Nikola Tesla Revolutionary Electromagnetic Inventor

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Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer. He was an important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric powe r syste ms. His goal was to develop free electricity. Born an ethnic Serb in the village of Smiljan (now part of Gospić), in the Croatian Military Frontie of the Austrian Empire (modern-day Croatia), Tesla was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen.

 

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Because of his 1894 demonstration of wireless communication through radio and as the eventual victor in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America.

 

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He pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. In the United States during this time, Tesla's fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture. Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transfer to power electronic devices as early as 1893, and aspired to intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.

 

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Tesla engaged in reading many works, memorizing complete books, supposedly having a photographic memory.  Tesla related in his autobiography that he experienced detailed moments of inspiration. During his early life, Tesla was stricken with illness time and time again. He suffered a peculiar affliction in which blinding flashes of light would appear before his eyes, often accompanied by visions. Much of the time the visions were linked to a word or idea he might have come across, at other times they would provide the solution to a particular problem he had been encountering; just by hearing the name of an item, he would be able to envision it in realistic detail. Modern-day synesthetes report similar symptoms. Tesla would visualize an invention in his mind with extreme precision, including all dimensions, before moving to the construction stage; a technique sometimes known as picture thinking. He typically did not make drawings by hand, instead just conceiving all ideas with his mind. Tesla also often had flashbacks to events that had happened previously in his life; these began during his childhood. In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison's ideas. According to his autobiography, in the same year he conceived the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields for which he received patents in 1888. Soon thereafter, Tesla was awakened from a dream in which his mother had died. After her death, Tesla fell ill. He spent two to three weeks recuperating in Gospić and the village of Tomingaj near Gračac, his mother's birthplace. On June 6, 1884, Tesla first arrived in the United States, in New York City, with little besides a letter of recommendation from Charles Batchelor, a former employer. In the letter of recommendation to Thomas Edison, it is claimed that Batchelor wrote, 'I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man', but the exact contents of the letter is disputed in McNichol's book.

 

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Edison hired Tesla to work for his Edison Machine Works. Tesla's work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving some of the company's most difficult problems. Tesla was even offered the task of completely redesigning the Edison company's direct current generators.  On July 30, 1891, at the age of 35, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Tesla established his South Fifth Avenue laboratory in New York in the same year. Later, Tesla established his Houston Street laboratory in New York at 46 E. Houston Street. He lit electric lamps wirelessly at both of the New York locations, providing evidence for the potential of wireless power transmission. Some of Tesla's closest friends were artists. He befriended Century Magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson, who adapted several Serbian poems of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (which Tesla translated). Also during this time, Tesla was influenced by the Vedic philosophy (i.e., Hinduism) teachings of the Swami Vivekananda; so much so that, after his exposure to Hindu-Vedic thought, Tesla started using Sanskrit words to name some of his fundamental concepts regarding matter and energy Tesla claimed he was offered US$50,000 (US$1.1 million in 2007, adjusted for inflation) if he redesigned Edison's inefficient motor and generators, making an improvement in both service and economy. In 1885 when Tesla inquired about the payment for his work, Edison replied, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor," thus breaking his word.  Earning US$18 per week, Tesla would have had to work for 53 years to earn the amount he was promised. The offer was equal to the initial capital of the company.

 

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Tesla immediately resigned when he was refused a raise to US$25 per week. Tesla, in need of work, eventually found himself digging ditches for a short period of time for the Edison company. He used this time to focus on his AC polyphase system. Because of his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist by many late in his life. Tesla died with little money at the age of 86 in a hotel suite in New York City.