Nikola Tesla |
Technological and Applied Studies Teacher and Student Resources

Nikola Tesla

Eventually holding over 700 patents, Tesla worked in a number of fields, including electricity, robotics, radar, and wireless transmission of energy. Tesla’s discoveries laid the groundwork for many of the 20th century’s technological advances. Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan Lika, Croatia. He was the son of a Serbian Orthodox clergyman. He studied engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic School and worked as an electrical engineer in Budapest before later emigrating to the United States in 1884. Here he work at the Edison Machine Works.

During his lifetime, Tesla invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla induction motor, the Tesla coil, and developed the alternating current (AC) electrical supply system that included a motor and transformer, and 3-phase electricity.

Tesla is now credited with inventing modern radio as well; since the Supreme Court overturned Guglielmo Marconi’s patent in 1943 in favor of Nikola Tesla’s earlier patents. When an engineer (Otis Pond) once said to Tesla, “Looks as if Marconi got the jump on you” regarding Marconi’s radio system, Tesla replied, “Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents.”

The Tesla coil, invented in 1891, is still used in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment.

Nikola Tesla – Mystery Invention

Ten years after patenting a successful method for producing alternating current, Nikola Tesla claimed the invention of an electrical generator that would not consume any fuel. This invention has been lost to the public. Tesla stated about his invention that he had harnessed the cosmic rays and caused them to operate a motive device.

In total, Nikola Telsa was granted more than one hundred patents and invented countless unpatented inventions.

Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse

In 1885, George Westinghouse, head of the Westinghouse Electric Company, bought the patent rights to Tesla’s system of dynamos, transformers and motors. Westinghouse used Tesla’s alternating current system to light the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison

Nikola Tesla was Thomas Edison’s rival at the end of the 19th century. In fact, he was more famous than Edison throughout the 1890’s. His invention of polyphase electric power earned him worldwide fame and fortune. At his zenith he was an intimate of poets and scientists, industrialists and financiers. Yet Tesla died destitute, having lost both his fortune and scientific reputation. During his fall from notoriety to obscurity, Tesla created a legacy of genuine invention and prophecy that still fascinates today.

Death and Missing Papers

On January 7, 1943, Tesla died at the age of 86 of coronary thrombosis in his bed at the Hotel New Yorker where he resided. Tesla, who had never married, had spent his life creating, inventing, and discovering. Upon his death, he held over 700 patents, which included the modern electric motor, remote control, wireless transmission of energy, basic laser and radar technology, the first neon and fluorescent illumination, the first x-ray photographs, the wireless vacuum tube, the air-friction speedometer for automobiles, and the Tesla coil (widely used in radio, television sets, and other electronic equipment). In addition to all that Tesla created, he also had many ideas that he didn’t have time to finish. Some of these ideas included massive weapons. In a world still immersed in World War II and that was just beginning to split into East vs. West, ideas of massive weapons were coveted. After Tesla’s death, the FBI seized Tesla’s belongings and notebooks.

It is thought that the U.S. government used the information from Tesla’s notes to work on building beam weapons after the war. The government set up a secret project, called “Project Nick,” which tested the feasibility of “death rays,” but the project was eventually shut down and the results of their experiments were never published. Tesla’s notes used for this project also seem to have been “lost” before the rest of his notes were sent back to Yugoslavia in 1952 and placed in a museum.

Looking for more information. Further reading on Nikola Tesla available from Amazon

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