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  • Nikola Tesla,

  • famed and mysterious scientist,

  • inventor and proponent of the AC current system,

  • the Tesla Coil

  • and some believe

  • the inventor of the death ray

  • and free electricity for all!

  • Nikola Tesla was born in the Austrian Empire in 1856

  • in what is Croatia today.

  • His father was an Orthodox priest

  • who wanted his son to enter the same profession

  • but Nikola was only interested in science.

  • His mother invented labour saving devices

  • in her spare time

  • and Tesla credited her

  • as being the source of his inventiveness.

  • Around the age of 17 he fell ill

  • and was in bed for 9 months.

  • His father promised to send him

  • to the best science education

  • if he recovered from the illness.

  • He excelled in his first year

  • at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz

  • earning the highest grades possible.

  • He was fascinated

  • by the mysterious phenomena of electricity

  • in his classes and wanted to know more

  • of this wonderful force.

  • He worked incredibly hard,

  • barely sleeping.

  • A trait that he was to keep throughout his life.

  • His teachers even wrote to Tesla's family

  • warning that he could die from overwork.

  • In subsequent years though,

  • he lost his scholarship

  • and became addicted to gambling,

  • losing his entire allowance.

  • Poor financial management

  • was another trait

  • that would hound Tesla in his later years.

  • When it came time for his exams

  • Tesla was unprepared.

  • He asked for more time

  • but it was refused.

  • So he dropped out of his studies

  • and never graduated.

  • Tesla got himself back on his feet

  • after a few years

  • and started work at the Budapest telephone exchange

  • as Chief Electrician

  • where he invented and perfected

  • a telephone amplifier.

  • He then went to work

  • for the Continental Edison Company in Paris.

  • There he was working on a new innovation.

  • Electric lighting.

  • His skills got him noticed

  • and soon he found himself heading to New York

  • to work for Edison.

  • In New York he was assigned to improving

  • and repairing generators.

  • After fixing the generators of the SS Oregon

  • all throughout the night

  • he happened to run into Edison.

  • Edison joked,

  • “I see our Parisian has been out all night!”.

  • Tesla explained

  • that he'd been working on the repairs for SS Oregon

  • at which point Edison conceded to his colleague:

  • "Mm,

  • this is a darn good man!"

  • Tesla started working

  • on an arc lighting system for Edison.

  • But it was never implemented.

  • Tesla left their employment shortly afterwards.

  • There was talk of unpaid bonuses

  • and disparaging remarks from Edison.

  • Tesla marked his departure

  • by scribbling across two pages of his diary

  • "Goodbye to the Edison Machine Works.

  • Tesla founded his own company,

  • Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing

  • and established a number of patents.

  • Even though it had the Tesla name,

  • the reality was

  • that the company was financed by two businessmen.

  • When they decided to abandon manufacture

  • and set up a new company

  • it left Tesla destitute and penniless.

  • During 1886 he had to work as a ditch digger

  • just to survive.

  • He wrote of the time:

  • My high education in various branches of science,

  • mechanics and literature

  • seemed to me

  • like a mockery

  • However

  • Tesla soon got himself back on his feet

  • with the invention of a new motor

  • that ran on alternating current or AC

  • which was eventually bought by Westinghouse.

  • Tesla was a champion of AC

  • and was hired by Westinghouse for $2000 per month

  • and given a hefty bonus.

  • Westinghouse Electric Company was founded

  • by George Westinghouse

  • and based their technology on AC.

  • In the late 1880s and early 1890s

  • a fierce commercial battle was going on

  • between Edison and Westinghouse.

  • Known asThe Battle of the Currents

  • many unsavoury publicity stunts

  • were made by Edison

  • trying to prove that AC was unsafe.

  • But we'll not confront that particular Elephant in the room

  • for now...

  • Tesla became very wealthy

  • and now had enough money

  • to fund his own research,

  • hiring staff and opening workshops.

  • This was the golden age of Tesla's inventiveness.

  • In 1891 at the age of 35 he became a US citizen.

  • That same year

  • he patented the Tesla Coil.

  • He experimented with a system of wireless lighting.

  • Giving several public demonstrations

  • but he never received

  • commercial backing for the project.

  • At one demonstration

  • he told onlookers

  • that a system like this could transmit

  • intelligible signals or power

  • to any distance without the use of wires”.

  • The thought that wireless power

  • could encompass the globe

  • was an idea that Tesla devoted much time and research to.

  • He started research

  • on wireless telegraphy

  • and in his laboratory observed strange signals

  • which he thought came from another planet.

  • He wrote to the press in 1899 and 1890

  • and an article was published entitled

  • Talking With Planets

  • More recently speculators think

  • he may have

  • unintentionally picked up signals

  • from Marconi's experiments

  • that were happening around the same time.

  • Tesla threw his money

  • into the wireless telegraphy research

  • and borrowed heavily from JP Morgan.

  • However Marconi's radio based system

  • which Tesla thought was in part copied from his designs

  • was the first to transmit a message

  • across the Atlantic.

  • After that,

  • investors preferred Marconi's system

  • Which left Tesla once again without funds.

  • In 1906

  • it's speculated Tesla had a nervous breakdown.

  • From 1900

  • Tesla had lived in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

  • In 1922 he moved to the St Regis Hotel.

  • Leaving his Waldorf Astoria bill unpaid.

  • After that

  • he moved from hotel to hotel

  • leaving his bills unpaid.

  • He liked feeding the pigeons

  • from the windows of his hotel room.

  • Despite issues with money

  • he spent over $2000

  • building a device

  • to heal the bones of a sick pigeon.

  • He said:

  • "There was one,

  • a beautiful bird,

  • pure white with light grey tips on its wings.