Home > Civilization > Biographies > Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Sun of Croatian Orthodox parents, he was born in July 10, 1856, in the village of Smiljan near the town of Gospiḉ, in present-day Croatia, but at the time part of the Austrian Empire. His father was the Priest Milutin Tesla, priest of the Orthodox Church and his mother Mandici Đuka, daughter of a priest of the Orthodox Church, was descendent from a aromuna family resident in Lika and Banija, but with deep roots in Kosovo. His paternal origin is assumed to be or one of the local clans in the Tara Valley or from the Herzegovinian noble Pavle Orlović descendant. Was gifted to do household tools and memorized many epic poems, but never learned to read.

Nikola Tesla at the age of 23

Nikola Tesla at the age of 23.

Nikola was the fourth of five children, having an older brother (Dane, who was killed in an equestrian accident when Nikola was five) and three sisters (Milka, Angelina and Marica). The family moved to Gospić in 1862. Tesla went to school in Karlovac, doing four years in only three. He studied electrical engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic later in Graz (1875). While there, he studied the uses of alternating current. Some sources state that he received bachelor degrees on the of University ed Graz. However, the University denies it and claims that Tesla did not continue his studies after the first semester of the third year, during which ceased to attend classes. In December 1878 he left Graz and broke relations with his family. His friends thought he had drowned on the river Mura. He went to Maribor, (today’s Slovenia), where he got a first job as Assistant Engineer for a year.

He suffered a nervous breakdown and was later persuaded by his father to attend the Charles University in Prague, where he studied at the time on the summer of 1880. There he was influenced by Ernst Mach. However, after his father past way, he left the University, having completed only a year.

He also suffered from a disease in which flashes of light appeared in front of his eyes blinded him, often accompanied by hallucinations. Most visions were linked to a word or idea with which he encountered; just by hearing the name of a subject, he involuntarily envisioned it with real details. He had flashbacks of past events of his life since childhood. He may have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and had many unusual quirks and phobias. Did things according to the number 3 and refused to stay in hotel rooms whose number was divisible by 3. He hated jewelery, especially earrings pearl. He was obsessed by cleanliness and hygiene, and was mysophobic.

Besides Serbian, he was able to spoke seven other languages: Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian and Latin. Having a photographic memory, read many books and memorized entire books. He used a technique known as visual thinking, which consisted of visualizing an invention in his brain as it needs before moving on to the construction phase.

In 1880 he moved to Budapest to work under Tivadar Puskás in a Telegraph Company, the Phone National Company. While there, he met Nebojša Petrović, who was a young Serbian inventor. Although this encounter was brief, they worked together on a project using twin turbines to create continuous energy. When the telephone communications started in Budapest in 1881, Tesla became the chief electrician of the company, and later engineer of the first telephone system in the country. He also developed a device that, according to some, was a telephone repeater or amplifier, but to some could have been the first loudspeaker.

In 1882 he moved to Paris to work as an engineer at  “Continental Edison Company”, designing improvements to electric equipment, moving to the United States in 1884, settling in New York and becoming an Assistant to the famous scientist of the time Thomas Edison. After a serious falling-out with Edison by not receiving a promised bonus by Edison for some of its applications, improvements and discoveries, loses his job and went through a difficult period.

Nikola Tesla - Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison

In 1887, manages to perform a contract with a big investor and sells its alternating current patent to George Westinghouse, who convinces the American Government to adopt the standard alternating current model as a means for more efficient distribution of electric power, contrary to the interests of his former employer Thomas Edison.

Tesla is often described as an important scientist and inventor of the modern age, a man who “spread light on the face of the Earth”. After his demonstration of the wireless transmission (radio) in 1894, and after having won the “war of currents”, became widely regarded as one of the greatest electrical engineers working in the United States. He is best known for his many revolutionary contributions in the field of electromagnetism. Presented new scientific tests, detailing unsuspecting methods for new application of high-frequency alternating current. Developed an extensive set of inventions for the production and use of electricity, as the electric motor also registered another hundred patents, such as the coupling of two circuits by mutual induction principle adopted in the early industrial generators of hertz waves, the principle and methodology of creating energy (alternating current) through a rotating magnetic field, the rotary field asynchronous motor, among others.

Nikola Tesla's AC dynamo-electric machine (AC Electric generator) in an 1888

Nikola Tesla’s AC dynamo-electric machine (AC Electric generator) in an 1888

Tesla’s patents and theoretical work form the basis of modern electric power systems in alternating current (AC), including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, which contributed to the introduction of the second Industrial Revolution. He also invented the  polyphase current, electrical switches and wye connections, new types of generators and transformers, wireless communication, fluorescent lamp, radio remote control and power transmission prototypes.

The SI unit measuring magnetic flux density or magnetic induction (commonly known as the magnetic field “B”), the Tesla, was named in his honor (at the Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures, Paris, 1960), as well as the Tesla effect of wireless energy transmission to electronic devices with wireless power, which Tesla demonstrated on light bulbs as early as 1893 and aspired to use for the intercontinental transmission of industrial energy levels in his unfinished project Wardenclyffe Tower.

Apart from his work on electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla contributed in many ways to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science; expansion of ballistics and fields of physics. Many of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were important to clear path to the future.

Tesla had a unique and exciting personality. He often alienated, usually with murmurs. He loved animals and especially pigeons. Never got married. He was celibate and asserted that chastity was very useful to its scientific capabilities. However, there were numerous reports of women vying for his affection, some even falling in love. Tesla, though delicate, reacted in a way ambivalent to these women, in the romantic sense. He was quick to criticize the manner of dress of the other and openly expressed his disgust for overweight people, once having fired a secretary because of her weight.

He was widely known for his theatrics, presenting his innovations and demonstrations to the public as an artistic way, almost like a magician. This s doesn’t seem to be in line with his observed propensity to reclusion. However, when participating in social life, many people reported him as a very positive, honest, modest, refined, generous and strong and engaging personality mode. His noble stance evidenced the noble character, a poet, a philosopher, a lover of classical music, a linguist, and a “connoisseur” of food and drink.

Nikola Tesla working in his lab.

Nikola Tesla working in his lab.

In his middle age, he became a very close friend of Mark Twain, passing both a lot of time together. He became a vegetarian, arguing that it was preferable to grow vegetables and that vegetarianism is an recommended alternative to barbarians established habits; It’s wrong to eat expensive meat, when such a large number of people goes through hungry and also the slaughter of animals is immoral and cruel; he also believed that food from plants was “superior to meat, both in the mechanical and mental performance”.

At the end of his life he suffered from extreme sensitivity to light, sound and such other influences. Never having given close attention to his finances, died in complete misery in New York January 7, 1943 at the age of 86. Tesla’s genius is undeniable, and his findings are undeniable, but due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and bizarre claims about possible scientific developments, eventually fell into obscurity and was seen as a mad scientist. Many of his achievements have been wrongly used to support various pseudo-sciences, theories about UFOs and the first forms of the New Age occultism.

Thank you for your open mind.

About João Fernandes

Graduated in International Relations; Business Manager at Webmind; Blogger and multiple interests in the areas of science, technology, history and politics. Works as a Freelance on websites and advertising.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published and it is optional.