"The present is theirs; the future […] is mine"— Nikola Tesla
An eccentric and a visionary. A genius and discoverer. But, above all, Nikola Tesla was an inventor, holding almost 300 patents, patents which protected his 125 inventions in several dozen countries around the world. His inventions have completely changed human civilisation. It is also worth remembering that he was almost forgotten, deceived and ridiculed in his own lifetime. Others stole his ideas and he was unable to turn them into a financial success. Tesla could have become a millionaire, but he died in poverty and loneliness; at the same time, he left us a legacy of discoveries that have revolutionised the world to this day.
Nikola Tesla was born into a Serbian family in the village of Smiljan, in Croatia, on the 10th of July 1856 during a huge storm. A story says, with a strange twist of fate, this phenomenon shaped his future life. He was the fourth child of Milutin Tesla (a priest of the Serbian Orthodox church) and Ana Kalinić. However, no attention was paid to him until the family moved to Gospić in 1862. Then Nikola Tesla began attending a school in Karlovac and he graduated three years later. When he was 12 years old, he learnt the logarithmic tables by heart and started building his first motors, totally unlike the ones he saw in his surroundings on a daily basis. In 1875 he started power engineering studies at the Austrian Technical University in Graz. This marked the beginning of his work on serious projects concerning the use of alternative sources of energy.
Nikola Tesla had an extraordinary visual memory due to which he quickly mastered as many as six languages, and his ”more or less” calculations had a margin of error of one tenth of a millimetre! Today’s students could learn from Tesla what it means to work hard, as he was able to spend 20 hours a day reading books just to be able to solve the issue he was considering. The young scientist found that he knew more than his lecturers. Thus, he neglected classes and left the university in 1878; at the same time, he split from his family.
On the 6th of June 1884, Nikola Tesla emigrated to New York. With a recommendation from Ch. Batchelor, the manager of the company for which Tesla had previously worked, he went to seek the greatest inventor of that time – Thomas Edison. Unfortunately, after Edison reviewed Tesla’s futuristic projects, he felt threatened and quickly broke off the collaboration with Tesla. Over the next few years, they both lived in a constant conflict, involving more and more people. Edison even went so far as to publicly distort experiments with alternating current in order to discredit Tesla! Fortunately, he did not manage to convince everyone, and Nikola was able to open his own factory two years later. At that time, he could be met walking among energy rays or sitting between flashing devices. It was then that he finished research on the fundamentals of alternating current, fluorescent lamps and an electric motor. As Mark Seifer, Tesla’s biographer, wrote, he was the first person who really showed how to transfer wireless energy through the air to electric lamps.
The main inventions of Nikola Tesla include various electrical devices. The most famous of them are the following: the electric motor, the AC generator, the autotransformer, the bicycle dynamo electric machine, the hydroelectric power plant, the solar battery, the Tesla turbine, the Tesla transformer, the fluorescent light bulb and, above all, the radio. Tesla was also the creator of the first devices remotely controlled by radio. And how did this happen? Well, after the publication of Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetism, Tesla came up with an idea of a high-voltage coil, then he noticed that it could be used to transmit strong electromagnetic waves. He began working on a device that would be able to receive these waves. Originally, on this basis he wanted to construct a device for transferring electrical current wirelessly, but eventually decided to construct a transferring device that would use sound waves. A patent for this device was ready in 1900, but, unfortunately, he was beaten to it by Marconi (by a few days only!). Tesla decided to fight with Marconi over his patent for radio. He tried to prove that in ”his” invention Marconi had used Tesla’s already patented coil without his permission. Unfortunately, these long lasting lawsuits resulted in Tesla’s bankruptcy, and the fact that Marconi was awarded a Nobel Prize for the invention of radio (even though it was based on theories developed by Tesla) eventually depressed him deeply.
Shortly before his death, Nikola Tesla lodged a final appeal with the US Supreme Court, concerning the radio patent. Finally, it was decided in his favour. Unfortunately, he did not live to see the moment when the court granted him victory over Marconi’s patents.
One of the greatest geniuses in history died in his hotel room, number 3327, in New York, sometime between the evening of the 5th of January and the afternoon of the 7th of January 1943. The cause of his death was coronary thrombosis. He was 86 years old. Shortly after his death, the US government requisitioned all notes and summaries that belonged to Tesla and classified them as ”top secret.” We do not know whether we will ever find out what the subject of these notes was.
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