hominem statement about conspiracy nuts.)


wbeaty
Posted 11 July 2006 at 03:23 pm

Note that Tesla didn't just support AC. Instead he invented the 3-phase motors used everywhere, selling the patents to Westinghouse. He also invented the 3-phase AC distribution network (w/high voltage stepup and stepdown transformers), selling the patents to Westinghouse. Tesla even picked the 60Hz operating frequency. So when you look at huge AC transmission lines stretching across the landscape, don't think Steinmetz (who was actually the house genius of Westinghouse's *competitor*,) and don't think "faceless Westinghouse Engineers." Think Nikola Tesla. But why aren't we taught about him in school? Partly because of a Westinghouse/GE propaganda war. But mostly because Tesla ended up a loser, a penniless loner who was an embarrassment to the modern civilization based on his inventions. Rather than giving him a huge pension, we all swept him under the carpet and nervously hoped our children and grandchildren wouldn't notice what we'd done. And finally, if you think that three-phase power is hard to understand, or you don't know how AC Induction Motors work, it's because both of them sprang from a single very bizarre mind, a world-class visual thinker who somehow learned to think in ways that nobody else did.


wbeaty
Posted 11 July 2006 at 03:28 pm

> second picture down here is this supposed "death ray" i think…

No, his death ray was essentially a water-jet cutter which used electrostatically-driven liquid mercury droplets rather than water. Sort of like a modern ink-jet printer with a big power supply. His power supply was a huge VandeGraaff generator. See:

http://web.archive.org/web/20030206181323/http://www.netsense.net/tesla/questions.html


to-be-betrayed
Posted 11 July 2006 at 08:31 pm

Extherium said: "Hmm… where did that picture of the massive tesla coil in suburbia come from?"

i'm not sure where the picture came from, but from a building stand point they're not that complex to make a reasonable sized one. you can find circuit diagrams and with a few components you can make one. i actiually am in the process of making one at this point in time with a circuit diagram i downloaded as a .jpg. all thats really left is finishing my transformer and buying a couple components off e-bay. ---to clarify the point og this, they can be made fairly easily so if you google you can find your own pic or google, build, solder, order and you have your own :P

systmh said: "damn. i wish his notes on the dynamic theory of gravity survived. we still don't know what the hell gravity is. i would bet money that he was totally right, whatever his theory was. he was a genius. he could visualize all the complex behaviors of electromagnetic waves in his head, as if they were second nature to him. his design for a death-ray was interesting, too. not much survives of the design, but basically it was a huge tesla coil that 'painted' a charge difference on a target and sent a hypersonic stream of ionized liquid mercury droplets towards it. once the particles made contact, the tesla coil would pour its energy into this conducting strand, nuking the target. if someone could make it work, tesla could."

they also have tesla coils in C&C - Red Alert [damn they were useful]. theoretically possible, yes. for practical purposes a little pointless, as it would be a little too complex to be practical. microwave weaponry is the new black people. [sadistic but you cant deny the applications]


timetraveler
Posted 11 July 2006 at 10:15 pm

Tesla's downfall came with his greatest achievement, Wardenclyffe Tower, a giant induction coil. Much was realized by his study in and applications of Resonance. The Tower was designed to pump energy in to the ground in resonance with the planet itself in order to turn it in to a Capacitor able to circulate free electricity around the globe at resonant nodes, which would have made energy free for all. Over a series of days and nights well lit by the arcs the tower produced, he proved the theory sound and also in effect "got back at Edison" by frying most of the ground wires attached to the existing electrical grid of the time. In such a grid, all you'd have to do in order to get free energy would be to drive a steel pole in to the ground at a given resonant node. A ground wire wasn't quite strong enough.

You're doing essentially the same thing listening to a radio with an antenna now, and you may notice that the Radio signal strength depends a lot on the antenna position in relation to the broadcast wave's overlapping nodes.

