If you haven’t heard about Nikola Tesla please note the
One of the devices built by Tesla is the Tesla Coil.
The first time that I ever did see one of these devices
was in Eletronic Technician’s School at Treasure Island,
Calif. near San Francisco. I was demostating it to a
groups of Naval students that I was teaching there as a
civilian instructor employed by a company called H. L. Yoh
I then did somethings very unwise. I showed how the
arch from this device could jump from the output electrode,
through the air to your finger and then go to ground
without hurting you. After doing this several times I
noticed something smelling. It was the skin in my finger
catching on fire. I stopped the experiment and after that
time had some tingling in my finger but finally went away
in a few days. I at least proved to the students that one
shouldn’t let a high voltage low current go from the output
of the device to a person’s finger.
Nikola Tesla symbolizes a unifying force and inspiration
for all nations in the name of peace and science. He was a
true visionary far ahead of his contemporaries in the field
of scientific development.
New York State and many other states in the USA
proclaimed July 10, Tesla’s birthday- Nikola Tesla Day.
Many U-ited States Congressmen gave speeches in the House
of Representatives on July 10, 1990 celebrating the 134th
anniversary of scientist-inventor Nikola Tesla.
Senator L-vine from Michigan spoke in the US Senate on
the same occasion.
The street sign “Nikola Tesla Corner” was recently placed
on the corner of the 40th Street and 6th Avenue in
Manhattan. There is a large photo of Tesla in the Statue of
Liberty Museum. The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City,
New Jersey has a daily science demonstration of the Tesla
Coil creating a million volts of electricity before the
Many books were written about Tesla : Prodigal Genius:
The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O’Neill and Margaret
Cheney’s book Tesla: Man out of Time has contributed
significantly to his fame. A documentary film Nikola Tesla,
The Genius Who Lit the World, produced by the Tesla
Memorial Society and the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade,
The S-cret of Nikola Tesla (Orson Welles), BBC Film Masters
of the Ionosphere are other tributes to the great genius.
Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika, which
was then part the Austo-Hungarian Empire, region of
Croatia. His father, Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox
Priest and his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor in her
own right of household appliances. Tesla studied at the
Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in
Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. At first, he
intended to specialize in physics and mathematics, but
soon he became fascinated with electricity. He began his
career as an electrical engineer with a telephone company
in Budapest in 1881. It was there, as Tesla was walking
with a friend through the city park that the elusive
solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his
With a stick, he drew a diagram in the sand explaining to
his friend the principle of the induction motor. Before
going to America, Tesla joined Continental Edison Company
in Paris where he designed dynamos. While in Strassbourg in
1883, he privately built a prototype of the induction motor
and ran it successfully. Unable to interest anyone in
Europe in promoting this radical device, Tesla accepted an
offer to work for Thomas Edison in New York. His childhood
dream was to come to America to harness the power of
Young Nikola Tesla came to the Un-ted States in 1884 with
an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas
Edison: “I know two great men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is
you and the other is this young man.”
Tesla spent the next 59 years of his productive life
living in New York.
Tesla set about improving Edison’s line of dynamos while
working in Edison’s lab in New Jersey.
It was here that his divergence of opinion with Edison
over direct current versus alternating current began. This
disagreement climaxed in the w-r of the currents as Edison
fought a losing battle to protect his investment in direct
current equipment and facilities.
Tesla pointed out the inefficiency of Edison’s direct
current electrical powerhouses that have been build up and
down the Atlantic seaboard. The se-ret, he felt, lay in the
use of alternating current, because to him all energies
were cyclic. Why not build generators that would send
electrical energy along distribution lines first one way,
than another, in multiple waves using the polyphase
Edison’s lamps were weak and inefficient when supplied
by direct current.
This system had a severe disadvantage in that it could
not be transported more than two miles due to its inability
to step up to high voltage levels necessary for long
distance transmission. Consequently, a direct current power
station was required at two mile intervals.
