Nikola Tesla. July 10, 1856 – January 7, 1943. Physicist and engineer, inventor in the field of electrical and radio engineering


Life and Work:

1. “How many people called me a daydreamer, how our errant shortsighted world mocked my ideas. Time will be our judge,” predicted the famous physicist, engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. And time was indeed the judge: today, Nikola Tesla is in every encyclopedia.


2. Contemporary biographers believed Tesla was the man who “invented the 20th century" and “the patron saint” of modern electricity. He is called one of the two geniuses of world history, together with Leonardo da Vinci.


3. Well, this assessment has ample grounds: Nikola's input in studying the properties of electricity and magnetism can be called revolutionary. He discovered alternating current, wireless energy transmission, was the first to develop the principles of remote control, the fundamentals of treatment with high-frequency current, constructed a transformer, built the first electric watch and a lot more.


4. Tesla received three hundred patents for his inventions in different countries.


5. Nikola Tesla invented radio before Marconi and Popov, obtained three-phase current before Dolivo-Dobrovolsky. Entire modern electric power engineering would have been impossible without his discoveries.


6. Where did he come from? From the Austrian Empire, now this part of it is the independent state of Croatia. Nikola Tesla was born into a Serbian Orthodox priest's family in the village of Smiljan.


7. His father wanted Nikola to follow his footsteps. But it was not meant to be: the boy was different, he read avidly and passionately wanted to become an engineer.


8. Being a good son, Nikola decided to take the spiritual path after all, but misfortune came to rescue. After graduating from a secondary school, Tesla fell ill with cholera, which got complicated with dropsy, lung disease and other conditions, and the 17-year-old young man was bedridden for 9 months.


9. Here is what Tesla recalled about it: “Nine months in bed, almost motionless, it seemed like it drained all of my life energy, and doctors abandoned me... During one of the exacerbations, when everyone thought I was dying, my father stormed into the room to support me with the words “You will get better”...

“Maybe, I will manage to get better, if you let me study engineering,” I said. “You will enter Europe's best educational institution,” he replied solemnly, and I understood that he meant it.


10. His father kept his word, but not at once. Recovered Nikola was almost drawn for three-year military service in the Austrian Army, but his family believed he was not strong enough and hid him in the mountains.


11. After all these tribulations, Tesla finally entered the Higher Technical School in Graz, where he began to study electrical engineering.


12. There, he got addicted to gambling and almost made his family bankrupt.


13. As a student, Nikola Tesla came to the idea about the imperfection of direct current machines. His teacher was very critical of his ideas and even delivered a lecture on why the use of alternating current is impossible in electric engines.


14. Then there was Prague University, work for the living and even the desire to go to St. Petersburg as the center of contemporary electric engineering. But then Tesla ended up going to America, to discuss his ideas with the great Edison.


15. But things did not work out between Edison and Tesla. The legendary inventor was quite unimpressed with Tesla's new ideas.


16. Once Edison promised Tesla 50 thousand dollars, if he managed to improve constructions of direct current machines invented by Edison. Tesla started working passionately and soon came up with 24 versions of Edison's machine. Edison approved of the upgrades, but, when the issue of remuneration was brought up, Edison said that the immigrant failed to understand American humor. Insulted Tesla resigned immediately.


17. For a while, things were really bad for him. Tesla dug drains, slept at random places and ate whatever he could find. But after all he managed to find financial support and start Tesla's Arc Light Company, which specialized in street lighting with new arc-lamps invented by Nikola Tesla.


18. Orders flowed into the new company. Tesla rented an office on Fifth Avenue, not far from Edison's enterprise. The two companies entered fierce competition known as the War of the Currents. By the way, it was a hundred years' war: only in 2007, New York fully switched from direct current to alternating.


19. What did not work out with Edison, worked out with George Westinghouse. In 1888, this industrialist and engineer bought over forty patents from Tesla and paid over a million dollars. But Tesla was unable to work for Westinghouse: daily routine was in the way of new discoveries. And so he went back to his laboratory.


20. In March 1895, a fire broke out in the laboratory on Fifth Avenue. The building burned to the ground, and the inventor's latest achievements perished in flames, including a stand for testing new lamps for electric lighting, a model of a device for wireless long-distance message transferring and a set for studying the nature of electricity. But Tesla did not lose heart; instead, he said he was able to restore all of his inventions from memory.


21. Later Tesla organized a few more laboratories of his own. He also worked for other companies in different cities of the USA from time to time.


22. In the town of Niagara Falls, close to the famous waterfall, one can find a monument to Nikola Tesla. It is no coincidence: Tesla designed the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Station, which was then the world's biggest station.


23. During World War I, Tesla took part in collecting funds for the Serbian army.


24. In those years, he fiddled with the idea of creating a superweapon: “There will come a time when some scientific genius will create a machine able to destroy one or several armies in one move.”


25. On the 1st of January, 1943, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt expressed the desire to visit Tesla, who was already ill. Sava Kosanovic, Yugoslav Ambassador to the USA, who was Tesla's nephew, visited him on the 5th of January and arranged the meeting. He was the last one to see Tesla.


26. They say that Tesla only allocated four hours for sleep, of them, two hours were for thinking over ideas. The inspired prophet of electricity, according to the great Rutherford, was surrounded by rumors: it will just suffice to mention the version claiming that there was no Tunguska meteorite, it was Tesla's experiment on transmitting energy through air.


27. The eccentric physicist had enough quirks: he was deathly afraid of germs, washed his hands all the time and required two dozen towels every day when he stayed in hotels. If a fly sat on the table during dinner, Tesla made the waiter bring a new order. He only checked into hotel rooms if their number was a multiple of three.


28. Tesla was never married. According to his words, his chastity contributed significantly to his scientific ability.


29. Tesla spoke eight languages and wrote poems. His friend Mark Twain called him the Lord of Lightning. From all appearances, he was way ahead of his time, and some of his inventions and discoveries were simply not understood by his contemporaries. A genius' fate, what can we say.