Edison's first large contract to provide a generator capable of lighting several city blocks would have never been realized, had Tesla not been employed by him then. Edison's designs continually failed, and he promised Tesla several thousand dollars on a bet to make it work for him. When Tesla succeeded, Edison reneged on his bet, and Tesla saw him to be the thieving bastard he was, and left his employ.

Tesla used the exact same Resonant Theory in Radio to produce a transmitter that had a lossless potential for transmission around the globe, able to be heard anywhere including mountain tops and the depths of the Oceans without signal loss, and this application was a well kept secret by the government until the same frequency range was adopted for international distress signals world wide in later years. Until then it was used by the Navy.

Some may have heard of another "parlor trick" of his which involved a small handheld device which, once attached to a very large cast steel ship's anchor link, made it jump and pump like a heart about to rip itself apart in a short period of time. It was a novel device you could make out of a handful of parts from Radio Shack, consisting primarily of a frequency detector circuit attached to an electric door bolt, and its design is pure simplicity. It detects an object's resonant frequency and taps the object with the bolt in that frequency, with the addition of a secondary Doppler tap following closely. The effect is like pushing a child on a swing, in which increasingly less effort is necessary in order to achieve momentum. Resonance builds, and the object eventually would blow itself apart, no matter what it was. He used the same unit attached to a steel girder by its magnetic clips on a new high rise construction in downtown New York on one occasion just to verify that the size of the object did not matter, and wisely removed the device before the building danced off the pavement.

Perhaps someone will soon be wise enough to study the potential of Resonant Transmission to create a feasible asteroid defense system using the same potentials. Certain pieces are in place, as the government has been using Resonant Radar for a few years now, which is capable of "exciting" airborne objects enough to register their unique resonant signatures, providing a fool proof method to identify any object in the air and catalog its identity. With just a tad more "excitement" the objects would no longer find themselves in the air.

A tantalizing side project involved the "radio" transmission of pure energy, either as explosive energy or as an energy neutralizer. There are even some theories that the Tunguska Disaster was a side effect due to miscalculation of inverse potential derived from such an experiment on his part, but Tesla rarely made mistakes, able to produce not just working blueprints but fully realized operable models of his theories in his own imaginative mind. Most were beyond the scope of others imaginations, such as the radio guided torpedo he showed the Navy at a time when Radio itself was in its infancy.

Perhaps the greatest loss of all in relation to his discoveries was the loss by fire of his unique vacuum tube collection, which produced everything from x-rays to molecular microscope effects and more. The Russians bought all of our tube production equipment when we abandoned the technology.

I have often wondered whether he ever realized that his Wardenclyffe Tower experiments may have been a re-discovery. If you understand how the system works in relation to Nodes, and think about how the system could have been cheaply maintained by a series of resonant structures located at specific nodes, then you will find a pre-existing template for such a network in the location of Pyramids around this planet, and that is more food for thought.

While it is true that our government collected and held his effects upon his death, they unfortunately responded to a request to send his effects to Tesla's homeland a short time later out of sheer misguided stupidity, and his belongings soon fell in to the hands of the Russians. The Russians are ardent Tesla enthusiasts, and are decades ahead of us in certain areas of study.

The belongings included a mystery case which he'd stated as having contained the most important device he had ever conceived. We did get a peek inside that case before we sent it, but the device made no sense to the observers. It contained a "simple switching apparatus"; a bucket brigade switch. Again, you have to understand the practical applications of Resonance to see its relevance.

Tesla was the greatest practical inventor of all time, and the Genius of geniuses. He not only saw our future, he invented it, without a care for personal cost or gain.


G H
Posted 12 July 2006 at 12:02 am

Just to throw a little more gasoline on the fire between Edison and Tesla; in that Edison did not really invent the light bulb as he copied someone elses patent and expanded on it.

Sorry to disapoint all th Edison lovers.


Zubir
Posted 12 July 2006 at 05:32 am

What hasn't be mentioned is that Tesla gave up a lucrative per-watt payment deal with Westinghouse in 1907 to save the company from bankruptcy, thereby insuring Tesla's own poverty.