Direct current flows continuously in one direction;
alternating current changes direction 50 or 60 times per
second and can be stepped up to vary high voltage levels,
minimizing power loss across great distances.
The future belongs to alternating current.
Nikola Tesla developed polyphase alternating current
system of generators, motors and transformers and held 40
basic U.S. patents on the system, which George
W-stinghouse bought, determined to supply America with the
Tesla system. Edison did not want to lose his DC empire,
and a bitter -ar ensued. This was the wa- of the currents
between AC and DC.
Tesla -We-tinghouse ultimately emerged the victor because
AC was a superior technology. It was a w-r won for the
progress of both America and the world.
Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a
classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors
and Transformers” which he delivered before the American
Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most
impressed was the industrialist and inventor George
Wes-inghouse. One day he visited Tesla’s laboratory and was
amazed at what he saw. Tesla had constructed a model
polyphase system consisting of an alternating current
dynamo, step-up and step-down transformers and A.C. motor
at the other end. The perfect partnership between Tesla and
Westi-ghouse for the nationwide use of electricity in
America had begun.
In February 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic
field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of
nearly all devices that use alternating current.
Tesla brilliantly adapted the principle of rotating
magnetic field for the construction of alternating current
induction motor and the polyphase system for the
generation, transmission, distribution and use of
Tesla’s A.C. induction motor is widely used throughout
the world in industry and household appliances. It started
the industrial revolution at the turn of the century.
Electricity today is generated transmitted and converted to
mechanical power by means of his inventions. Tesla’s
greatest achievement is his polyphase alternating current
system, which is today lighting the entire globe.
Tesla astonished the world by demonstrating. the wonders
of alternating current electricity at the World Columbian
Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Alternating current became
standard power in the 20th Century.
This accomplishment changed the world. He designed the
first hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls in 1895,
which was the final victory of alternating current.
The achievement was covered widely in the world press,
and Tesla was praised as a hero world wide.
King Nikola of Montenegro conferred upon him the Order of
Tesla was a pioneer in many fields.
The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used
today in radio and television sets and other electronic
That year also marked the date of Tesla’s U-ited States
His alternating current induction motor is considered one
of the ten greatest discoveries of all time.
Among his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser
beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of
electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s
turbines and vertical take off aircraft. Tesla is the
father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions
systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide. His
vision included exploration of solar energy and the power
of the sea. He foresaw interplanetary communications and
Century Magazine published Tesla’s principles of
telegraphy without wires, popularizing scientific lectures
given before Franklin Institute in February 1893.
The Electrical Review in 1896 published X-rays of a man,
made by Tesla, with X-ray tubes of his own design.
They appeared at the same time as when Roentgen announced
his discovery of X-rays.
Tesla never attempted to proclaim priority.
Roentgen congratulated Tesla on his sophisticated X-ray
pictures, and Tesla even wrote Roentgen’s name on one of
He experimented with shadowgraphs similar to those that
later were to be used by Wilhelm Rontgen when he discovered
X-rays in 1895.
Tesla’s countless experiments included work on a carbon
button lamp, on the power of electrical resonance, and on
various types of lightning.
Tesla invented the special vacuum tube which emitted
light to be used in photography.
The breadth of his inventions is demonstrated by his
patents for a bladeless steam turbine based on a spiral
Tesla also patented a pump design to operate at extremely
Nikola Tesla patented the basic system of radio in 1896.
His published schematic diagrams describing all the basic
elements of the radio transmitter which was later used by
In 1896 Tesla constructed an instrument to receive radio
waves. He experimented with this device and transmitted
radio waves from his laboratory on South 5 Avenue. to the
Gerlach Hotel at 27 Street in Manhattan.
The device had a magnet which gave off intense magnetic
fields up to 20,000 lines per centimeter.
The radio device clearly establishes his piority in the
discovery of radio.
Th shipboard quench-spark transmitter produced by the
Lowenstein Radio Company and licensed under Nikola Tesla
Company patents, was installed on the U.S. N-val vessels
prior to World W-r I.
