Exactly 165 years ago from today, the child of light was born in a village called Smiljan in the Austrian Empire (present-day Croatia). It was a night with a heavy lightning storm and everyone believed that a child born on such a night would bring darkness to the world. But his mother named him “the child of light”, and that child lived his whole life true to that statement.
That child of light is none other than the greatest inventor and futurist of history; the man who lightened up the world, Nikola Tesla.
He was born to a family with an orthodox catholic background as the fourth child of five. His father was an orthodox priest and his mother was also coming from a family of religious background. Tesla had three sisters and an elder brother in his family. When Tesla was around 5 years old, his brother passed away in a horse-riding accident.
Tesla had his primary education in his hometown and moved to the Higher Real Gymnasium in the city Karlovac for his high school education. He was interested in studying mathematics and physics but his parents wanted him to be a priest like his father. This intention of his parents was changed when Tesla barely survived cholera after being ill for 9 months and they agreed to let him study engineering and physics. That cholera had been a blessing in disguise for the future of electricity in the world. In his first years, he was a hardworking brilliant student in the Imperial Royal Technical College in Graz, Austria where his mentors called him “a star of the first rank”. However, he did not complete his college education.
He started working in a telephone exchange in Budapest, Hungary in 1881. Tesla improved much equipment in the telephone exchange including a device to amplify voice through the telephone and he was promoted to the role of a chief electrician within a short period. After that, he started working in the Edison Company in Paris, which was founded by the famous scientist Thomas Alva Edison. Later his advanced skills were recognized and he was sent to the United States to work in the Edison Machine Works. But he did not work there for more than a total of six months.
Tesla moved on and started his own company Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing in 1884, together with his investors. He obtained his first United States patent that year for a commutator of dynamo-electric machines. Thereby started the extraordinary journey of this exceptional human being.
Nikola Tesla has obtained more than 300 patents from all over the world for his incredible inventions. Also, there are many more inventions that he did not even bother to obtain a patent for. He was not given the proper recognition for some of his inventions but he was not concerned about those. He said,
“I do not care that they stole my idea. I care that they do not have any of their own.”
Tesla was extremely rich with ideas and concepts, but not with money. He was having financial difficulties in funding his projects and inventions throughout his life. But that did not stop him from working on his ideas. Mentioned here are just a few remarkable inventions among many discoveries of this great man who invented the future.
Tesla’s improvements to alternative current (AC) can be considered as the most remarkable among his many projects and inventions. Tesla, together with the American entrepreneur and engineer George Westinghouse won the lighting contract of Chicago World’s Fair 1893, over Thomas Edison and his direct current (DC). It was the turning point of electricity history, making alternative current the mainstream of electricity all over the world.
Another important invention among Tesla’s work is the induction motor which uses current. Induction motor plays a major role in many products that are used in present-day life such as fans, vacuum cleaners, dryers, etc.
His ultimate dream was to power the whole world with free alternative current wirelessly. He was interested in renewable power sources and he believed that there must be a mechanism to use electricity wirelessly. He experimented on this all his life and discovered many remarkable things about electricity such as the Tesla coil and magnifying transmitter. Tesla coil is a device that can generate electric sparks and the magnifying transmitter is a huge Tesla coil with the ability of lighting bulbs that are half a mile away using an electric spark. He also tried to extend the project of the magnifying transmitter to Tesla’s Wardeclyffe tower and provide free electricity to everyone but the project failed due to his financial difficulties.
Tesla also experimented on radio waves and while he was trying on transmitting radio signals a massive fire completely destroyed his laboratory preventing him from getting the honour of discovering radio. He later developed a remote-controlled wireless boat using radio waves, called teleautomaton. It was the origin of remote controllers and can be considered as one of the world’s earliest robots. Also, he had experimented on taking pictures using radioactivity before Rontgen discovered X-rays, which he called shadowgraphs. Many of his novel experiments were destroyed in the laboratory fire that happened in 1895. But the fire could not stop this unique man’s journey. He moved to a new laboratory and restarted and continued working on his revolutionary world-changing inventions.
The world’s first hydroelectric plant was established at Niagara falls in 1896 under Tesla’s advice and using the technologies he invented. He worked on many more projects in many subjects and the last patent he obtained was for an apparatus of a flying machine with vertical take-off and landing which was known as aerial transportation.
Since his 75th birthday in 1931, Tesla used to have a press conference and talk about his new inventions and the projects he is working on. He revealed information about many brilliant inventions he was working with. He has talked about many unbelievable constructions including a motor that works using cosmic rays, individualized radio wavelengths, a weapon called death ray/ teleforce, which can stop wars, a mechanical oscillator that can make earthquakes, and telegeodynamics which is an underground communication method.
Tesla’s contribution to the technological advancement of today’s world is indeterminable. He was a person who was driven by humanity and pure inner motivation rather than profits. He once said,
“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success. Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
His legacy is still dominant in the world even almost 80 years after his death. There is a museum and an airport dedicated to Nikola Tesla in Belgrade, Serbia. And today is named the Day of Science in Serbia, Day of Nikola Tesla in Croatia. Also, there are plaques and statues in many places in Europe and America in memory of Nikola Tesla. And the world’s leading electric car company of Elon Musk is also named after Tesla.
The highest recognition for this legendary human being and his incredible inventions was given only after 17 years of his death. The unit of measuring magnetic flux density (magnetic induction) in the International System of Units (SI) was named after Tesla. This can be considered as the greatest honour awarded to Nikola Tesla for his immense contribution to science. This extraordinary character will be remembered in the domain of science and electricity forever.
“Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors.”
― Nikola Tesla
Design by – Shanaka Vishwantha
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