Another interesting fact about Tesla is that while he worked to better the lives of others with his technology, he was a narcissistic snob who contantly courted blue-blood patrons for social and financial gain.

Yes, he was a genius among geniuses, but like Newton, he had an astounding hubris.


rp2
Posted 12 July 2006 at 10:45 am

plunki said: "second picture down here is this supposed "death ray" i think…

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=572#
google "HAARP""

Yes, I read the articles on this website regularly. I found it ridiculous that the guy said "I've heard rumors (from many different sources)..."

Oh wait, one of your sources is Damn Interesting?!? Wow, we never would have known. gg


biciunas
Posted 12 July 2006 at 10:56 am

Read "Empires of Light : Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World", by Jill Jonnes.


noway
Posted 12 July 2006 at 10:58 am

[Insert randam jargon with lots of intelligent-sounding words here to try to impress others that I don't even know]

wow, amazing how many people like to blabber on about nothing just to see their words in print...woops, guess I just joined the blabberers^^


sailgala
Posted 12 July 2006 at 11:42 am

"All Magnetic Resonance Imaging machines (MRI) are calibrated in the "Tesla Unit". MRI machines work on the principle of a homogenous magnetic field. Nikola Tesla discovered the Rotating Magnetic Field in 1882. This was a fundamental discovery in Physics. In recognition of his epochel discovery of the Rotating Magnetic Field, Tesla was honored with the international unit of magnetic flux density called "Tesla". Because of the tremendous importance of the MRI technology and its widespread use, Tesla's name connected with the MRI will be known more and more in the years to come."

Just an interesting FYI.


frenchsnake
Posted 12 July 2006 at 11:46 am

Indeed. Tesla was an incredible human being; the more you find out about him, the easier it is to start believing the conspiracies... heh.

There was also a very good short story involving Tesla and Edison in last year's Year's Best Science Fiction. (I'll post the exact title and author here when I can go home to look at the book in a few weeks.)


michael
Posted 12 July 2006 at 06:43 pm

Extherium said: "Hmm… where did that picture of the massive tesla coil in suburbia come from?"

I remember seeing it here:
http://www.makezine.com/blog/archive/2006/05/high_voltage_tesla_coil.html


Kent
Posted 13 July 2006 at 08:35 am

Buhl Planetarium in Pittsburgh, PA used to have (and may still have) a monster Tesla coil; check out

http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/Buhlexhibits.htm#teslacoil


Drakvil
Posted 13 July 2006 at 10:46 pm

While Tesla's coil he operated in Colorado Springs did produce up to 9 million volts, you don't see any that approach that today. I've been bummed because the 1 million volt one they have at the Griffith Park Observatory (overlooking Los Angeles) has been unavailable for the last two years while they have been renovating the building (it is a historic site, so they have to replace everything with duplicates - all hand-made one-of-a-kind metal for the roofing tiles instead of mass produced ones that would look almost the same but would be ready in a day for 1/10 the cost - preserving the history is worth it, but it is still frustrating.) I'll be glad when it opens again, and I hope that the instalation of lots of computer-powered displays will not adversely effect displays of the Tesla Coil there. I hope they put back on display the cosmic-ray detector tank they used to have but moved to storage about 8 years ago.


Floj
Posted 14 July 2006 at 10:48 pm

Woa, I was born July 10 during a huge thunderstorm too! I guess I've got some revolutionary work to start on. Hmmm....

I learned a little about Tesla in class, and he even has a unit of measurement for magnetic fields named after him. I learned that magnets play a huge role in generating electricity. It's all about magnetic flux. When a magnetic field changes on a conductor the conductor gains a current that creates a magnetic field that repels the magnet. A generator is mostly a bunch of wire spinning near a magnet. You can actually see this if you get some light metal plates that don't stick to magnets (such as copper), and drop one on a powerful magnet (around 1 Tesla or 10000 Gauss). I used a tin coaster (atleast I think it's tin) and a magnet from http://www.unitednuclear.com/ . It seems to parachute down when it gets near the magnet. It almost looks like magic but it's physics! I love this kind of stuff. Oh the best explanation can be found in Faraday's Law. It's and equation that explains alot. I'll post it if y'all really want to see it.

