The true story of Nikola Tesla (part 1)
Article Originally Written by Sapna Gotame…. B.Sc Ag..IAAS, Paklihawa
The human mind is truly an incredible thing, capable of speech, thought, critical thinking and imagination. When we think of great legendary minds of this world, we think of the brilliance of people like Einstein.
He taught us many things about the low-level rules that govern our universe, fundamental things like time, space and matter, but in terms of practical discoveries that are the basis for the technologies we use each and every day, it was Nikola Tesla who was the most brilliance of all.
He had a mind of the rarest kind. He could memorize entire books and visualize inventions with pinpoint accuracy. Once he had the concept of invention fully visualized, he then undertook the hardwork of bringing it to reality.
In comparison, most other scientists and engineers are unwittingly narrow-minded in their thinking.
How is It that such a man exists vaguely in the public consciousness, only as a fuzzy haze of distant knowledge? Now, let’s change that.
In this article, you’ll learn all about Nikola Tesla and the way he challenged the world you live in now.
Tesla of Serbian heritage was born in 1856 in a small village within the Austrian Empire or modern-day Croatia. Tesla’s birth was during a particularly violent lightning storm.
Reading this as a bad omen, the midwife said to Tesla’s mother that Tesla would be a child of darkness. Tesla’s mom immediately replied:”No, he will be a child of light.” As we’ll see later, this statement was significant.
From an early age, it was clear that Tesla was a remarkable kid. While in high school, he has the ability to perform an integral calculus in his head. It was so unusual that his teachers thought he was cheating. Tesla also possessed an eidetic memory, which means he could recall an entire books and images in a great detail- a gift which he attributes to his mother.
He allegedly used his imagination to temper visions and vivid nightmares that he had as a child. Unsurprisingly, Tesla finished his high school early.
At age 17 though, Tesla had a brush with death after contracting cholera in which he pleaded he might live if his father let him study engineering instead of planned path of a priest, or a career in the army. Tesla’s father agreed.
Despite being bedridden and incredibly ill at the time, to the astonishment of his family, he miraculously recovered. Keeping true to his agreement, Tesla’s father allowed him to study engineering at the university. And the course of history would be changed forever at the moment.
During University in Austria, at the age 21, Tesla got the highest grades possible, could speak eight languages, and was called the star student of the first rank by the University’s dean. Tesla claimed to work from 3:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily.
And because of this professors wrote a letter to Tesla’s father stating that his son maybe killed due to overwork. At the end of the second t=year, things took a turn.
Tesla lost his scholarship and became addicted to gambling, and by his third year, Tesla had gambled away his entire allowance and tuition money. He did, however, managed to gamble back the losses and return the balance back to his family, but the damage to his study had been done.
When exam time came around, Tesla was unprepared and asked for an extension to study but he was denied. He never graduated from the University and did not receive grades for his last semester.
In December of 1878, to hide the fact that he had dropped out of his University, Tesla cut all ties with his family. It was so sudden that his friend thought he was drowned in a river in North Croatia.
In 1880, he moved to Budapest and then finally to America with just four cents in his pocket. After taking a few odd jobs here and there, Tesla began to work for Thomas Edison at Edison Company in 1882.
Here’s a word on Edison:
Many people today consider Thomas Edison as the father of light bulb but he was more along the lines of Steve Jobs of the light bulb i.e. Edison figured out how to sell the light bulb by improving on ideas of 22 other men before him.
Back to this story, in 1885, Tesla said that he could redesign Edison’s DC motors and generators which were very inefficient at that time, and had a tendency to spark and break down.
Edison liked the idea and offered Tesla 1 million US dollars in today’s currency for the job. Tesla got to work and did as he was promised, fixing all the problems with the motors. The new motors and generators were now simpler, didn’t spark and were much more reliable.
In fact, Tesla’s design was so good that it’s still used today for the motors that powers anything from household appliances, to water pumps, power tools, disk drives, smart-phone haptics feedback systems, and of course, the Tesla electric car.
When Tesla had completed this job and asked for the money, Edison laughed and stated: “Mr. Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” Tesla had just been ripped off big time and left Edison’s company. He’d had enough.
Meanwhile, at this time, something monumental was happening: the electrical revolution was just about to take place.
Electricity was the next big thing to change the entire planet. It created an investment startup bubble much greater than the fever that was the dot-com bubble of the 1990-s.
Billion dollar industries arose out of nowhere, and the American economy was lifted into an enhanced growth period that would last for decades. This was due to sudden quantum leaps in manufacturing, household technology and general efficiency of work.
Work and life was simply easier. We simply just can’t comprehend this change today. Why, you might be asking, because everyone alive today was born with electricity. The sheer magnitude of technological change that resulted from household electricity was truly astonishing.
So, after being cheated by Edison, Tesla decided to put his energy into joining the electric revolution in the form of the research of alternating current, or AC. While we search for financial backers to support his vision of an AC powered world,
Tesla took up a job of digging ditches for 2$ a day or 50$ in today’s currency to make ends meet. He described this period as very painful. Tesla eventually struck up a partnership with Westinghouse.
This would put him in direct competition with Edison and his direct current or DC system backed by General Electric. Edison’s DC system created dangerous sparks, couldn’t transmit electricity very far, required a power plant every few kilometers with cables as thick as your arm.
In other words, it was pretty terribly suited to power every home on this planet. Tesla’s AC system on the other hand, used thinner wires, had higher voltages, and could transmit electricity over long distances.
The fight was on, and the prize for the winner was the privilege of lighting up the entire world. By 1893, there had been many shady business deals, stolen ideas and patent suppression that Edison and his money interests wielded over Tesla’s invention. The feud has reached the boiling point and with this, the war of current had reached its peak.
Deep down, Edison knew that his system was inferior to Tesla’s. But of course, he didn’t wasn’t the public to know this. He needed a way to make the public despise AC and accept DC, But how?
Families living near Edison’s laboratory began to notice something a little strange. Their pets suddenly began to disappear. These mysterious disappearances weren’t the work of aliens, but of a group of school boys paid 25 cents for each animal that they stole.
This was Edison’s solution. Once Edison gathered the cats, dogs and other animals from the school boys, he publicly electrocuted them using Tesla’s AC current to prove that it was dangerous, too dangerous to be used in home. In addition to this, Edison aided in the creation of the electric chair making sure that it used AC current.
Tesla responded to all of these by that AC was perfectly safe by famously shooting electric current through his own body to produce light at the 1893 World Fair. This was checkmate to Edison and a symbolic turning point.
As the years went on, AC increased in popularity and became the standard due to its technical advantages. As a result of his invention, Tesla was shot into the stratosphere of stardom, rubbing shoulders with the most important people of the day. He was universally loved by the citizens because he helped to make their lives easier.
From arriving with just four cents in his pocket to now have an unprecedented fame, things has certainly changed for Tesla and his brilliance and his hard work paid off.
Meanwhile, Edison became more and more despised by others within General Electric and eventually lost control of the company after a series of mergers.
With all of that being said, to give Edison some credit, he did invent the phonograph and motion picture camera, so he also has contributed greatly to the society.
During the war of the currents, Tesla designed AC motors, generators, transformers, and power transmission technologies resulting in 25 of the most valuable patents since the invention of the telephone.
These designs were so good that we still use them today in all the systems that power our homes, a fact which we take for granted. This in itself was an incredible achievement by Tesla, but he was just getting started. Over the next few years, Tesla invented the few foundational technologies that drove the 20th century and still hold relevance today.
Want to know more, stay tuned with us. We will follow up the other part of the story Soon!!