Nikola Tesla: Humanitarian Genius
Excerpted from vol 6, no. 4, "Power and Resonance", the "Journal of the International Tesla Society".
For further information on the topics discussed below: "The Tesla Book Co.", P.O. Box 1649, Greenville, Texas 75401
Ask any school kid: "who invented radio"? If you get an answer at all it will doubtless be Marconi - an answer with which all the encyclopedias and textbooks agree. Or ask most anyone: "who invented the stuff that makes your toaster, your stereo, the street lights, the factories and offices work?" Without hesitation, Thomas Edison, right? Wrong both times. The correct answer is Nikola Tesla, a person you have probably never heard of. there's more. He appears to have discovered x-rays a year before W. K. Röentgen did in Germany, he built a vacuum tube amplifier several years before Lee de Forest did, he was using fluorescent lights in his laboratory 40 years before the industry "invented" them, and he demonstrated the principles used in microwave ovens and radar decades before they became an integral part of our society. Yet we associate his name with none of them.
For about 20 years around the turn of the century, he was known and respected in academic circles world wide, corresponding with eminent physicists of his day, including Albert Einstein, quoted and conferred with on matters of electrical science, adopted by New York's high society, backed by such financial and industrial giants as J. P. Morgan, John Jacob Astor, and George Westinghouse. He counted as friends eminent artists such as Mark Twain and pianist Ignace Paderewski. His honorary degrees, major prizes, and other citations number in the dozens.
Tesla was born in Smijlan, Croatia in 1856, the son of a clergyman and an inventive mother. He had an extraordinary memory, one that made learning six languages easy for him. He entered the Polytechnic School at Gratz, where for four years he studied mathematics, physics and mechanics, confounding more than one professor by an understanding of electricity, an infant science in those days, that was greater than theirs. His practical career started in 1881 in Budapest, Hungary, where he made his first electrical invention, a telephone repeater (the ordinary loudspeaker) and conceived the idea of a rotating magnetic field, which later made him world famous in its form as the modern induction motor. The polyphase induction motor is what provides power to virtually every industrial application, from conveyer belts to winches to machine tools.
Tesla's mental abilities require some mention, since, not only did he have a photographic memory, he was able to use creative visualization with an uncanny and practical intensity. He describes in his autobiography how he was able to visualize a particular apparatus and was then able to actually test run the apparatus, disassemble it and check for proper action and wear! During the manufacturing phase of his inventions, he would work with all blueprints and specifications in his head. The invention invariably assembled together without redesign and worked perfectly. Tesla slept one to 2 hours a day and worked continuously on his inventions and theories without benefit of ordinary relaxation or vacations. He could judge the dimension of an object to a hundredth of an inch and perform difficult computations in his head without benefit of slide rule or mathematical tables. Far from an ivory tower intellectual, he was very much aware of the issues in the world around him, made it a point to render his ideas accessible to the general public by frequent contributions to the popular press, and to his field by numerous lectures and scientific papers.
He decided to come to this country (USA) in 1884. He brought with him the various models of the first induction motors, which, after a brief and unhappy period at the Edison works, were eventually shown to George Westinghouse. It was in the Westinghouse shops that the induction motor was perfected. Numerous patents were taken out on this prime invention, all under Tesla's name.
Tesla worked briefly for Thomas Edison when he first came to the United States, creating many improvements on Edison's dc motors and generators, but left under a cloud of controversy after Edison refused to live up to bonus and royalty commitments. This was the beginning of a rivalry which was to have ugly consequences later when Edison and his backers did everything in their power to stop the development and installation of Tesla's far more efficient and practical ac current delivery system and urban power grid. Edison put together a traveling road show which attempted to portray ac current as dangerous, even to the point of electrocuting animals both small (puppies) and large (in one case an elephant) in front of large audiences. As a result of this propaganda crusade, the state of New York adopted ac electrocution as its method of executing convicts. Tesla won the battle by the demonstration of ac current's safety and usefulness when his apparatus illuminated and powered the entire New York World's Fair of 1899.