Thanks Jason for the sweet article.

I must say that I am dissapointed with the lack of pie in these comments! Oh well, I'm here to solve that problem.


BCingU
Posted 22 July 2006 at 07:29 pm

First, I do not pretend to know anything about anything for sure. Several years ago I read several books about Tesla, one mainly a pictorial. I wish I could have I nice print of Tesla sitting in his lab with the giant arcs of electricity around him.

I think Tesla was always selling his ideas and patents to Westinghouse and others for a song so he could continue his work. For this reason he also courted the wealthy. I think he was usually working on a shoestring budget with only a secretary and an assistant. I think the secretary missed many paydays, but stayed with him for years.
Tesla was alive and working during both World Wars. The goverment invested millions of dollars and had thousands of people working on the Manhattan Project.
Tesla came up with all this fantastic stuff working with one or two guys in a self financed lab. Maybe with a little goverment support we could have had that death-ray and saved alot of lives and shortened those wars.
He was a bit of an odd duck. He had a special relationship with pidgeons in New York and as a child thought he could literally see static electricity on his cat. He also had cleanliness and dietary fetishes. A very interesting guy.
Regarding above, Edison = Gen. Electric. Anything they did with AC came from Tesla ideas after they realzed their folly with DC. Evidently DC was much more dangerous and would have required large power stations every few blocks.


Drakvil
Posted 25 July 2006 at 01:12 am

DC loses a lot of power over distance because it is affected much more by line loss (impedance from the power line it is passing through). When the town of Bodie, CA, first got electricity it came from a hydroelectric plant 13 miles away that was putting out 3,500 volts. Nothing came out the other end and they ended up switching to AC for the transmission, then converting it back to DC to run their electric motors. (Bodie was a mining town and that's what got the electicity first.)


Stead311
Posted 25 July 2006 at 12:07 pm

Tesla was a genius and could have taught Einstein a lot of interesting information. I bet the two of them could have really caused some damage, for better or for worse. Easily though, Tesla is one of the most over looked scientists of our time.


essmitty
Posted 27 July 2006 at 08:14 am

Drakvil said: "When the town of Bodie, CA, first got electricity it came from a hydroelectric plant 13 miles away that was putting out 3,500 volts."

Been there quite a few times. To show their ignorance, they ran all electrical lines from Bodie to the power plant in a straight line. They thought that if the power lines curved around a mountain, the electricity would fly right off the wires as if it were a car taking a sharp turn! It's funny that they were afraid of right and left turns, but didn't think anything of all the mountains they had to traverse over!

Tesla, for all his genius, definately had some serious social issues. Obviously didn't have a mind for money. It's a shame that jerks like Edison were around to try and both take advantage of his genius as well as hinder his progress... all for money.

Edison wasn't an inventor at all. He was a greedy investor. He'd frequently employ science grads, then take credit for all their inventions and hard work. So much progress inhibited in the name of greed... So sad.


Floj
Posted 29 July 2006 at 06:36 pm

Stead311 said: "Tesla was a genius and could have taught Einstein a lot of interesting information. I bet the two of them could have really caused some damage, for better or for worse. Easily though, Tesla is one of the most over looked scientists of our time."

Tesla's my favorite for sure. I definitely agree.

Oh yeah, I hope no one thought I was trying to sound like a know-it-all. I'm still learning a bunch of stuff, but I really love physics! It's infinitly vast and explains everything from why the sky is blue to how TVs work. I just love to share everything I learn. I hope I don't bore anyone with my fascination. I'd even say that Physics is right up there with pie. Pie explains just as much if it's made just right.


