Forward-Thinking: Who Was Nikola Tesla?
The name of Nikola Tesla has appeared in news stories, novels, comics, movies, songs, and countless other media. It also is the name of Elon Musk’s company, which is known for pushing the boundaries of technology, but who was he?
Many people think of Tesla as an inventor, an engineer, and a futurist. This article sheds more light on the man behind the modern myth.
The Priest’s Son
Tesla was born on 10 July 1856 in Smiljan, a village in what is now Croatia. At the time of his birth, the country was part of the Austrian Empire.
His father was an Orthodox priest, who hope that his son would follow in his footsteps. However, the electrical demonstrations given by his physics teacher at school interested him more than the divine liturgy did. At high school, he discovered that he could do integral calculus in his head. This initially led his teachers to believe that he was cheating. The boy completed his four-year high school course in three years, and then returned to his village.
Studies and Work
Tesla obtained a military frontier scholarship, which enabled him to study at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz, Austria. Initially, the young genius excelled at his studies, but by the second year of the course, personal problems and mounting debt was taking its toll.
He ended up not graduating from the university. It was around this time that he discovered an enjoyment of betting on games of billiards. Tesla no doubt would have appreciated the huge range of pokies available online today. He eventually managed to find work at a telegraph exchange office in Budapest, Hungary, in 1881. The following year, he moved to Paris, where he worked for the Continental Edison Company.
Life In the USA
In 1884, Tesla had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States. Based in New York City, he worked for Edison Machine Works for a while, and then went solo.
The young inventor found investors, who enabled him to set up companies and laboratories in the city. Among his inventions from the time was an alternating current induction motor. It, along with various patents, made Tesla a lot of money. His success encouraged him to experiment with other ideas, among which were a wireless-controlled boat, machines for x-ray imaging, and generators. He also started trying to develop wireless electricity supply, and even considered the possibility of his inventions being used for wireless communication.
The Last Decades
The first few decades of the 1900s were a difficult time for Tesla. He ran out of funding before he was able to complete his experiments in wireless electricity and communication; something that marked the start of his very real decline.
By the 1930s, the inventor and engineer was making some of his more bizarre claims. In 1932, he told a press conference that he invented a cosmic ray motor. In 1934, he claimed to have invented a superweapon that shoots death rays. He died at age 86 in his room at the New Yorker Hotel on 7 January 1943.