A perplexion remains in the air when it comes to picking out the myths and truths about the life of Nikola Tesla, the visionary who changed the history of humankind with his inventions. Tesla, who lived during the period of Edison and Marconi has his name in history for the pronounced contributions made in the field of Electricity, Robotics and Radio.
Nikola, who was born in Croatia, had these visions in his childhood which gave him particulars about the design and working of several machines. These visions probably might have led to the discoveries and inventions he made. It was a physics lecture on ‘Electricity’ which captivated his attention towards it. He was so sharp that he could do complex calculus in mind. Expectedly, Tesla completed his four year course in 3 years and joined the Imperial Royal Technical College for engineering. Here, he couldn’t maintain his enthusiasm and his performance gradually deteriorated.
Tesla emigrated to the United States in 1884 and joined the Continental Edison Company. The manager of this company recognised his talent and referred him to the great ‘ Thomas Alva Edison’. The mutual admiration they had in the beginning soon paved its way to enmity. Shortly, he resigned his job at the Edison Machine Works and started his own company, ‘Tesla Electric light and Manufacturing’ in 1884. The inventors showed least interest in Tesla’s ideas for new types of AC motors and electrical transmission equipment. They abandoned Tesla’s company and left the inventor penniless.
The war of currents
In 1880’s, after the transformers came into play, George Westinghouse, an eminent inventor of the times, used AC currents and transformers to supply electricity to buildings. By then Edison had his patents for ‘Electric bulbs’ and had figured out how to use DC power to light them. But, his DC power generation plant could distribute electricity only within 2 miles. The invention of the AC induction motor by Tesla in 1887 was a breakthrough. Westinghouse received the license for producing these motors to compete with Edison and also appointed Tesla as his consultant. There was then a ‘War of current’ between Edison and Westinghouse. Edison claimed that the DC system was safer and better than the AC system. He even passed AC current through animals to demonstrate this and also suggested the technique of using electric chairs to enforce the death sentence.
New York Laboratories
Westinghouse had the contract of the first AC hydel project installed in the Niagara waterfalls. Tesla designed this power plant to harness the power of waterfalls. Sculptures of Tesla were established in the honor of its success. But soon the Westinghouse company fell into debts. Tesla agreed to release the company from the royalty payment clause in the contract. Tesla established many laboratories across New York.
He invented the Tesla coil which could be used to produce high voltage, low current , high frequency electricity. Tesla also introduced his steam powered reciprocating electricity generator , something he thought would be a better way to generate the AC current. He invented the primary form of neon lamps which we use now. His research in the field of Radiation cleared the way to the discovery of X-rays. He even introduced the system of remote controls and demonstrated a boat that used a coherer based remote control. He invented the Magnifying Transmitter, Tesla Turbine, Shadowgraph etc. His lab once caught fire and he lost the ongoing projects, collection of early notes and research material, models, and demonstration pieces. But it was later rebuilt.
Tesla attempted to market several devices based on the production of ozone. He theorized that the application of electricity enhanced the intelligence and crafted a plan to make the dull students bright by saturating them with electricity unconsciously.
In 1943 at the age of 86, Tesla was found dead in the hotel New Yorker. Two centuries ago, he imagined a world that could communicate using the radio waves and cities which could be illuminated without using wires. While Tesla’s star began to fade long ago, Elon Musk named his car and his company after Tesla , and this has contributed to a Nikola Tesla revival.