Tesla's most important work at the end of the nineteenth century was his original system of transmission of energy by wireless antenna. In 1900 Tesla obtained his two fundamental patents on the transmission of true wireless energy covering both methods and apparatus and involving he use of four tuned circuits. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States granted full patent rights to Nikola Tesla for the invention of the radio, superseding and nullifying any prior claim by Marconi and others in regards to the "fundamental radio patent" It is interesting to note that Tesla, in 1898, described the transmission of not only the human voice, but images as well and later designed and patented devices that evolved into the power supplies that operate our present day TV picture tubes. The first primitive radar installations in 1934 were built following principles, mainly regarding frequency and power level, that were stated by Tesla in 1917.
In 1889 Tesla constructed an experimental station in Colorado Springs where he studied the characteristics of high frequency or radio frequency alternating currents. While there he developed a powerful radio transmitter of unique design and also a number of receivers "for individualizing and isolating the energy transmitted". He conducted experiments designed to establish the laws of radio propagation which are currently being "rediscovered" and verified amid some controversy in high energy quantum physics.
Tesla wrote in "Century Magazine" in 1900: "...that communication without wires to any point of the globe is practicable. My experiments showed that the air at the ordinary pressure became distinctly conducting, and this opened up the wonderful prospect of transmitting large amounts of electrical energy for industrial purposes to great distances without wires...its practical consummation would mean that energy would be available for the uses of man at any point of the globe. I can conceive of no technical advance which would tend to unite the various elements of humanity more effectively than this one, or of one which would more add to and more economize human energy..." This was written in 1900! After finishing preliminary testing, work was begun on a full sized broadcasting station at shoreham, Long Island. Had it gone into operation, it would have been able to provide usable amounts of electrical power at the receiving circuits. After construction of a generator building (still standing) and a 180 foot broadcasting tower (dynamited in world war I on the dubious pretext of being a potential navigation reference for German U-boats), financial support for the project was suddenly withdrawn by J. P. Morgan when it became apparent that such a worldwide power project couldn't be metered and charged for.
Another one of Tesla's inventions that is familiar to anyone who has ever owned an automobile, was patented in 1898 under the name "electrical ignitor for gas engines". More commonly known as the automobile ignition system, its major component, the ignition coil, remains practically unchanged since its introduction into use at the turn of the century.
Nikola Tesla also designed and built prototypes of a unique fuel burning rotary engine based upon his earlier design for a rotary pump. Recent tests that have been carried out on the Tesla bladeless disk turbine indicate that, if constructed using newly developed high temperature ceramic materials, it will rank as the world's most efficient gas engine, out-performing our present day piston type internal combustion engines in fuel efficiency, longevity, adaptability to different fuels, cost and power to weight ratio.
Tesla's generosity eventually left him without adequate funds to pursue and realize his inventions. His idealism and humanism left him with little stomach for the world of industrial and financial intrigue. His New York laboratory was destroyed by a mysterious fire. References to his work and accomplishments were systematically purged from the scientific literature and textbooks. Driven into a Hermetic exile in a New York hotel during the period between the two wars, 20 years of his potentially rich and productive contribution were taken from us. The only occasions of public appearance were the yearly press interview on his birthday when he would describe amazing and far reaching inventions and technological possibilities. These were distorted and sensationalized in the popular press, particularly when he described advanced weapons systems on the eve of world war II. He died in obscurity in 1943. Only the FBI took note: they searched his papers (in vain) for the design of the "death-ray machine". It is interesting to note that the motivation for our "Star Wars" defense system was based upon fears that the soviets had begun deployment of weapons based upon Tesla high energy principles. Public reports of mysterious "blindings" of U.S. surveillance satellites, anomalous high altitude flashes and fireballs, elf wave radio interference, and other cases lend credence to this interpretation.
Credit must be given where credit is due for the labor saving and humanitarian inventions such as universal ac current that have been incorporated into the very fabric of our daily lives and also the devices who's design have been made available, but have not been utilized by society at large.