In December 1901, Marconi established wireless
communication between Britain and the U-ited States earning
him the Nobel prize in 1909.
But much of Marconi’s work was not original.
In 1864, James Maxwell theorized electromagnetic waves.
In 1887, Heinrich Hertz proved Maxwell’s theories.
Later, Sir Oliver Logde extended the Hertz prototype
The Brandley coherer increased the distance messages
could be transmitted.
The coherer was perfected by Marconi.
However, the heart of radio transmission is based upon
four tuned circuits for transmitting and receiving.
It is Tesla’s original concept demonstrated in his famous
lecture at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1893.
The four circuits, used in two pairs, are still a
fundamental part of all radio and television equipment.
The Un-ted States Supreme Court, in 1943 held Marconi’s
most important patent invalid, recognizing Tesla’s more
significant contribution as the inventor of radio
Tesla built an experimental station in Colorado Springs,
Colorado in 1899, to experiment with high voltage, high
frequency electricity and other phenomena.
When the Colorado Springs Tesla Coil magnifying
transmitter was energized, it created sparks 30 feet long.
From the outside antenna, these sparks could be seen from
a distance of ten miles.
From this laboratory, Tesla generated and sent out
wireless waves which mediated energy, without wires for
In Colorado Springs, where he stayed from May 1899 until
1900, Tesla made what he regarded as his most important
discovery– terrestrial stationary waves.
By this discovery he proved that the Earth could be used
as a conductor and would be as responsive as a tuning fork
to electrical vibrations of a certain frequency.
He also lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance
of 25 miles ( 40 kilometers) and created man-made
At one time he was certain he had received signals from
another planet in his Colorado laboratory, a claim that was
met with disbelief in some scientific journals.
The old Waldorf Astoria was the residence of Nikola Tesla
for many years. He lived there when he was at the height
of financial and intellectual power.
Tesla organized elaborate dinners, inviting famous people
who later witnessed spectacular electrical experiments in
Financially supported by J. Pierpont Morgan, Tesla built
the Wardenclyffe laboratory and its famous transmitting
tower in Shoreham, Long Island between 1901 and 1905.
This huge landmark was 187 feet high, capped by a 68-foot
copper dome which housed the magnifying transmitter.
It was planned to be the first broadcast system,
transmitting both signals and power without wires to any
point on the globe.
The huge magnifying transmitter, discharging high
frequency electricity, would turn the earth into a gigantic
dynamo which would project its electricity in unlimited
amounts anywhere in the world.
Tesla’s concept of wireless electricity was used to power
ocean liners, destroy w-rships, run industry and
transportation and send communications instantaneously all
over the globe.
To stimulate the public’s imagination, Tesla suggested
that this wireless power could even be used for
If Tesla were confident to reach Mars, how much less
difficult to reach Paris.
Many newspapers and periodicals interviewed Tesla and
described his new system for supplying wireless power to
run all of the earth’s industry.
Because of a dispute between Morgan and Tesla as to the
final use of the tower.
Morgan withdrew his funds.
The financier’s classic comment was, “If anyone can draw
on the power, where do we put the meter?”
The erected, but incomplete tower was demolished in 1917
for wa-time s-curity reasons.
The site where the Wardenclyffe tower stood still exists
with its 100 feet deep foundation still intact.
Tesla’s laboratory designed by Stanford White in 1901 is
today still in good condition and is graced with a
Tesla lectured to the scientific community on his
inventions in New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis and
before scientific organizations in both England and France
in 1892. Tesla’s lectures and writings of the 1890s aroused
wide admiration among contemporaries popularized his
inventions and inspired untold numbers of younger men to
enter the new field of radio and electrical science.
Nikola Tesla was one of the most celebrated personalities
in the American press, in this century.
