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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Life And Achievements of Nikola Tesla

Out of the many figures who have made their marks on history, few have been as influential as the Serbian inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla, whose creations in the field of electricity have been widely regarded as monolithic, bringing change to the then-stagnant industry. Tesla has, in his vast arsenal of over 700 patents, the alternating current, Tesla coil, loudspeaker, and others, all of which have, as of recent times, gotten much traction over the scientific community, and indeed much of academia at large.

Nikola Tesla, Scientist, Inventions
Image: ivdes

Tesla was born in the village of Smiljan, in what was then the Austrian Empire (now Croatia), to Serbian parents. He was noted as having a very strained relationship with his parents, and he witnessed the death of his brother at a young age. After dropping out from the Polytechnic School in Graz (he took courses on engineering and physics there), he went on to study at The University of Prague, gaining knowledge on wave mechanics and alternating current, whilst working with Professor Ernst Mach. Following his education, he laboured at Continental Edison, where he acquired practical experience in the new electric power industry. 

In 1884, he emigrated to the U.S., later becoming a naturalised citizen. He briefly worked for Edison Machine Works in New York City, but fell out with Edison due to conflicts over unpaid bonuses. Much of his lifefollowing this point was dedicated to advancing the aforesaid electric power industry. In 1893, while in a contract with Westinghouse Electric, he got to display the wonders of the alternating current, or A.C., to the visitors of the Chicago World’s Fair. This is generallyaccepted by historians as the point in which A.C. truly won over D.C., or direct current, whichwas pioneered by Tesla’s rival Thomas Edison (D.C. was ineffective at transforming voltages into lower or higher versions of themselves, but A.C. did a much better job at this than the former). 

Also built with the help of Westinghouse was the first hydro-electric power-plant in the World, which was located in Niagara Falls. 

Image: Big Think

In 1937, Tesla published a paper “describing the actual workings of a particle-beam weapon for destroying tanks and planes...” (from M. Seifer’s WIzard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla). Another creation of his which had great importance to the military was a “tele-automatic” boat (he writes about it in his autobiography My Inventions), viewed by the vast majority of academics as a precursor to guided missiles and other related technologies. 

The Tesla coil was, as said by the writers over at LiveScience (, “a truly revolutionary invention... Early radio antennas and telegraphy used the invention... Radios and televisions still use variations of the Tesla coil today.” What made it a “revolutionary invention” was the fact that it was the first to wirelessly transmit electricity — in fact, such a concept was so alien to the general public of that time and so many were awestruck and amazed, and Tesla’s natural ability for showmanship drove this point even further. 

Whilst Tesla would eventually fall from grace after repeated attempts at “one-upping” Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of the radio, and a series of failures regarding his ideas of providing free electricity by “harnessing” the Earth’s magnetic energy, and die alone in a hotel in 1943, his life and achievements are still, to this day, worthy of praise and emulation (not his latter years though).

Written by Gian Marcus Barreto, IFY Books

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