Stead311
Posted 08 August 2006 at 06:38 am

I'd even say that Physics is right up there with pie. Pie explains just as much if it's made just right."

Pie is delicious. I bet Tesla could have made one hell of a pie. If that were the case, I am pretty sure they would have recognized him as the second coming of christ; or whichever God you prefer. Come to think of it I wonder if Jesus ever made pie...


Grieger
Posted 13 October 2006 at 05:29 pm

plunki said: "second picture down here is this supposed "death ray" i think…

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=572#

I travel regularly to alaska to visit my family and i've seen those, they are radio antennas. There are fields of them outside Ft. Richardson. Alaska is also home to the last remaining "Elephant Cage" HF antenna which covers a cool acre of land.


tesla
Posted 22 October 2006 at 07:54 am

"Teslas mother was a Croat and his father was Serb Eastern Ortodoxy priest,he was born in the central Croatian region named"Lika and Gorski Kotar" in the small mount village named Smiljani.

When some reporter tauntingly asked him where has he come from and which nationality is he
He has said;"Ponosim se svojom Hrvatskom majkom,Hrvatskom zemljom i Srbskim ocem!"
("I pride myself with mine Croatian mother,Croatian land and Serb father!")
I wondering, what do you think,which nationality is he!?"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

1. Incorrect.
2. Per wikipedia:
"His mother was Đuka Mandić, herself a daughter of a Serbian Orthodox Church priest. She was talented in making home craft tools. She memorized many Serbian epic poems, but never learned to read.[7] His godfather, Jovan Drenovac, was a captain in the army protecting the Military Frontier."
3. Both of his parents are from Serb origin.
4. The only things relates Croats and Nikola Tesla is that they killed most of his family and burnt his home in Smiljani during II World War. Croats were together with Nazi and killed most of Serbs there including majority of of Tesla family .


ardna
Posted 16 April 2007 at 10:01 pm

Not only is Tesla famous for his genius and eccentricities, but (and probably because of these aforemention traits) he seems to have quite the second life in fiction. Not only is there the movie The Prestige (which creeped me out. Bowie makes a good Tesla though) but he's a main character in the comic book Five Fists Of Science (a fun romp with Lovecraftian monsters and Mark Twain). I'm sure there are more and I'm sure he's spinning in his grave because of it. How many other scientists have such adventurous afterlifes?


ardna
Posted 16 April 2007 at 10:13 pm

To the people who cite their comments as from wikipedia:

That's completely inadequate. Wikipedia is open source. The people running it may check what's posted and hope peers check the validity of posts, but unless a primary source is cited or it's a widely accepted fact, you can't use wikipedia as a valid source for research. If someone posted something that sounded true that no one could disprove or care to disprove, anyone could go to that entry and assume it was true and fact checked when it wasn't.

I'm not an English teacher, but I know they don't let students get away with using wiki as a source.


Mad Mike
Posted 22 April 2007 at 05:35 am

According to "Tesla: Man Out of Time" by Margaret Cheney, Tesla's most treasured possession was his certificate of US citizenship. I would say that would make his nationality American.


dangerousAC
Posted 29 April 2007 at 01:11 am

I'd like to point out that one thing that makes AC more dangerous than DC is that AC causes your muscles to contract, so that when there is enough current running through something, you can't let go of it. No one has mentioned this.

I wouldn't say DC is more dangerous.


JeffAntonio
Posted 07 June 2007 at 11:59 pm

It's annoying when the government treats history the way it does, shaping conventional wisdom to suit an agenda. Tesla is completely omitted, perhaps because he was an "alien," while All-American Edison is glorified.


sulkykid
Posted 08 June 2007 at 10:34 am

JeffAntonio said: "It's annoying when the government treats history the way it does, shaping conventional wisdom to suit an agenda. Tesla is completely omitted, perhaps because he was an "alien," while All-American Edison is glorified."

