Wishing you a New Year that’s sparkling with fun!
The topic of this week’s blog will be the life and work of one of the best known Serbian scientists, Nikola Tesla,
the fascinating genius who electrified the world and dreamed up death rays.
July 10 is the birthday of Nikola Tesla, who would have been 161 years old today.
It’s a good time to celebrate the life of the Serbian-American engineer and physicist: Without Tesla, you might not be able to affordably power your home, let alone read this sentence.
Tesla filed more than 300 patents during the 86 years of his life, and his inventions helped pave the way for alternating currents (AC), electric motors, radios, fluorescent lights, lasers, and remote controls, among many other things.
Some of his ideas from later in life, however, seem strange – even now. He once described plans for a death ray, for example, and alluded to another idea for an impenetrable “wall of force” to block and destroy foreign invasions.
Here’s a glimpse into the remarkable life of one of history’s most important – and eccentric – geniuses.
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan in the Austo-Hungarian Empire (modern-day Croatia).
His father, Milutin Tesla, was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother, Djuka Mandic, was an inventor of household appliances.
In college, Tesla was initially interested in studying physics and mathematics, but soon became fascinated by electricity.
He attended the Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague (Czechia). He took a job as an electrical engineer at a telephone company in Budapest (Hungary) in 1881.
He developed the concept of an induction motor while walking in a park with a friend.
Later, while he was in Strasbourg, France in 1883, he built a prototype of the induction motor (an AC motor powered by electromagnetic induction) and tested it successfully. Since he couldn’t get anyone in Europe interested in it, Tesla came to the United States to work for Thomas Edison in New York.
Tesla’s childhood dream was to harness the power of Niagara Falls.
In 1895, he designed the first hydroelectric power plant in the Falls, a major victory for alternating current. A statue was later erected on Goat Island in Tesla’s honor.
For all his brilliance, Tesla was pretty eccentric. At one point, he stopped eating solid foods.
He ate honey, drank bowls of warm milk, and made a potion from vegetables like artichokes and celery.
He claimed he never slept for more than two hours at a time.
However, Tesla did admit to dozing off sometimes to “recharge his batteries.” According to one report, he once worked for 84 hours without sleeping.
In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a principle of physics that forms the basis for nearly all devices that use AC power.
He used this principle to construct the AC induction motor and polyphase system for the generation, transmission, distribution and use of electric power.
While Tesla was working in Thomas Edison’s lab in New Jersey, the two fought a ‘war’ with over the best form of electrical current.
Edison favored direct current or DC (which flows in one direction), while Tesla favored alternating current or AC (which changes direction periodically). This led to the “war of the currents,” which Tesla eventually won because of AC’s greater efficiency.
Tesla also worked closely with industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse, and their partnership helped establish electricity across America.
to be continued….