Having lived in both the 19th and 20th centuries, Nikola Tesla is a part of history. A gifted inventor who excelled in physics and math, much of his technology is still used today. Sadly, others typically get the credit for most of his inventions. Recently, however, high-profile companies named their own creations after him. Since Tesla semis and Nikola trucks make good use of AC current–a Nikola Tesla invention–it’s only right that they bear his name. It may be almost a century late, but Nikola Tesla is finally getting some of the credit he deserves.
Nikola Tesla – Humble Beginnings
In 1856, Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, Croatia. After growing up on the family farm, he enrolled at the Technical University of Graz. There, he studied physics and math. It’s been said that math came so easily to him, he could solve calculus puzzles in his head. What’s more, it was at the U of G that Tesla’s interest in electricity was sparked. Nikola couldn’t get enough of one professor’s experiments demonstrating the magical force. Though his life’s work would center on electricity, Tesla dropped out at 22. After leaving school, he went to work as a draftsman. Later, he worked as a chief electrician for the Budapest Telephone Exchange.
Working With the Big Boys
One of Tesla’s earliest inventions was a new type of motor, a brushless AC device. Later the same year he developed the motor, Nikola went to work with the Continental Edison Company in Paris. After 2 years, he moved to the head office in New York. There, Tesla’s smarts and drive wowed Thomas Edison himself. However, after Edison reneged on an offer to pay $50,000 to improve his DC dynamos design, Nikola quit. He then tried to launch his own electric company but was unsuccessful.
Tesla was successful in getting support for his research, though. He filed and received 30+ patents over the next 2 years. After speaking at a meeting of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, Edison rival George Westinghouse partnered with Nikola Tesla. The investor paid Nikola for the use of his AC motor patents, and even provided him with a lab. The deal allowed Nikola to work on his ideas without having to hold down a day job. Unfortunately, the funds dried up when Westinghouse ran into money trouble. A renegotiation left Telsa with no royalty rights.
When fire destroyed Nikola Tesla’s lab full of equipment, inventions-in-progress, and notes in the late 1890’s, he briefly took his work to Colorado Springs. By 1900, however, he was back in New York and ready to take on another well-known partner: J.P. Morgan. With Morgan’s backing, Tesla started working on a network for world-wide communications. Once more, though, Nikola’s luck and the money ran out, leaving him on his own again. Tesla would continue to work on his inventions all on his own until his death in 1943. Financing for his research came through marketing his patents and, occasionally, from investors.
10 Things You Might Not Know Were Tesla Inventions
Over the years, Nikola Tesla filed over 700 patents. Some are on the level of sci-fi such as a death ray. He claimed it would shoot a distance of nearly 250 miles and had the power to destroy 10,000 airplanes. Other Tesla ideas are well-known and in use today. A list of some Nikola Tesla inventions include:
- A/C Power
- The Electric Motor
- Light—fluorescent bulbs
- Remote Control
- Infinite Free Energy—the Tesla Coil
- Wireless Communication
Everything on the list is familiar, although other people typically get the credit for many of them. For example, most people associate Thomas Edison with the light bulb. Plus, Guglielmo Marconi often gets credit for the radio. But they all came from Tesla’s brilliant mind.
He may have died poor and nearly unknown, but there’s fresh interest in Nikola Tesla in the 21st Century. It has brought him some of the credit he deserves for shaping the world we live in today.