Why would you blame the government for this? Blame human/American nature, or the biases of historians, or the biases of the news media. But the government really has little to do with it.


tarteauxpommes
Posted 21 June 2007 at 03:02 pm

Wow, what an amazing mind...he is a (relatively) unsung hero.

Has anyone else realized... AC/DC!! Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Never mind. That was awful.


oddharmonic
Posted 06 July 2007 at 01:45 pm

kc0dxh said: "There used to be a Tesla museum in Colorado Springs with a giant Tesla Coil in the center of the audience. Anyone know if this is still operational?"

The Colorado Springs museum closed in December 1998, but the coil is in the possession of Bill Wysock of Tesla Technology Research. Wysock restored the coil after original owner Dick Aurandt's death, donated it to the International Tesla Society for the museum in 1992 and received it back after the museum closed. Most of the museum's assets were sold at auction.

Picture of the Dick Aurandt coil: http://www.ttr.com/DA-1.html

Article referencing the CS Tesla museum's demise: http://csindy.com/csindy/2000-08-10/cover.html


Vinko
Posted 18 November 2007 at 07:16 am

Must be all that Croatian blood that makes him so great:)
Read up on our history, we have some pretty amazing people and story's originating from here, like the story of the priest who single-handedly drove off invaders of the island Korcula


M.G.H. ELECTRIC
Posted 04 April 2008 at 05:14 am

Hi I am new to this site, I have been reading anything I can get my hands on about Tesla since I first heard of the man back in my first year of my electrical apprenticeship in 1988. Since then I have worked my electrical career around his teachings and made some significant discoveries of my own along the way all thanks to his brilliance and clear thinking. All I can add is to those in pursuit of knowledge is KEEP MOVING FORWARD.


somethingawful
Posted 29 June 2008 at 01:48 pm

tarteauxpommes said: "Wow, what an amazing mind…he is a (relatively) unsung hero.

Has anyone else realized… AC/DC!! Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Never mind. That was awful."

Thats the point. He got the idea off an appliance that had the label [AC/DC]

Vinko said: "Must be all that Croatian blood that makes him so great:)

Read up on our history, we have some pretty amazing people and story's originating from here, like the story of the priest who single-handedly drove off invaders of the island Korcula"

Think again. Georgina-Djuka Tesla was born in Tomingaj ("Tomo's wood enclosure"- so named after her great-grandfather), the daughter of Nikola Mandic (1800 -1863), a Serbian Orthodox priest in Gracac, and the grandfather of Toma Budisavljevic (1777 - 1840), another priest, who was also a military commander, a Cartwright, and a fine bookbinder. She was the oldest of eight children. Her mother became blind when Djuka was 16 years old, and so it fell to her to look after her seven younger siblings, until her marriage to Milutin in 1847. Milutin Tesla was born in Raduc, county Medak, Lika, on February 19 (OS), 1819. The Serbs came to Raduc from around Knin in the 1690s, having arrived there from western Serbia, via Herzegovina. The name Tesla denotes either a trade, as tesla is Serbian for adze- a small axe with a blade at right angles to the handle - or a physical characteristic, such as protruding teeth, prevalent in the Tesla family. The name Tesla is also found in Ukraine. None of this even suggests he was Croatian, other then that he was living on what is now Croatian land, but what was then Austrian land. So he was as much Croatian as he was Austrian or American, all countries which royally screwed him at some point in his life.


Mirage_GSM
Posted 14 July 2008 at 06:15 am

dangerousAC said: "I'd like to point out that one thing that makes AC more dangerous than DC is that AC causes your muscles to contract, so that when there is enough current running through something, you can't let go of it. "

I always thought it was the other way around - the DC was the kind where you cannot let go of the source of electricity...


bloop1
Posted 26 January 2009 at 02:24 am

Yes....He made me jizz my pants


jski
Posted 03 September 2009 at 01:12 am

So, oddharmonic, you seeing anybody?


ortodox
Posted 07 March 2011 at 07:13 am

"mfilip62 " That is not truth ,AND YOU NEEDLESSLY LYING!!!!!

