Nikola Tesla symbolizes a unifying force and inspiration for all nations in the name of peace and science. He was a true visionary far ahead of his contemporaries in the field of scientific development. New York State and many other states in the USA proclaimed July 10, Tesla’s birthday- Nikola Tesla Day.
Many United States Congressmen gave speeches in the House of Representatives on July 10, 1990 celebrating the 134th anniversary of scientist-inventor Nikola Tesla. Senator Levine from Michigan spoke in the US Senate on the same occasion.
The street sign “Nikola Tesla Corner” was recently placed on the corner of the 40th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. There is a large photo of Tesla in the Statue of Liberty Museum. The Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey has a daily science demonstration of the Tesla Coil creating a million volts of electricity before the spectators eyes. Many books were written about Tesla : Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O’Neill and Margaret Cheney’s book Tesla: Man out of Time has contributed significantly to his fame. A documentary film Nikola Tesla, The Genius Who Lit the World, produced by the Tesla Memorial Society and the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, The Secret of Nikola Tesla (Orson Welles), BBC Film Masters of the Ionosphere are other tributes to the great genius.
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika, which was then part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, region of Croatia. His father, Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor in her own right of household appliances. Tesla studied at the Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. At first, he intended to specialize in physics and mathematics, but soon he became fascinated with electricity. He began his career as an electrical engineer with a telephone company in Budapest in 1881. It was there, as Tesla was walking with a friend through the city park that the elusive solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind. With a stick, he drew a diagram in the sand explaining to his friend the principle of the induction motor. Before going to America, Tesla joined Continental Edison Company in Paris where he designed dynamos. While in Strassbourg in 1883, he privately built a prototype of the induction motor and ran it successfully. Unable to interest anyone in Europe in promoting this radical device, Tesla accepted an offer to work for Thomas Edison in New York. His childhood dream was to come to America to harness the power of Niagara Falls.
Young Nikola Tesla came to the United States in 1884 with an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison: “I know two great men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is you and the other is this young man.” Tesla spent the next 59 years of his productive life living in New York. Tesla set about improving Edison’s line of dynamos while working in Edison’s lab in New Jersey. It was here that his divergence of opinion with Edison over direct current versus alternating current began. This disagreement climaxed in the war of the currents as Edison fought a losing battle to protect his investment in direct current equipment and facilities.
Tesla pointed out the inefficiency of Edison’s direct current electrical powerhouses that have been build up and down the Atlantic seaboard. The secret, he felt, lay in the use of alternating current ,because to him all energies were cyclic. Why not build generators that would send electrical energy along distribution lines first one way, than another, in multiple waves using the polyphase principle?
Edison’s lamps were weak and inefficient when supplied by direct current. This system had a severe disadvantage in that it could not be transported more than two miles due to its inability to step up to high voltage levels necessary for long distance transmission. Consequently, a direct current power station was required at two mile intervals.
Direct current flows continuously in one direction; alternating current changes direction 50 or 60 times per second and can be stepped up to vary high voltage levels, minimizing power loss across great distances. The future belongs to alternating current.
Nikola Tesla developed polyphase alternating current system of generators, motors and transformers and held 40 basic U.S. patents on the system, which George Westinghouse bought, determined to supply America with the Tesla system. Edison did not want to lose his DC empire, and a bitter war ensued. This was the war of the currents between AC and DC. Tesla -Westinghouse ultimately emerged the victor because AC was a superior technology. It was a war won for the progress of both America and the world.
Tesla introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888. One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George Westinghouse. One day he visited Tesla’s laboratory and was amazed at what he saw. Tesla had constructed a model polyphase system consisting of an alternating current dynamo, step-up and step-down transformers and A.C. motor at the other end. The perfect partnership between Tesla and Westinghouse for the nationwide use of electricity in America had begun.
In February 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current. Tesla brilliantly adapted the principle of rotating magnetic field for the construction of alternating current induction motor and the polyphase system for the generation, transmission, distribution and use of electrical power.
Tesla’s A.C. induction motor is widely used throughout the world in industry
and household appliances. It started the industrial revolution at the turn of the
century. Electricity today is generated transmitted and converted to mechanical
power by means of his inventions. Tesla’s greatest achievement is his polyphase
alternating current system, which is today lighting the entire globe.
Tesla astonished the world by demonstrating. the wonders of alternating current electricity at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century. This accomplishment changed the world. He designed the first hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls in 1895, which was the final victory of alternating current. The achievement was covered widely in the world press, and Tesla was praised as a hero world wide. King Nikola of Montenegro conferred upon him the Order of Danilo.