Nikola Tesla was an inventor, discoverer, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, theoretical and experimental physicist, mathematician, futurist and humanitarian. He is responsible for over ninety percent of the transmission of electrical power the world relies on today thanks to Tesla’s discovery of the rotating magnetic field. The inventor utilized this discovery in his invention and patent of the first commutatorless alternating current induction motor which changed the future of power transmission. All electrical technology using or generating alternating current today is due to Tesla, without which all our trolley cars, electric vehicles, subways, manufacturing/industrial plants and electrified power lines, which bring power to almost every single electrical appliance/equipment in you house/work, would be impossible.
Tesla was a Serbian born on today’s date at midnight in Smiljan, Lika (what is now Croatia). He was educated at an early age by his parents then attended the Gymnasium Karlovac in Croatia, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria; and the University of Prague excelling in linguistics, mathematics and sciences. He was a hyper-polyglot who could speak eight languages including: Serbo-Croatian, English, Czech, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin, and he claimed to have had a three-dimensional memory and thought process that tormented him in his youth, but later aided him with building his inventions in his own mind without wasting any physical energy. He was known to be able to recite by heart full books, mathematical formulas and poetry such as Goethe’s “Faust,” Njegoš’ “The Mountain Wreath,” Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” and Pushkin’s “Eugene Onegin.”
In 1881 while walking with a friend in a City Park reciting Goethe’s “Faust,” Tesla first envisioned the rotating magnetic and his induction motor, complete, perfect, operable in form. This visualization would represent the same diagrams he would show in his 1891 lecture before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
After his revelation, in 1882 Tesla’s began working for a telephone company in Europe for a few years, independently working on his induction motor, until he moved to America in 1884 in hopes of capitalizing on his new discovery. Initially, Tesla was hired by Thomas Edison, but the great American inventor was not interested in Tesla’s alternating current system due to his already strong interest in direct current power system. Tesla would continue working for Edison until Edison promised him $50,000 to make improvements on his DC generation plants. After completing the task, Tesla asked to be paid, but Edison denied him his offer and explained that the offer of $50,000 was just an “American joke.” Edison offered Tesla a small raise, but Tesla would resigned instead.
After digging ditches for a short time, Tesla was offered his own lighting company by some small investors, but were also not interested in his induction motor. It wasn’t until George Westinghouse took notice of Tesla’s invention and threw all his resources into Tesla’s work. This new industry in power transmission would start a feud between the Westinghouse Company and General Electric, known as the “War of Currents” (AC/DC)…
(to be continued…)