READ THIS AND YOU CAN FIND MORE ON http://www.serbnatlfed.org/Archives/Tesla/tesla-mother.htm
Nikola Tesla's mother, Djuka, though always described accurately
enough as an illiterate, but an extraordinarily gifted woman, has
been, at various times, and often enough, referred to, and spoken
of, as a Croat. There was a tendency in the former Yugoslavia to
look for unifying factors which would help bring its different
nationalities closer together; thus, a certain political task fell
on the Tesla mother and son, and Djuka became a Croat, and in some
unscrupulous quarters is still so regarded, the demise of the former
country, and the destruction of Tesla's birthplace in 1941, and
fires, vandalism, desecration, and blowing up of Tesla's monuments
again in 1992, notwithstanding.

Georgina-Djuka Tesla was born in Tomingaj ("Tomo's wood enclosure"-
so named after her great-grandfather), the daughter of Nikola Mandic
(1800 -1863), a Serbian Orthodox priest in Gracac, and the grandfather
of Toma Budisavljevic (1777 - 1840), another priest, who was also a
military commander, a cartwright, and a fine bookbinder. She was the
oldest of eight children. Her mother became blind when Djuka was 16
yars old, and so it fell to her to look after her seven yonger siblings,
until her marriage to Milutin in 1847.

Djuka and Milutin Tesla had five children: Dane (1848 - 63),
Angelina (married name Trbojevic), Milka (married name Glumicic),
Nikola (1856 - 1943), and Marica (married name Kosanovic). All three
girls married Serbian Orthodox priests. Nikola, the fourth child, was
born on June 28, according to the Julian calendar, or July 10, according
to the modern calendar. He was born "at the stroke of midnight" during a
summer storm and lightning. The village midwife, afraid of storms, said,
"He'll be a child of the storm," to which the mother replied,
"No, of light."

Nikola's Baptism Certificate, in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade,
states that he was born on June 28, and christened the very next day, by
the Serbian priest from nearby Gospic, Toma Oklobdzija; the godfather was
Jovan Drenovac, a Captain in the Krajina army, also of Gospic. This
baptism, within twenty-four hours of birth, with the priest coming
to the house, instead of the child being taken to the church, is
believed to have been due to the seeming poor health of the infant.
According to Tesla's autobiography My Inventions, he regarded his mother
as a "woman of genius, especially gifted with a sense of intuition",
and credited her with whatever inventiveness and destiny in life he
posessed.


ortodox
Posted 07 March 2011 at 07:17 am

somethingawful said: "tarteauxpommes said: “Wow, what an amazing mind…he is a (relatively) unsung hero.
Has anyone else realized… AC/DC!! Ha! Ha ha! Ha! Never mind. That was awful.”
Thats the point. He got the idea off an appliance that had the label [AC/DC]
Vinko said: “Must be all that Croatian blood that makes him so great:)
Read up on our history, we have some pretty amazing people and story’s originating from here, like the story of the priest who single-handedly drove off invaders of the island Korcula”
Think again. Georgina-Djuka Tesla was born in Tomingaj (“Tomo’s wood enclosure”- so named after her great-grandfather), the daughter of Nikola Mandic (1800 -1863), a Serbian Orthodox priest in Gracac, and the grandfather of Toma Budisavljevic (1777 – 1840), another priest, who was also a military commander, a Cartwright, and a fine bookbinder. She was the oldest of eight children. Her mother became blind when Djuka was 16 years old, and so it fell to her to look after her seven younger siblings, until her marriage to Milutin in 1847. Milutin Tesla was born in Raduc, county Medak, Lika, on February 19 (OS), 1819. The Serbs came to Raduc from around Knin in the 1690s, having arrived there from western Serbia, via Herzegovina. The name Tesla denotes either a trade, as tesla is Serbian for adze- a small axe with a blade at right angles to the handle – or a physical characteristic, such as protruding teeth, prevalent in the Tesla family. The name Tesla is also found in Ukraine. None of this even suggests he was Croatian, other then that he was living on what is now Croatian land, but what was then Austrian land. So he was as much Croatian as he was Austrian or American, all countries which royally screwed him at some point in his life."[/quote

You can find that his ancestor died 1389 in Battle on Kosovo against Ottoman Empire ,his surname was ORLOVIC.


