1: Man Who Invented the 20th Century
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a renowned scientist who designed the world’s first hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls, which in the 1890s successfully distributed and illuminated distant homes and industries using his low current, high voltage electricity supply. Renowned in his time as an eccentric, mad scientist, the Serbian was also a prolific inventor who helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution with his many technological marvels, for which he has been called ‘The Man Who Invented the 20th Century’. As the scientific genius once famously said:
“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.”
2: Father Of Electricity
Nikola Tesla was born at midnight on July 10, 1856 during an electrical storm. According to family lore, the midwife helping to deliver Nikola believed the lightning to be a bad omen and said he would be a child of darkness. His mother, however, said: “No. He will be a child of light.” In a twist of fate, he later became known as the father of electricity.
3: A Photographic Memory
Tesla possessed a photographic memory, along with lucid powers of visualization, and as a result rarely composed diagrams of his inventions, but worked from memories and pictures in his mind. He also suffered from an affliction in which blinding flashes of light would appear before his eyes, often accompanied by hallucinations. Much of the time the visions were linked to a word or idea he might come across, and on hearing its name he would involuntarily envision it in vivid detail, much in the same way as modern day synesthetes.
4: A Hyper Polyglot
Tesla was a hyper polyglot, and was fluent in eight languages including Serbo Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.
5: Won AC/DC War Of Currents
As a trained electrical and mechanical engineer, Tesla invented so many modern marvels, that he has shaped the world perhaps more than any other inventor. His discovery of the rotating magnetic field lead to him devising a better system for electrical transmission, the AC (alternating current) system that we use in our homes today. AC offered great advantages over Edison’s DC system. By using Tesla’s newly developed transformers, AC voltages could be stepped up and transmitted over long distances through thin wires. DC could not, and required a large power plant every square mile while transmitting through very thick cables.
6: Prolific Inventor
Of course, a system of transmission would be incomplete without devices to run on them. So, he invented the electric motors that are used in everyday appliances in our homes, including fans, water pumps, machine and power tools, disk drives, and compressors.
7: Hundreds Of Patents
During his lifetime, Tesla is believed to have applied for more than 700 patents, and received at least 300 patents we know of today, although patent protection was not sought for many more. Some of his numerous inventions include wireless communications, remote controls, radar, neon and fluorescent lighting, the ignition system that activate our cars, X-Ray photography, microwave cooking, vacuum tube amplifier, speedometer, and much more. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court even acknowledged Tesla as “the father of the radio”, instead of Guglielmo Marconi, as the Italian was ruled to have relied on Tesla’s work and induction coil (Tesla coil) to send and receive radio waves.
8: Sought Free Energy For The World
He had a burning desire to find ‘free energy’ sources which all people could share, and many of his free energy sources are still sensitive issues and have been kept secret by the U.S. Government. Tesla discovered that electric power could be broadcast through the air without wires, and famously set out too provide free energy to the world via his wireless transmission tower, Wardenclyffe Tower on Long Island, New York. The project, however, was never completed as his financial backer J.P. Morgan cut off funding, and no other investors were forthcoming. Perhaps providing something for free was not a high priority for businessmen, but had Tesla succeeded the planet might have been enjoying wireless communication and free electricity as far back as the 1920s.
9: Devised Powerful Laser Weapon
Tesla created lightning which he used to light wireless lamps many miles away, and surmised that by pulling enough electricity from the ionosphere he could concentrate up to 2 billion volts in one area, enough to destroy any city on Earth. During World War II, he even offered the US government his Death Ray system, a machine which accelerated a beam of particles to a high velocity and could do great damage, much like a high powered laser beam. Describing the weapon he named “Teleforce”, Tesla said:
“The nozzle would send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation’s border and will cause armies to drop dead in their tracks”.
10: Could Have Been World’s Richest Man
In 1888, Tesla signed an patent licensing agreement with George Westinghouse, founder of Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, in which he was given stocks, salary, bonuses and more importantly a royalty for each horsepower of electricity produced by his AC motor. By 1907, however, the war of currents between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse had put Westinghouse more than $10 million in debt, and after appealing to Tesla for some relief from the royalties, Tesla simply tore up the contract worth $12 million at the time, or $300 million in today’s money. The next decade then saw AC completely wipe out DC as the most efficient way of transmitting electrical energy, and had Tesla’s royalties still been in place he would have become the world’s first billionaire. Similarly, Tesla also signed away the rights to his wireless broadcasting system to J.P. Morgan, and in the end Tesla ended up broke living on the 33rd floor of the New Yorker Hotel, with all his bills paid for by his previous business partner George Westinghouse. Describing his attitude to money, Tesla said:
“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.”