By Joy Neighbors
Nikola Tesla is considered one of the greatest inventors of all time. He is best known for his work in designing the modern alternating current (AC) electric supply system.
Tesla worked for Continental Edison Company in 1882, and immigrated from Austria to the U.S. in 1884 to work with Thomas Edison. He redesigned Edison’s direct current (DC) generator after Edison offered him $50,000. When Tesla approached him for payment, Edison replied that it had been a joke and offered him an extra $10 per week. Tesla resigned.
Tesla later licensed his induction motor and sold his AC current patent to George Westinghouse. In1888, the “War of the Currents” began with Tesla and Westinghouse on the AC side, and Edison supporting the DC side. Over time, Westinghouse lost control of his company and Tesla was left to fight for his royalties from the bankers that took over the company. Westinghouse then convinced Tesla to accept a lump sum of $216,000 for the AC patents.
Tesla was brimming with ideas and gained the reputation as a “mad scientist” during the latter 1890s with his work in wireless communications, electrical discharge tubes, remote control, the rotating magnetic field, and x-ray machines.
In 1900, Tesla received funding from J. Pierpont Morgan to establish a trans-Atlantic wireless telecommunications facility at Shoreham, New York. The facility was called Wardenclyffe. Due to the Panic of 1901, which Morgan had started, Tesla could not build his transmitter and in December 1901, Guglielmo Marconi was the first to transmit across the Atlantic.
But Tesla was never one to give up. He invented a bladeless turbine, and a steam-powered mechanical oscillator during the next decade. In November 1915, Reuters reported that Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla had won the Nobel Prize in Physics. But the prize was awarded to two other men with rumors circulating that Edison and Tesla had been “over-looked” because of their intense feud. In 1917, Tesla received the Edison Medal.
From 1919 to 1922, Tesla worked with Allis-Chalmers on a turbine, and in 1928, he received his last patent for a bi-plane that could take off vertically. In all, Tesla had well over 300 patents for his inventions in the U.S., Canada, and Britain.
Tesla kept a regular work schedule throughout his life. He would begin work at 9am and continue until 6pm each day, then break for dinner at 8:00. He then resumed his experiments until 3am when he would retire. He claimed not to sleep over 2 hours at any one time.
He retired in the 1930s and began working as a consultant but his ideas became more outlandish as he became more eccentric. Tesla died alone in his hotel room in New York City of a blood clot to the heart. His body was discovered on January 7, 1943. Nikola Tesla was 86 years old.