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By Heather Whipps, Live Science Contributor | May 29, 2014 03:03am ET
Nikola Tesla: Biography, Inventions & Quotes
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Credit: Napoleon Sarony, Public Domain
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Nikola Tesla is often called one of historys most important
inventors, one whose discoveries in the field of electricity were
way ahead of his time and continue to influence technology
today. Despite his accomplishments, however, Tesla died
penniless and without the accolades that would he would
ultimately earn over a century later.
The genius who lit the world is now commemorated with an
electrical unit called the Tesla, has a place in the inventors hall
of fame, streets, statues, and a prestigious engineers award in
his name, but in life he wasnt always so successful.
Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in a town called Smiljan, today part of Croatia but then located
within the
borders of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a priest and his mother, despite not
having any
formal education, tinkered in machinery and was known for having a spectacular memory.
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Teslas career as an inventor began early; while working at the Central Telegraph Office in
Budapest, at the
age of just 26, he is reported to have first sketched out the principles for a rotating magnetic field
important idea still used in many electromechanical devices. This major achievement laid the
groundwork fo
many of his future inventions, including the alternating current motor and ultimately led him to
New York
City in 1884, lured by Thomas Edison and his groundbreaking engineering factory, Edison
Machine Works.
It is often said that as brilliant a scientist as Tesla was, he was an equally terrible businessman,
unable (or
possibly unwilling) to see the commercial value behind his ideas. Thomas Edison was both an
inventor and a
business mogul focused on the bottom line, and he often clashed with Tesla over methods and
ideology. It
was also unlikely, perhaps, that two minds so brilliant could coexist in peace for very long and,
indeed, Tesla
quit Edison Machine Works only a year later.
Teslas creativity was given free rein at the new laboratory he established, Tesla Electric Light
Manufacturing, where he experimented with early X-ray technology, electrical resonance, arc
lamps and
other ideas. Moves to Colorado and then back to New York coincided with other great scientific
including advances in turbine science, the installation of the first hydroelectric power station at
Niagara Fall
and, most importantly, the perfection of his alternating current system.
Through it all, the compulsive, eccentric and often sensational Tesla provided terrific sound bites
reporters, speaking frequently to the press about new, futuristic ideas up to a few years before his
when he became a recluse. Tesla died in 1943, broke and alone in a New York City hotel room.
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Nikola Tesla: Biography, Inventions & Quotes
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Nikola Tesla, in his Colorado Springs laboratory in 1899, sits in front of the operating
Teslas legacy has experienced a resurgence of sorts in recent years, thanks to a handful of
supporters who
have popularized his work in the media, in the hopes of having a Nikola Tesla science museum
built on the
grounds of a former laboratory on Long Island, New York.
The exact number of patents held by Tesla is disputed, as some likely remain undiscovered,
believe. He is thought to be responsible for at least 300 inventions (many related to each other),
in addition
to countless unpatented ideas that he developed over the course of his career.
Perhaps Teslas most famous and important idea, alternating current (AC), was an answer to his
old boss
Edisons inefficient as Tesla put it use of direct current (DC) in the new electric age. While
DC power
stations sent electricity flowing in one direction in a straight line, alternating currents change
quickly, and could do so at a much higher voltage.
Indeed, Edisons power lines that crisscrossed the Atlantic seaboard were short and weak due to
DC, while
AC was able to send electricity much farther afield. Though Thomas Edison had more resources
and an
established reputation, Teslas AC power grids eventually became the norm. Several dozen of
Teslas patents
were related to alternating current science.
Since named for its inventor, this impressive machine transforms energy into extremely high
voltage charges
creating powerful electrical fields capable of producing spectacular electrical arcs. Besides the
shows they can put on, Tesla Coils had very practical applications in wireless radio technology
and some
medical devices. Tesla experimented with his coils in the last years of the 19th century.
Nikola Tesla: Biography, Inventions & Quotes
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Tesla tinkered with radio waves as early as 1892, debuting a radio wave-controlled boat in 1898
with great
fanfare at an electrical exhibition at New Yorks Madison Square Garden. Expanding on the
technology, he
patented more than a dozen ideas related to radio communication, before Italian inventor
Guglielmo Marcon
leapt ahead of a financially unstable Tesla and completed the first transatlantic radio
transmission (a bit of
Morse code, sent from England to Newfoundland) on the back of Teslas science. Marconi and
Teslas battle
for intellectual recognition waged for decades before the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately revoked
some of
Marconis patents in 1943, restoring Tesla as the father of radio, at least legally.
Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been
invested into
experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier
"A Visit to Nikola Tesla" by Dragislav L. Petkovi in Politika (April 1927)
The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced
ideas will be
readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter for the future. His duty is to lay the
foundation for
those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes.
Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World" in Modern Mechanics and Inventions (July
The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but
one can think
deeply and be quite insane.
Radio Power Will Revolutionize the World" in Modern Mechanics and Inventions (July
Further reading:
Tesla Memorial Society
Editor's Recommendations
Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds
Crowdfunding Puts Spark of Life in Tesla's Old Lab
Electromagnetism: Fields, Waves & Theory
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Iowcatalyst Woody Top Commenter
you know that photo of him sitting in front of the transformer is super imposed ? Right? Would of
thought a science site would make that clear.
Reply Like Follow Post 8 hours ago
Thar Htet Aung Top Commenter Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Curiosity Science
Magazine 446 followers
The greatest geek who ever lived!
Reply Like Follow Post 9 hours ago
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