Newsletter - Animal Writes © sm
8 September 1999 Issue

Nikola Tesla, The Man Who Invented the Modern World
By [email protected]

Look around you, and many of the things you see that make up the modern world would not be here if not for a man that many of you probably have never even heard of.

Ac power (both 2-phase and 3-phase), radio, x-ray, vacuum tube, fluorescent lights, microwaves, radar, loudspeaker, polyphase induction motor, hydro-electric generator, broadcast power, rotary engine, and the Tesla coil is but a short list of over 800 patents of one of the world’s most prolific inventors of all time.

Serbian American Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 from a family of Serbian origin. He emigrated to the United States in 1884. The beginning of his career can be traced back to 1881 in Budapest Hungary where he invented the telephone repeater, which we know today as the loudspeaker. It was at this time that he came up with the polyphase induction motor. This is the mechanism to which AC current comes from that provides power for virtually every industrial application in the world.

In 1884, Tesla finally came to the United States and began immediately working for Edison. Edison had just come out with the light bulb but had no way to power it efficiently. He promised a big bonus to anyone who could solve his dilemma, and the man who stepped forward was Tesla. Tesla greatly improved Edison’s dc motors and generators, but to Tesla’s surprise, no money was forthcoming. Tesla became very discouraged and quit working for Edison.

Tesla went on to design a better electrical transmission system which used AC instead of DC. Westinghouse heard of Tesla’s AC system and signed a contract with Tesla promising him $2.50 for each kilowatt of AC electricity sold. Tesla’s royalties soon exceeded one million dollars, but Westinghouse claimed to be in financial trouble and could not pay it. Tesla cared more for his dream of cheap AC power than the money itself, so Tesla ripped up his contract. Westinghouse paid him $216,000 for the patent.

Tesla had ripped up a contract that could have made him so much money that he would have made Bill Gates look like a pauper. There would be many instances in Tesla life where he do similar deeds. His ultimate dream though never was fulfilled in which he wanted to produce free energy to the whole world. Tesla always claimed wireless transmission of power to be possible, but never had the backing to make his dream come true.

Another unfortunate circumstance in Tesla’s life was the stealing of his patents. One of the biggest thief was a man named Marconi. Tesla had demonstrated the principles of radio nearly ten years before Marconi did. In 1943, the US Supreme Court invalidated Marconi’s patents on the radio, yet still most encyclopedia's give credit to Marconi.

Tesla, a vegetarian, would go on throughout his life trying to make life on earth better. He would come up with new ways to make life easier, but he was always fearful of the technology getting into the wrong hands. He believed that knowledge in the hands of one whose heart is not yet tender would be a terrible weapon. In the end, Tesla, with all his humanitarian views would die nearly penniless, but left the world with such vast knowledge that is immeasurable.

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