Nikola Tesla

220px-Tesla_circa_1890Nikola Tesla (Serbian / American; 10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) Inventor, physicist, and mechanical & electrical engineer. Tesla is one of the most important and fascinating inventors in the field of electricity. After studying electrical engineering he worked with telegraph and telephone designs, and conceived the idea of a brushless induction motor. In 1884 he moved to the United States and was hired by Thomas Edison to work at his Edison Machine Works company. His duties there involved problem solving and improving on DC generator designs. He left over a disagreement with Edison and started his own company called the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing Company. The company designed and sold arc lighting systems, but a difference of opinion with investors over plans to build an alternating current motor caused him to be relieved of his duties there. After this, Tesla constructed the initial brushless alternating current induction motor, which he demonstrated to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE) in 1888. In the same year, he developed the principles of his Tesla coil and began working with George Westinghouse at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company’s Pittsburgh labs. Unlike many others, Westinghouse was open to Tesla’s ideas for a complete polyphase alternating current electrical system, and gave him the backing he needed to realize this dream. This was in direct competition with Edison’s direct current system, and led to the great “battle of the currents”. Tesla’s alternating current system had the advantage that it can be transformed to very high voltages, allowing it to be transmitted for much greater distances than direct current. It also allowed for the use of his brushless induction motors, which require much less maintenance because of the elimination of the brushes and commutator of a DC motor. In April of 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own single node vacuum tubes, and made many discoveries which helped advance this science. After this he began to investigate high frequency alternating currents, and generated AC of one million volts using a conical Tesla coil. At this time his interests became directed towards the wireless transmission of electrical signals and energy. He designed and demonstrated cordless gas discharge lamps, transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, and effectively built the first radio transmitter. When Tesla was 41 years old, he filed the first basic radio patent (U.S. Patent 645576), and a year later demonstrated a radio controlled boat to the US military. In 1899 Tesla decided to move to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and built a laboratory where he would have room for his high-voltage, high-frequency experiments. Here he experimented with wireless telegraphy, the ionosphere, the earth’s telluric currents, artificial lightning, and even listened for extraterrestrial radio signals. After the Colorado Springs experiments, Tesla moved to Shoreham, Long Island, and built a facility known as the Wardenclyffe Tower. This tower was 187 feet in height, 68 feet in diameter, and had a domed cupola at the top that weighed 55 tons. Its purpose was to demonstrate the ability to send and receive information and electrical power on a large scale without interconnecting wires. This idea was way ahead of its time, and the facility could not become fully operational due to lack of investment capital. Unfortunately, Tesla suffered increasingly from obsessive-compulsive disorder as he grew older, and died poor and unrewarded for his genius. It’s interesting to note that one of the newest lamp types on the market today, the induction lamp, is very similar to what Tesla designed and demonstrated at the 1893 World’s Fair. Read more…

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