Nikola Tesla had a fascinating childhood. The son of a Serbian Orthodox Priest and a mother, who came from a long line of inventors, he was able to spend much of his childhood inventing and trying new things. During a long, cold and dry spell, he ‘discovered’ static electricity. He thought of this often and it profoundly influenced his adult life and his inventions. As a child he invented a cornstalk popgun, which contained the principles he adapted when he devised particle-beam weapons. And, after seeing a picture of Niagara Falls, young Nikola (he was somewhere between 10- and 14-years-of-age) told his Uncle Josip that one day he would place a gigantic wheel under the waterfall and harness it. In 1895, he and George Westinghouse built the first hydro-electric power plant in Niagara Falls.
His older brother died after a fall from a horse and thereafter Nikola began having “out-of body” experiences. In fact, those experiences were so real he sometimes needed his sisters to help him tell which were real and which were hallucinations. Those experiences continued throughout his life and actually were an asset to his creativity. He could visualize his finished inventions and modify them in his mind before committing them to paper. To learn more about the life of this fascinating and influential man, check out Wizard : the Life and Times of Nikoa Tesla : Biography of a Genius.
Nikola began his career as an electrical engineer in 1881 while working with a a telephone company located in Budapest. It was there that the solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind, which led to the creation of the induction motor. In 1884, Tesla moved to the United States to work with Thomas Edison. He and Edison disagreed on direct current versus alternating current. Edison promoted the direct current, while Tesla believed the alternating current was more efficient. Tesla won that disagreement…
He was a pioneer in many fields – in 1896 the Electrical Review published X-rays of a man which had been taken by Tesla. Others were also experimenting with X-rays at the same time but Tesla didn’t claim priority. It is reported that he said, “I don’t care that they stole my idea…I care that they don’t have any of their own.”
Interestingly, in 1901 Tesla imagined a means of instant communication – he imagined receiving telegrams, stock quotes, etc., assigning them each a different frequency, which would then be broadcast to a device held in your hand. He essentially envisioned the internet and smart phones…
He is perhaps most well-known for the Tesla Coil, which he developed in 1891. The Tesla Coil transforms energy into extremely high-voltage charges, which create powerful electrical fields capable of producing electrical arcs. A Tesla Coil is made of two parts – a primary coil and a secondary coil. Each has its own capacitor (which stores electrical energy like a battery does). The whole system is powered by a transformer. The two circuits are connected by a spark gap. The Tesla Coil revolutionized the way electricity was understood. Variations of the Tesla Coil are still used in radios and televisions.
Interesting Facts About Nikola Tesla:
- He was born during a lightning storm, which the midwife claimed was a bad omen. She said he would be a child of darkness. The family legend is that his mother replied, “No. He will be a child of light.”
- By around the age of 12, he developed strange “habits.” He developed an aversion to women’s earrings, and the sight of a pearl would give him “fits.” He would never touch another person’s hair and could develop a fever looking at a peach.
- Not all his ideas were practical. One such idea was a ring around the equator which would transport people from one end of the globe to the other…
(Wizard : the life and times of Nikola Tesla : Biography of a Genius).
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Wireless Electricity? How the Tesla Coil Works, by Kelly Dickerson. July 10, 2014. livescience.com
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