Nikola Tesla: Inventor who lit up the world

This Serbian-American inventor, engineer and scientist designed the modern alternating current electricity supply system. He also created the Tesla coil, that is still used in radio technology and three-phase system of electric power transmission.
Nikola Tesla designed the alternating-current (AC) electrical system which quickly became the worldwide standard.(ILLUSTRATION: Unnikrishnan)
Nikola Tesla designed the alternating-current (AC) electrical system which quickly became the worldwide standard.(ILLUSTRATION: Unnikrishnan)
Updated on Jan 09, 2020 03:48 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent

Born an ethnic Serb in a village known as Smiljan in the Lika county of the Austrian Empire (present-day Croatia) to Milutin Tesla, an orthodox priest and writer and Duka Tesla, who invented home craft tools and mechanical appliances, Nikola credited genes inherited from his mother for his creativity and impressive mental ability.

EDUCATION

In 1861, Tesla attended primary school in Smiljan and high school at the Higher Real Gymnasium in Karlovac. Tesla was able to perform integral calculus in his head, which prompted his teachers to suspect that he was cheating. He completed a four-year term in three years, and graduated in 1873. Two years later, he enrolled at an Austrian Polytechnic in Graz, Austria, on a scholarship. During his first year, Tesla earned the highest grades possible, passed nine exams, nearly twice as many as required. At the end of his second year, Tesla lost his scholarship and became addicted to gambling. He did not receive grades for the last semester of the third year and never graduated from university.

CAREER

In 1881, Tesla moved to Budapest, Hungary, to work in a telegraph company. In 1882, he went to work in Paris for the Continental Edison Company. Tesla sailed for America in 1884, arriving in New York and was first employed by Thomas Edison at Edison Machine Works.

INVENTIONS

He designed the alternating-current (AC) electrical system which quickly became the worldwide standard. In 1887, Tesla received funding for his new Tesla Electric Company and, by the end of the year, had successfully filed several patents for AC-based inventions. Tesla’s AC system caught the attention of engineer and businessman George Westinghouse who, in 1888, purchased his patents. As interest in an AC system grew, they competed with Edison, who intended to sell his direct-current (DC) system to the nation. Despite Edison’s negative campaign against AC power, the Westinghouse Corporation was chosen to supply the lighting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago and Tesla conducted demonstrations of his AC system there. In 1895, Tesla designed what was among the first AC hydroelectric power plants in the United States at the Niagara Falls. The following year, it was used to power the city of Buffalo, New York. In the late 19th century, he patented the Tesla coil, which laid the foundation for wireless technologies and is still used in radio technology. The heart of an electrical circuit, the Tesla coil is an inductor used in many early radio transmission antennas.

LATER YEARS

In March 1901, he obtained $150,000 from J Pierpont Morgan in return for a 51% share of any generated wireless patents and began planning the Wardenclyffe Tower facility to be built in Shoreham, New York. However, doubts arose among his investors about the plausibility of Tesla’s system. As his rival, Guglielmo Marconi made great advances with his own radio technologies, Tesla had to abandon the project. Two years later, Tesla declared bankruptcy and the Wardenclyffe Tower was dismantled. In 1937, aged 81, Tesla was hit by a moving taxicab. On January 7, 1943, at the age of 86, he died in a room at the New Yorker Hotel.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. The year 1891 also marks the date of Tesla receiving his U.S. citizenship.

2. Several books written on Tesla, his life and achievements including — My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla, and The Tesla Papers.

3. In 1898, Tesla announced the invention of a tele-automatic boat guided by remote control. When scepticism was voiced, Tesla proved his claims publicly in Madison Square Garden.

4. In Colorado, he made his most important discovery — terrestrial stationary waves. He proved that Earth could be used as a conductor and made to resonate at a certain electrical frequency.

5. Tesla served as a vice-president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers from 1892 to 1894, the forerunner of the modern-day IEEE (along with the Institute of Radio Engineers).

SOURCE: Wikipedia, Biography.com, Britannica.com

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Monday, October 18, 2021