By Pooja Solanki:
Touted as the ‘Master of Lightning’, Nikola Tesla was certainly one the greatest scientists of his times. He has carved out his niche in the world by excelling in the fields of Science and Technology. Born in Serbia and later acquiring the citizenship of America, Tesla was an inventor and researcher who discovered the rotating magnetic field, which is the basis of most alternating-current machinery.
Having pursued a degree in engineering, he has many inventions and discoveries to his name. In the year 1891, he invented the Tesla coil, an induction coil which is extensively used in radio technology and also in television sets and other electronic equipments. Besides, he has invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla induction motor, developed the alternating current (AC) electrical supply system that included a motor and transformer, and 3-phase electricity.
One of the most significant inventions of his is the fluorescent bulb. He used them in his labs 40 years before the industry actually came up with them. He took glass tubes at the World Fair, and bent them into famous scientists’ name-the first neon signs! He also designed the world’s first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls in the year 1895. Also, he patented the first speedometer for cars in 1916. The Tesla bladeless disk turbine engine that he designed, when joined with modern materials, is proving to be among the most efficient motors ever designed. He is actually, in fact, attributed with the invention of all the things that are listed at the beginning of the paper.
In his Colorado Springs, Colorado lab, in the year 1899, Tesla created what he thought was his biggest discovery ever– terrestrial stationary waves. He sent waves of energy through Earth that bounced back to the source. When they came back, he added more electricity to it. He lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles and created the biggest man-made lightning bolt ever, which was 130ft. long! That’s a world record still unbroken.
He is also credited with inventing modern radio. The news came out recently when the Supreme Court overturned Guglielmo Marconi’s patent in 1943 in favour of Tesla’s earlier patents. There are many unpatented inventions in his name and he has been granted more than hundred patents. He once claimed the invention of an electrical generator that would not consume any fuel. He alleged this ten years after patenting a successful method for producing alternating current. He concluded that he exploited the cosmic rays and caused them to operate a motive device.
In spite of his impeccable inventions and discoveries, Tesla hardly got any appreciation for his work. He was continuously harassed by his fellow scientists. In 1885, George Westinghouse, head of the Westinghouse Electric Company, purchased the patent rights to Tesla’s system of dynamos, transformers and motors. Westinghouse used Tesla’s alternating current system to light the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.
The worst for Tesla had come in the form of Thomas Edison. Edison was his rival at the end of the nineteenth century. His fame was envied by Edison and constantly tried to discredit him. In 1915, he was severely disappointed when a report that he and Edison were to share the Nobel Prize proved flawed. Tesla was the recipient of the Edison Medal in 1917, the highest honour that the American Institute of Electrical Engineers could confer upon.
When Edison invented the electric bulb, he had few hitches initially. He needed a system to distribute electricity to the houses. He designed a Direct Current (DC), which had many bugs in it. Edison approached Tesla in this concern and promised a lot of money to him. He readily took the challenge and got the bugs out. Edison didn’t keep his promise and didn’t give him a single penny. Tesla never fought for his share. Well, such was the greatness of this man.
Besides being a great scientist, he used to write poetry. Having few friends, he was quite close to poets, scientists, industrialists and financiers. His invention of polyphase electric power garnered him worldwide fame and fortune. After all this, he died poor scarring his reputation. Unfortunately, he is still unknown to many textbooks and encyclopaedias. He was a man out of his time with excellent genius, but people at that time thought his intelligence to be insanity and science fiction. But still he managed to remain in the hearts of millions and his inventions are still remembered and used today.