Tesla
Posted 21 April 2014 at 03:14 pm

Romanians say that Tesla was Romanian, Croats say that Tesla was Croat, Albanians say that Tesla was Albanian, Macedonians say he was Macedonian, American say Tesla was American. The fact is Nikola Tesla was a pure Serb.

Nikola Tesla was born in “Austro-Hungary empire in 1856 " NOT Croatia", Croatia did not exist in 1856 when Tesla was born. So it’s impossible for him to be a Croat.

The Independent state of Croatia was a WWII puppet state of Nazi Germany established on a part of axis occupied Yugoslavia. Croatia was founded on 10 April 1941, after the invasion of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers.

Nikola Tesla's father Milutin Tesla he was Serbian Orthodox priest he was born in Raduc, county Medak, Lika, on February 19 1819. The Serbs came to Raduc from around Knin in the 1690s, having arrived there from western Serbia, via Hercegovina.

Tesla's mother Djuka Mandic (Tesla) was born in Tomingaj daughter of Nikola Mandic (1800 -1863), a Serbian Orthodox priest in Gracac, and the grandfather of Toma Budisavljevic (1777 - 1840), another Serbian priest, who was also a military commander. Djuka was the oldest of eight children.

Nikola Tesla's baptism certificate reports that he was born on June 28 (Julian calendar; July 10 in the Gregorian calendar) 1856, and christened by the Serbian orthodox priest, Toma Oklobdzija. Tesla was baptised in the old Slavonic church rite, Tesla was not very religious person.

This is what Tesla said when he visited Belgrade.

In Belgrade in 1892 Nikola Tesla said “I am happy to be a Serb and I will always be proud of it.” We, all Serbs are proud of you, proud of what you have done for a better world. Thank you. We’ll never forget you.

Hours which I spent among them in Belgrade that are truly the most beautiful.
Hours of my life is great and my glory was in London and in Paris, but what are all these feelings for what I feel, which I then felt it my best shows to me with those people other associated links and other links are Serbian blood of my. Serbian song Tamo Daleko ( Far Away) was performed as Tesla's last wish at his memorial.

Croats, twice destroyed Nikola Tesla's birth house and the Orthodox church in 1941 and then again during the civil war in former Yugoslavia in 1991 in which he was baptized.

Replica of his home and the church was made in 2006 “Croatian reasons for this renewal are economic nature but above all the intention to steal the Serbian genius Tesla and show him to the world as Croat.

Most people don’t know that the Croats during the second world war brutally murdered more than 500 Serbian residents of Smiljan among whom were relatives of Nikola Tesla. Those Serbs and Tesla relatives, who remained Those Serbs who remained were expelled in 1995 year in the action called "storm”

Tesla's mother DJUKA MANDIC WAS 100% SERB all her family comes from Serbian side. Do not believe Croatian-Nazi propaganda.


J.A. Faulk
Posted 09 June 2014 at 02:44 pm

All elephants chained and beaten for life are 'ill-tempered.' It's a pretty good article otherwise, please rethink that phrasing though, as it makes you appear grossly uninformed and lacking in compassion for your fellow earthlings. I'm sure you are not.


G
Posted 11 July 2014 at 07:03 am

I suppose the saddest day in Tesla's life or afterlife is when the banknote with his face mutated a whole bunch of additional zeroes. The Hapsburg Empire, Yugoslav Kingdom, Croatia, Yugoslav Union, whatever his homeland is called, had been wrecked by good people such as those gentlemen above this post over and over again, through things like arguing whether he's Serbian or Croatian. Seriously, you are not thinking big like him.


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