Nikola Tesla, credited with about 700 patents, lived between 1856 and 1903. Even the surname “Tesla” means “a felling axe with a wide cutting blade on the handle at certain angles”, so it is possible to predict the technical potential in the family’s origins :))
Raised by his two older sisters, Nikola spent his childhood in the countryside. Back then, boys used to go to the bay to swim. Even then, one of Nikola’s favorite pastimes was a smooth waterwheel, which would later form the basis of bladeless steam turbines.
The most ingenious invention of Nikola when he was a boy was a propeller driven by 16 May bugs glued or sewn onto wooden blades in fours side by side. Nikola said of these bugs: “These creatures were remarkably efficient for once they were started, they had no sense to stop and continued whirling for hours and hours”.
Nikola used to say that he owed his inventive talent mostly to his mother. In his memoirs, he says the following about his mother: “My mother was a truly great woman of rare skill and courage. When my grandmother lost her eyesight, my mother took responsibility of the whole family, so she could not go to school and could not learn to read and write. But she had an incredible memory and could recite volumes of local and classical European poetry.
His parents pressured Nikola to go to a priest school. Nikola went to Karlovac with his cousin for the holiday. He studied language and mathematics there. His most influential professor was Martin Sekulic, a physics teacher who taught by demonstrating principles of his own inventions, such as a freely rotating, aluminum foil-covered light bulb made to spin rapidly when connected to a static machine. He finished his four-year school in three years. After graduation, he returned to his family despite the Cholera epidemic and soon he fell ill too. Just in time, he brought the subject up to his father, who was sitting by his bedside, and said: “Perhaps, I may get well if you let me study engineering” and finally got an unexpected answer: “You will go to the best technical institution in the world.” His father persuaded him to exercise outdoors for a year to regain his health. This time spent in nature made him stronger physically and mentally.
Nikola had an interesting character. He had delusions since childhood. For example, he would visualize an object or event he was thinking about in the form of an image. This allowed him to easily imagine his inventions. During his time in nature, he thought, made plans and devised many things that were almost all wrong. However clear the images in his mind were, his knowledge of the principles was limited. For example, he designed a product that would convey letters and packages across the seas via a submarine tube in spherical containers of sufficient strength to resist the hydraulic pressure. All his calculations of the pumping system that would drive the tube through water were accurate, but when he realized that he had omitted to calculate the resistance of the tube to flowing water, he had to make this invention public property. In other words, the fact that he had not received a technical education prevented him from turning his imagination into an invention.
Finally, he started a Polytechnic School located in Graz, Austria. Nikola, who worked day and night in his freshman year to surprise his parents, did not get the appreciation he expected from his father when he went home with his certificates. After his father died, he learned that this was because one of the professors wrote to his father that his son would die if he continued to work in this way.
After the army scholarship was cut off in the second year, Nikola gave himself up to gambling due to the economic difficulties he experienced. It is said that Nikola, who had exhausted all his family’s money, continued to attend classes unofficially, even though he had to drop out of school. Unfortunately, Nikola, who had hardly convinced his father to study at a technical school, remained a self-taught technical man who could not graduate from engineering. However, inventing was not a job learned at school, so Nikola, who could not stop the inventor in him, continued his work at full speed.
Then in 1881, he started working for a telegraph company in Budapest called the Budapest Telephone Exchange. He was promoted soon after. Then he was offered a job by Edison’s company and went to Paris, where he was assigned to troubleshoot the problems in the facilities. Then, with the reference of a manager in this company, he was sent to the United States. There were frequent problems in the networks that Edison built using direct current, and Nikola was again assigned to fix these technical problems. Nikola’s biggest dream was to bring the alternating current into life. However, Edison found this system too dangerous and was not happy with the interference in his work. Claiming that he did not receive some of the wages he earned from Edison’s company, Nikola resigned after 6 months. One of these projects was the arc lighting system.
After his resignation, he continued to work on this project and two entrepreneurs he met wanted to be financiers for Nikola’s company. However, the partnership did not last long as the investors did not show much interest in Nikola’s new ideas, and Nikola was again out of work and without money. In late 1886, this time two new people agreed to back Nikola’s inventions and patent them. Together they founded the Tesla Electric Company in April 1887. They built him a laboratory, and Nikola made new types of electric motors and generators. Eventually, his dream of utilizing alternating current came true and he developed an induction motor using alternating current. They agreed that the profits obtained from the granted patents would be divided as one-third to Nikola, one-third to Peck and Brown, and the remaining one-third for fund development.
Trying to find a better way to generate alternating current, Nikola developed a steam-powered reciprocating electric generator. He patented it in 1893 and presented it at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition that year.
In 1895, an unfortunate event occurred, and a fire broke out in his laboratory. The experimental instruments were destroyed. This was a disaster for Nikola, who had devoted all his financial savings to this laboratory.
In 1898, he made a radio remote control demonstration at Madison Square Garden in New York. On a small lake, he set up a boat with a 1-meter-long antenna mast to float. There was a radio receiver inside the boat. Thanks to the remote radio control, Nikola Tesla was able to perform various actions such as going forward, turning right or left, stopping, going back, turning the lights on and off at the request of the audience. This unforgettable show fascinated all the audience and was featured on the front page of the daily newspaper. In March 1899, for the first time in the world, he sent sound waves from his laboratory. He recorded cosmic sound waves from outer space. The reason why he did not receive the interest and support of the scientific community when he announced the news was that cosmic radio waves had no place in the scientific community in those years.
In March 1904, Nikola announced in the journal of “Electrical World and Engineering” that the Canadian Niagara Power Company wanted to implement a wireless power transmission system and hoped to use a voltage of 10 million volts. It was a system capable of distributing 10,000 horsepower. The Niagara project never materialized as recorded on paper, instead a small power plant was built.
In August 1917, he explained that by sending short-wave pulses to distant objects, the short-wave pulses could be viewed by collecting the reflected short-wave pulses on a fluorescent screen.
Shortly before the start of the Second World War, he had an accident. He spent six months in bed. He was 86 years old when he died. Eight months after his death, the US Supreme Court upheld the decision that the inventor of the radio was Nikola Tesla.
Unfortunately, the financial difficulties and misfortunes that Nikola Tesla experienced prevented him from becoming more prominent with his work over the years. This led to the fact that the work on many inventions that he could not complete was completed by other scientists, who eventually obtained patents in their own name. Nevertheless, the fact that he managed to get about 700 patents is enough to show how much of a genius he was, don’t you think?