“My brain is only a receiver, in the Universe there is a core from which we obtain knowledge, strength and inspiration. I have not penetrated into the secrets of this core, but I know that it exists.” ~ Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical and mechanical engineer and physicist but most importantly, he was a visionary who was way ahead of his time. What separates him from other inventors was his focused pursuit of science backed with humanitarianism. He spoke 8 different languages, could memorize entire books and recite them at will.
He could invent devices solely in his head without even having to write them down. He’s been credited with a list of inventions, half of which cannot even be covered in one article. He intended his creations to harness free energy for the entire planet. Here are some of Tesla’s inventions that did change the world –
“…the idea occurred to me like a flash of lightning and in a second the truth revealed itself. With a stick I drew in the sand the diagrams…”.
This is the discovery that started it all. Tesla arrived in the United States in 1884 with little to no money and an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor, an inventor and close associate of Thomas Edison. He wrote “I know two great men: one is you and the other is this young man.”
At the time, Edison was involved in building and distribution of DC (direct current) generators and motors. He employed Tesla to improve upon and fix the issues he was having with them. His employment though, did not last long as it was evident that Edison gauged the value of inventions based on the money they generated.
Tesla then went on to work on his Alternating Current (AC) electrical system. Where Edison’s DC system required a massive power plant every square mile with very low reach, Tesla’s AC worked at much higher voltages, could transmit electricity over longer distances and used thinner wires. Higher voltages also mean lower currents and less heat generation, which makes it a safe form of energy to use. Not only can AC be used in generators but also in appliances which have motors (converting electrical energy to mechanical) like refrigerators, dishwashers etc.
His vision was purely to create an energy source so great that it could power an entire city and do so, freely. Edison disliked him and thus began the infamous War on Currents and that’s also how the band AC/DC got its name! Due to the less than lucrative nature of that endeavor, funding was withdrawn and the idea of free energy thwarted.
The Radio & Remote Control
Although an inventor named Gugleilmo Marconi has been credited for the invention of the radio, it has been proven that Tesla was indeed the original creator by at least 2 years. He created a basic design of the radio as early as 1892.
He also invented everything associated with the radio including antennas and tuners. Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that Marconi was the pioneer of radio till this very day.
In 1897, Tesla sent the first wireless transmission from his lab in Houston Street, New York to a boat on Hudson river (25 miles away) which was controlled by radio waves. This robot boat was constructed with an antenna which transmitted radio waves coming from the post where Tesla was standing. The radio waves were received by a gadget known as a coherer which transmitted them into mechanical movements.
He changed its direction with a remote control he built. The controller contained several large batteries and switches. It could operate the boats propeller, rudder and scaled-down running lights. To his dismay, his invention was used by the Germans in WWII to develop radio-controlled tanks. Tesla demonstrated that radio signals are just another form of frequency that require a transmitter and receiver to work.
Tesla wrote and lectured extensively on the field of what is now known as Robotics. In fact, one could say he even pioneered thought in that direction.
He wrote in one of his journals, “A multitude of jobs that are presently still performed by human hands will be performed by automaton’s hands. At this very moment scientists in the laboratories of American universities endeavor to create something what can be described as a thinking machine. Such development I have already predicted. In fact, I have constructed robots. Today, robots are an undeniable fact, but their principles are yet to be explored. In the twenty-first century robots will have the role that slaves had in the ancient civilizations.“
He constructed an automaton that looked and behaved like a human. It had a means of direction, motion and sense organs like eyes to get impressions of the outside world: man’s mechanical counterpart. It would be able to perform all the same tasks as man, with a similar intelligence. He believed that in order to do this it would take a certain elemental equivalent of the brain to determine behavior.
To obtain mastery over this science mankind would need a stepping stone and ‘Tele-automatics’ was that bridge. It essentially means controlling the movements and operations of distant mechanical objects; allowing transmission of intelligence. Tesla’s robot boat (mentioned above) was proof that this was possible. Through his discourses he ushered in a new age of science; one that could now perceive the idea of machine intelligence.
A German engineer and physicist, Wilhelm Rontgen is usually credited as the one who discovered X-rays. However, Tesla used a much more sophisticated vacuum tube technology to take X-ray images and called them Shadow Graphs. He revealed that his own research on X-rays had begun in 1892 but along with many of his ideas, had been destroyed by a fire in his laboratory. There are still many testimonies supporting him as the founder.
He was also the first to shed light on the negative effects of the technology on the human body and refused to conduct any experiments on live subjects. When it became a common system of diagnosis, he illustrated the three main elements of radio protection: distance, time and shielding. Meaning; the subject needed to be adequately away from the x-ray source, for an exposure time of maximum 2-3 minutes and he even constructed a protection shield of aluminium wires connected to the ground to ensure utmost safety.
Neon and Fluorescent Light
Tesla’s experiments with AC systems resulted in the development of the Tesla Coil. This device is an electrical resonant transformer with an air core. It creates crackling sparks and channels of electric flame when turned on, a visual delight. The science behind Tesla Coil has its roots in the idea that the Earth itself is a magnet that can generate electricity, using frequencies as transmitters and receivers on the other end.
Although today it’s used mainly for entertainment, it served as a precursor to neon and fluorescent lights. He constructed these lights with elongated glass tubes filled with gas and coated with phosphor. Tesla wanted to create better and brighter lamps than the incandescent bulbs Edison had marketed. In Edison’s lamps, only about 10% of energy would come out as light.
However, using the Tesla Coil with its high frequency and low voltage, he created fluorescent and neon lights that were wireless and only dependent on the high frequency electricity that passed through in the air. This effect came to be known as ‘radio transmission’.
AC Induction Motor
Known as one of the ten greatest discoveries of all time, Tesla’s Induction Motor revolutionized everything from household appliances to power tools and vehicles. It started the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the century. For a long time he held onto his discovery of the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics, and also one of the greatest discoveries of that time when the practical answer appeared in his mind. He fitted an iron motor to spin rapidly in a rotating magnetic field produced by the interaction of two alternating currents out of step with each other. This also earned him a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1975.
Tesla is also known to have discovered radar, cosmic rays, the death ray, diathermy, high-frequency furnace, microwave transmission, space navigation code, cryogenic engineering, electro therapeutics, wireless communication, energy transmission to satellites, reciprocating dynamo, hydro-electricity, transistors, resonant frequency and was the first to record radio waves from outer space.
He also had in-depth, patented and accurate drawings of ‘flying saucers’ and sophisticated planes. He envisioned the future to be devoid of road vehicles. His imagination was a sci-fi dreamscape. Obtaining around 300 patents worldwide, there are still many hidden projects in archives. Countless more were seized by the FBI upon his death. He died penniless, with too many accounts of stolen patents and withdrawn funding. His was a story of hard struggle but great perseverance that only a man of such immense passion and love for knowledge could have, and with that passion he changed the world.