It could have been if Nikola Tesla had had his way. Who was Tesla? You probably know because you’re reading The Hollow Earth Insider. But for those who don’t, he was the inventor and genius who blaster the path that electrical development has followed and continues to follow until this day.
Every elementary school student in America learned about Thomas Edison and his most important invention, the electric light bulb. However little is taught about Nikola Tesla who developed the AC (alternate current) electrical system that carried electrical service across America and most of the world. At the time, Edison was trying to sell the world his inferior DC (direct current) system that required a generator station every 200 yards. Tesla’s superior system could be carried over many miles of wire. Of course, Edison would have made more money selling a generator system to be placed every 200 yards. Tesla teamed up with George Westinghouse, and against the backdrop of a bitter battle of words and accusations from the Edison camp, convinced the financial backers of the superiority of AC current. His system is still in use worldwide today.
Nikola Tesla was born in Yugoslavia in 1856. He received his highest education at the polytechnical school at Graz and the University of Prague.
He designed and introduced a prototype of a new electric motor having no commutator as DC motors have, and worked on the principle of rotating magnetic field produced polyphone alternating currents. He couldn’t find anyone in Europe, who was interested in his invention, so he immigrated to the United States in 1884. After a short, unhappy stint with Thomas Edison, Tesla established his own lab and obtained patents on polyphone motors, dynamos and transformers for his complete AC system. After forming the alliance with George Westinghouse, not only did they convince the public of the efficiency and safety of AC over DC and gain acceptance as the electric power system worldwide, but Tesla and Westinghouse also supplied the light and power for the Worlds Fair of 1893, built Niagara Falls’ hydro plant, and installed AC systems at Colorado silver mines and other industrial sites. By the early 1900s, Tesla was a celebrity.
In 1900, with encouragement and the promise of $150,000 from financier J.P. Morgan, Tesla next turned to the goal of building a radio transmitter to broadcast around the World using another Tesla invention, magnifying transmitters. At this point, Tesla’s luck and fortune began to turn sour. On December 12, 1901, the Italian electrical engineer, Guglielmo Marconi, sent the first transatlantic signal, the letter “S” from Cornwell England to Newfoundland. He did this with, as the financiers noted, equipment was much less costly than that envisioned by Tesla. Of course, it wasn’t mentioned that Marconi built his equipment using Tesla’s fundamental radio patent #6451576 filed in 1897 and issued March 20, 1900.
In 1902 Tesla applied for another group of patents pertaining to the “art of transmitting electrical energy through the natural medium.”
By 1903, Tesla was in drastic need of funds to finish his massive planned transmitting tower and finish his project. Hoping to get another investment from Morgan, and because of Maconis success, Tesla told Morgan that the major purpose in building his tower was not to just send radio signals but to transmit wireless electrical power anywhere in the world, virtually free.
Morgan must have realized that this could destroy the earning potential of the many utility companies in his control and dropped Tesla like a hot, live wire.
In 1904, Tesla wrote an article forElectrical World entitled, “The Transmission of Electrical Energy without Wires.” Tesla explained that the globe, even with its great size, responds to electrical currents like a small metal bell. Tesla’s system would in effect “charge” the earth with power that people could access directly from the ground. Keep in mind that we’re not talking about some fanatical “mad scientist” shouting out a theory that doesn’t make sense to anyone.
Nikola Tesla was arguably the number one genius in the world when it came to understanding and harnessing the natural powers of the earth. Prior to his death in 1943, Tesla had filed over 700 working patents worldwide. He also predicted microwave ovens, TV, cosmic-ray motor beam technologies, interplanetary communications and wave-interference devices that since have been named the “Tesla Howitzer” and the “Tesla Shield.”
In 1933 Tesla held a press conference on his 77th birthday and declared that “electric power” was everywhere present in “unlimited quantities” and could “drive the world’s machinery without the need of coal, oil, gas or any other fuels.” A reported asked if the sudden introduction of his principle would “upset the present economic system.” Tesla replied knowingly, “It’s badly upset already.”
In stark contrast, one of Thomas Edison’s popular quotes of the time was that “he could always tell the importance of one of his inventions by the number of dollars it brought in and nothing else concerned him.” Could this difference of philosophy be the major reason why Thomas Edison’s light bulb shines on, while the real father of electrical power, Nikola Tesla is seldom mentioned?
Tesla: Man out of Time © 1981 by Margaret Chency.
The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla (1992) Edited by Thomas Commerford Martin.
Tesla: The Lost Inventions © 1988 by George Trinkaus.
The House of Morgan © 1990 by Ron Chernow.
Webster’s Family Encyclopedia.