The Secret History of Nikola Tesla

The Secret History of Nikola Tesla: When you think of the greatest inventors of all time, a few names come to mind. Henry Ford, The Wright Brothers, and Thomas Edison. But there is a name that cannot be recognized.

When you plug in your phone, turn on the lights, or use the refrigerator, you have to thank Nikola Tesla. This is a story of a forgotten genius and the story begins from the end.

Nikola Tesla’s Mysterious Death

On January 7, 1943, a maid working at the New Yorker Hotel walked into room 3327, where she found the body of an 86-year-old man who had called the hotel home for the past decade. Tesla died alone and broke.

He abstained from a diet of hot milk and firecrackers and had a passion for feeding pigeons outside. One of the greatest inventors of all time faded into obscurity and died pennilessly. There is a reason why this happened which will become clear by the end of this story.

He was born during a lightning storm

Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in the city of Smiljan, present-day Croatia. According to family legend, the midwife said halfway through the birth: This child would be a child of darkness, to which her mother replied, No, he would be a child of light.

She didn’t know how prophetic those words would be. When Tesla was five, he saw his older brother fall from a horse and later died. This will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Ability in his mind to visualize inventions

As a child, he began to see visions with flashes of light, confusing what was real and what was imaginary. It’s never gone. This vision inspired the ability in his mind to visualize inventions in such detail that he didn’t even need to draw them out.

He described how the designs in his mind were perfected in an article in 1919. “Consistently, my device works as I imagined it to be and the experiment turns out exactly as I had planned it. Not a single exception has happened in 20 years.”

Tesla credits his mother for his interest in the invention. Duka Mandic invented small home appliances in his spare time. He had an eidetic memory – the ability to recall an image from memory with high accuracy and passed it on to his son.

Tesla’s Father wanted him to become a priest

Instead of his Father’s decision, Tesla was interested in engineering. When he contracted cholera as a teenager and nearly died, his father promised to send him to engineering school if he was alive, and miraculously, he did.

Tesla could do calculus in his head

He went on to study at the Technical College in Graz in Austria, where he is said to have worked every day from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. The professor was worried that he would die of exhaustion.

Tesla had a beautiful mind. He could do calculus in his head and spoke eight languages. He was a good student initially but did not finish school. After becoming addicted to gambling, he dropped out and broke ties with his family so that they would not find out.

Even his friends didn’t know what had happened to him. They thought he had drowned in the river.

Tesla’s Europe Journey

Tesla moved around Europe and eventually ended up working as an electrician at a telephone company in Budapest.

One day while walking in a city park, he came to know about developing a new way of generating electricity using alternating current. It will be his greatest invention that will change the world. I will tell you about AC in detail a little later.

In 1882, he settled in Paris to work for the French branch of Thomas Edison’s Electric Company. He began installing indoor lighting, but managers noticed his talent and had to do more complex work, designing and building dynamos and motors.

He was soon traveling across Europe to fix problems at other Edison branches.

Tesla moved to New York

In 1884, Tesla’s manager offered him a job at the Edison Machine Works in New York City. He agreed and arrived in America with only four cents in his pocket because his money was stolen on the boat ride.

Tesla was initially a good influence of Edison. Edison was also impressed by Tesla, later saying: “I have many hard-working assistants but you take the cake.”

This mutual admiration did not last long. They will become bitter rivals. The two men disagreed on how electricity should be contained and distributed. Edison preferred direct current which is a system where electric charge flows in only one direction.

Tesla was a fan of alternating current in which the electric charge changes direction from time to time. Changing direction is important to maintain a steady supply of power because it doesn’t overpower the outlets.

This means it can deliver more power and transmit power over longer distances. This is why AC powers our homes and other large appliances while DC powers small objects such as flashlights. But Edison didn’t care about AC as it could have affected sales of direct current as it had all the patents for DC.

Tesla left Edson’s company

According to Tesla, a manager at Edison’s company offered him a $50,000 bonus to improve some machines that run on DC. In doing so the manager refused to pay the money. In another account of the story, Edison told Tesla: “You don’t understand our American humor.”

Regardless of how it went, Tesla left and the following year in 1885 set out to form his own electric company. But his investors showed little interest and decided to take all the patents from the company and Tesla they could because Tesla had been assigned. Patent to the company in exchange for stock which was now worthless.

After losing his company, Tesla had to make a living digging a trench for two dollars a day. But his luck will change.

In 1887, Tesla invented an induction motor that ran on alternating currents. The motor was the most efficient way to convert electricity into mechanical power. Its opposition powers Tesla’s vehicles who took its name from the inventor.

He patented the motor and showed it to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers the following year, attracting the attention of George Westinghouse, a major player in the electric market, who realized that Tesla’s AC motor might be just what he needed to build his alternating current system. needed to complete. and compete against Edison’s DC system.

So Tesla licensed the patent for the AC motor to Westinghouse for $60,000 and also received stock and royalties. Westinghouse hired him as a consultant for $2,000 a month which is equivalent to today’s $50,000 a month.