Life Magazine’s special issue of September, 1997, Tesla
is among the 100 most famous people of the last 1,000
He is one of the great men who divert the stream of human
Tesla’s celebrity was in its height at the turn of the
His discoveries, inventions and vision had widespread
acceptance by the public, the scientific community and
Tesla’s discoveries had extensive coverage in the
scientific journals, the daily and weekly press as well as
in the foremost literary and intellectual publications of
He was the Super Star.
Tesla wrote many autobiographical articles for the
prominent journal Electrical Experimenter, collected in the
book, My Inventions.
Tesla was gifted with intense powers of visualization and
exceptional memory from early youth on.
He was able to fully construct, develop and perfect his
inventions completely in his mind before committing them to
According to Hugo Gernsback, Tesla was possessed of a
striking physical appearance over six feet tall with deep
set eyes and a stately manner.
His impressions of Tesla, were of a man endowed with
remarkable physical and mental freshness, ready to surprise
the world with more and more inventions as he grew older.
A lifelong bachelor he led a somewhat isolated existence,
devoting his full energies to science.
In 1894, he was given honorary doctoral degrees by
Columbia and Yale University and the Elliot Cresson medal
by the Franklin Institute.
In 1934, the city of Philadelphia awarded him the John
Scott medal for his polyphase power system. He was an
honorary member of the National Electric Light Association
and a fellow of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science. On one occasion, he turned down an
invitation from Kaiser Wilhelm II to come to Germany to
demonstrate his experiments and to receive a high
In 1915, a New York Times article announced that Tesla
and Edison were to share the Nobel Prize for physics.
Oddly, neither man received the prize, the reason being
It was rumored that Tesla refused the prize because he
would not share with Edison, and because Marconi had
already received his.
Tesla’s friend was Mark Twain, famous American writer,
On his 75th birthday in 1931, the inventor appeared on
the cover of Time Magazine. On this occasion, Tesla
received congratulatory letters from more than 70 pioneers
in science and engineering including Albert Einstein and
Mark Twain. These letters were mounted and presented to
Tesla in the form of a testimonial volume.
Tesla died on January 7th, 1943 in the Hotel New Yorker,
where he had lived for the last ten years of his life.
Room 3327 on the 33rd floor is the two-room suites he
A state funeral was held at St. John the Divine Cathedral
in New York City. Telegrams of condolence were received
from many notables, including the first lady Eleanor
Roosevelt and Vice Pr-sident Wallace. Over 2000 people
attended, including several Nobel Laureates. He was
cremated in Ardsley on the Hudson, New York. His ashes were
interned in a golden sphere, Tesla’s favorite shape, on
permanent display at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade along
with his de-th mask.
In his speech presenting Tesla with the Edison medal,
Vice Pr-sident Behrend of the Institute of Electrical
Engineers eloquently expressed the following:
“Were we to seize and eliminate from our industrial world
the result of Mr. Tesla’s work, the wheels of industry
would cease to turn, our electric cars and trains would
stop, our towns would be dark and our mills would be idle
His name marks an epoch in the advance of electrical
Mr. Behrend ended his speech with a paraphrase of Pope’s
lines on Newton “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid by night.
G-d said ‘Let Tesla be’ and all was light.”
The world will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla’s equal
in achievement and imagination.”
Nikola Tesla’s Awards and Recognition
In 1917, Tesla was awarded the Edison Medal, the most
coveted electrical prize in the Un-ted States.
Nikola Tesla’s name has been honored with an
International Unit of Magnetic Flux Density called “Tesla.”
The Uni-ed States Postal Service honored Tesla with a
commemorative stamp in 1983.
Tesla was inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in
The Nikola Tesla Award is one of the most distinguished
honors presented by the Institute of Electrical Engineers.
The award has been given annually since 1976.
The Nikola Tesla Statue is located on Goat Island to
honor the man whose inventions were incorporated into the
Niagara Falls Power Station in 1895. Tesla is known as the
inventor of polyphase alternating current.
The Nikola Tesla Corner Sign, located at the intersection
of 40th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, is a constant
reminder to all New Yorkers of the greatness of this
New York, July 10, 1998
Secretary General, New York