Short History of Nikola Tesla
This is a file to straighten out misconception and disinformation that has occurred over the years, about how supposedly "great" Edison was, and how Nikola Tesla was brushed under the capitalist power rug.
Edison was a thief, employing all kinds of people for their brains, he stole their inventions, their ideas, so much so, that it is unclear today what Edison actually invented, and what was stolen from others.
The Edison Electric Institute was formed to perpetuate the notion that Edison was the inventor of record, and to make sure that school textbooks, etc., only mentioned HIM in connection with these many inventions. Much like Bell Labs does today.
Nikola Tesla was pretty much always a genius, after having made many improvements in the electric trolleys, and trains in his country, he came to America, sought employment, and eventually ended up working for Edison.
Edison had contracted with New York City to build Direct Current (DC) power plants every square mile or so, so as to power the lights that he supposedly invented. Street lights, hotel lighting etc. Having trenches dug throughout the city to lay the cables, copper, and as big around as a man's bicep, he told Tesla that if Tesla could save him money by redesigning certain aspects of the installation, that he would give Tesla a percentage of the savings. A verbal agreement. After approximately a year, Tesla went to Edison's office and showed him the savings that had occurred ($100,000 or so, which in those days was quite a piece of change) as a direct result of his (Tesla's) engineering, and Edison pretended ignorance of any agreement. Tesla quit. From that point on, the two men were enemies.
Tesla invented useable Alternating Current (AC) that we all use today, in a world where Edison and others already had a huge investment in D.C. power.
Tesla proselytized AC power and had some success building AC power plants, and providing AC power to various entities. One of these was Sing Sing prison, in upstate New York. Tesla provided AC power for the "electric chair" there. Edison had big articles printed in the New York newspapers, saying that AC power was dangerous "killing" power, and in general, gave a bad name to Tesla.
To contradict this jab, Tesla set out on his own positive marketing campaign, appearing at the 1880? World Exposition in Chicago passing "dangerous" high frequency AC power over his body to power light bulbs in front of the public. Shooting huge, long sparks from his "Tesla coil", and touching them, etc. "Proving" that AC power was safe for public consumption.
The advantage of AC power was that you could send it a long distance through reasonably sized wires with little loss, and if you touched the wires together, "shorted them", you got a lot of sparks, and only the place where they were touching melted until the two wires weren't touching anymore.
D.C. power, on the other hand, needed huge cables to go any distance at all, while using power, the cables heated up. When shorted, the cables melted all the way back to the power house, streets had to be dug up again and new cables laid. If a short occurred in a single light, it usually started a fire, and burned down the hotel or destroyed whatever it was in contact with! This was quite profitable for those in the D.C. power business, and quite good for those into ditch digging, construction, etc.
Tesla invented 2-phase, and 3-phase Alternating Current. He figured motors turned in a circle, so alternately driving separate, 180°, sections of the surrounding armature would build up less heat, and use less electricity. He was right.
1929 came, the stock market crashed, bankers, lawyers, everyone who had lost their wealth and hadn't jumped out a window, sought work, many as common laborers if lucky, for a dollar a day. Tesla found himself digging ditches in the company of broke but influential ex-Wall-streeters. During the short lunch period, he would tell his buddies about phased AC electricity, and how it was efficient, etc. Along about 1932, he was working at a small generator rebuilding shop in New York, and one of the bankers that he used to dig ditches with, found him, and took him to Mr. Westinghouse, to whom he told his stories. Westinghouse bought 19 patents outright, and gave Tesla a dollar per horsepower for any electric motor produced by Westinghouse using the Tesla 3-phase system.
Tesla finally had the money with which to start building his laboratories, 5 and conducting the experiments with free earth energy. The idea that really made him unpopular.
Something free, that the masters of war and business couldn't control? They couldn't have that! So, the day after Tesla died in 1943, his huge laboratory on Long Island mysteriously burned down, no records saved, and the remnants were bulldozed the day after that to further eradicate any equipment still left. So much for "free energy".
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