The war of currents began

Edison tried hard to discredit Westinghouse and Tesla. To prove how dangerous the AC was, he secretly financed an electric chair that used alternating current. Edison’s company also publicly tortured animals to prove its point.

In 1903, he electrocuted a circus elephant named Topsy and produced a film about it called Electrocuting an Elephant. Despite Edison’s plans, good things were happening for Westinghouse and Tesla.

He commissioned Edison and his newly formed company, General Electric, to light the Columbian Exposition of the World in Chicago in 1893. The first all-electric fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America.

It was clear to the 27 million people who attended that AC would power the future.

Hydroelectric Power in Niagara Falls

Tesla’s success continued when he again defeated Edison’s General Electric to build the world’s first alternating current power plant at Niagara Falls.

The hydroelectric power station was a huge success and helped light up Buffalo, New York. The construction of the plant also meant that Tesla became a leader in renewable energy. His statue can be found today in Niagara Falls.

Westinghouse and Tesla won the war of currents and the direct current was being phased out. But there were problems. Westinghouse’s company was running out of money and eventually went into $10 million in debt.

In 1897, he went to Tesla and asked if his royalties could be reduced in a desperate attempt to save the company. Tesla was so compelled by compassion for his friend that he broke his contract. He was grateful to Westinghouse that he believed in him when no one else would.

Tesla voluntarily walked away with royalties of $12 million, which in today’s terms would be more than $300 million. Had he held on to those royalties over time, he would likely become the richest person on the planet and the first to have a net worth of one billion dollars. That act of compassion towards his friend for breaking his contract saved Westinghouse.

In return, Westinghouse paid Tesla $216,000 for the rights to use it as an AC patent forever. This equates to about $60 million today. With that money, Tesla became financially independent and set up a series of laboratories in New York for new projects, where the rich and famous visited him, including close friends and one of the greatest American writers of all time, Mark Twain. . This was the period of many of his inventions.

He obtained over 300 patents during his lifetime.

He built an early version of neon lighting, the Tesla Turbine – a bladeless turbine for vehicles. He pioneered X-ray technology by experimenting with radiation. This is an X-ray of his own hand. Another extraordinary invention was one of the first remote controls.

In 1898, he controlled a miniature boat at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was so ahead of its time that the crowd thought he was using magic to shake it up. He would be the ancestor of today’s remote-controlled drones.

One of his most famous inventions is the Tesla coil – a device that can produce large amounts of high voltage electricity. Because of the coils, they found that they could send and receive powerful radio signals when they resonated at the same frequency.

Tesla’s Lab got Fire

Tesla was getting ready to broadcast its first radio signal but disaster struck. In 1895 a fire destroyed his laboratory. They lost years of research and equipment. Tesla did not apply for a patent for the radio until two years later. The fire would be a turning point in his life that led to a downhill spiral.

At the same time that he was working on radio, an Italian entrepreneur, Guglielmo Marconi, was also working on radio in England. They tried to get patent rights in the US but were turned down because they were too similar to Tesla.

However, things changed when in 1901 Marconi was able to send the world’s first transatlantic radio message using Tesla’s 17 patents. Edison then threw his financial aid behind Marconi.

Tesla had no problem with Marconi’s achievements but in 1904 the US Patent Office suddenly changed his mind and granted Marconi a patent for the invention of the radio.

No reason has ever been given for this decision, but the powerful financial support Marconi has received may explain it. In 1911 Marconi won the Nobel Prize in Physics which was possible only because of Tesla’s work.

Tesla was furious and sued Marconi. The case went on for years in court and was settled only in Tesla’s favor after his death. That radio incident negatively affected the rest of Tesla’s career.

Tesla Tower – Wireless Electricity

Tesla was obsessed with bringing wireless communications to the world and built a massive wireless transmission station called Wardencliffe Tower in Long Island, New York.

He envisioned a world where we could send and receive messages wirelessly. He was again well ahead of his time. But financial backers did not have enough faith in his project. He took out and banked Marconi’s radio invention instead. This left Tesla in financial ruin.

He had no choice but to abandon his dream project in 1905 and eventually lost Wardencliffe Tower to foreclosure.

Tesla’s mental health deteriorated.

He spent his last decade at the New Yorker Hotel in 1933. The Westinghouse Corporation hired him as a consultant and paid for his room. He lived free of rent but died in debt. So why did one of the greatest inventors of all time fade into obscurity and die penniless?

You could say that Tesla was unlucky at times like the fire that burned down his New York lab. But the main reason is that Tesla was not a capitalist. He decided that those with more business acumen would not have made decisions like giving up their royalties for an AC motor.

He was not worried about money. He was concerned about the pursuit of science for the betterment of humanity. He wanted to change the world and he did.

Thanks to Elon Musk’s company, people are starting to learn more about the man who inspired the company, a man whose inventions will power our entire planet. It is because of Tesla that modern society works in its own way. Tesla’s mother called him the child of light and she was absolutely right.

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