Few people recognize his name today, and even among those who do, the

words Nikola Tesla are likly to summon up the image of a crackpot rather than

an authentic scientist. Nikola Tesla was possibly the greatest inventor the

world has ever known. He was, without doubt, a genius who is not only credited

with many devices we use today, but is also credited with astonishing, sometimes

world-transforming, devices that are even simply amazing by todays scientific


Tesla was born at precisely midnight between July 9th and 10th, 1856, in

a small Hungarien village. He was born to his father, a priest, and his mother,

an unschooled but extremely intelligent women. Training for an engineering career,

he attendedthe Technical University of Graz, Austria and was shortly employed in a

government telegraph engineering office in Budapest, where he made his first

invention, a telephone repeater. Tesla sailed to America in 1884, arriving in New

York City with four cents in his pocket, and many great ideas in his head. He first

found employment with a young Thomas Edison in New Jersey, but the two inventors,

were far apart in background and methods. But, because of there differences, Tesla

soon left the employment of Edison, and in May 1885, George Westinghouse, head of

the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, bought the patent rights to many

of Tesla's inventions. After a difficult period, during which Tesla invented but

lost his rights to many inventions, he established his own laboratory in New York

City in 1887, where his inventive mind could be free. In 1895, Tesla discovered

X-rays after hours upon hours of experimentation. Tesla's countless experiments

included work on different power sources and various types of lightning. The Tesla

coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets

and other electronic equipment for wireless communication. That year also marked the

date of Tesla's United States citizenship. Brilliant and eccentric, Tesla was then

at the peak of his inventive powers. He managed to produce new forms of generators,

transformers, he invented the fluorescent light, and he became extremely involved

with the wireless transmission of power.

During the 1880a and 1890's Tesla and Edison became rivals, fighting to

develop there inventions as quickly as possible. In 1915 he was severely disappointed

when a report that he and Edison were to share the Nobel Prize. Edison went back on

a promise to pay him a sum of money for a particular inventions and Tesla broke off

relations at once and went into the inventing business for himself. The biggest

rivaling against Edison was Tesla's development of alternating current which was

very conflicting to Edison's use of electricity, direct current. This great power

struggle between Tesla and Edison's use of electricity practically ended when Tesla's

alternating current won out and was most favored and ruled most practical. Tesla's

alternating current was used to light the Chicago's World Fair. His success was a factor in winning him the contract to install the first power machinery at Niagara

Falls, which bore Tesla's name and patent numbers. The project carried power to

Buffalo by 1896. In 1898 Tesla announced his invention of a teleautomatic boat guided

by remote control. When skepticism was voiced, Tesla proved his claims for it before

a crowd in Madison Square Garden.

The biggest controversy in Tesla's career is what most popularizes his

name today, this controversy is the fact that Tesla made hundreds of inventions

and discoveries that was simply amazing. Many people have called tesla "a man out

of his time" because his astonishing experiments. In Colorado Springs, where he

stayed from May 1899 until early 1900, Tesla made what he regarded as his most

important discovery, terrestrial stationary waves. By this discovery he proved

that the earth could be used as a conductor and would be as responsive as a tuning

fork to electrical vibrations of a certain pitch. He also lighted 200 lamps without

wires from a distance of 25 miles and created man-made lightning, producing flashes

measuring 135 feet . He was fond of creating neighborhood-threatening electrical

storms in his apartment laboratory and once nearly knocked down a tall building

by attaching a mysterious "black box" to its side. He claimed he could have destroyed

the entire planet with a similar device. Caustic criticism greeted his speculations

concerning communication with other planets, his assertions that he could split the

earth like an apple, and his claim to having invented a death ray capable of

destroying 10,000 airplanes, 250 miles distant. Because of a lack of funds, his

ideas remained in his notebooks, which are still examined by engineers for

unexplored clues. Many of these were eventually inherited by Tesla's nephew, and later

housed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. However, a major portion

of his notes were impounded by the US Government, and very few of those have surfaced

today. And because he kept so few notes, to this day we can only guess at the

details of many of the fantastic scientific projects that he occupied. Many questions

have raised concerning his confiscated notes, although, the government regards

some as never existed and declared others as "lost". Was he working on particle

weapons and cloaking devices for the United States Government when he died? Was

Reagan's Strategic Defense program known as "starwars" the result of secret research

based on Tesla's discoveries half a century before?

Nikola Tesla allowed himself only a few close friends. Among them were

the writers Robert Underwood Johnson, Mark Twain, and Francis Marion Crawford. In

his later years, Tesla was alone with only his inventions and calculations, although

he did bred pigeons later in life, who he gave all the affection to that he was

unable to give human beings. Telsa's name holds over 700 patents. Tesla died

privately and peacefully at 87 on January 7, 1943 New York hotel

room from no

apparent cause in particular. Hundreds filed into New York City's Cathedral of

St.John for his funeral services, and a flood of messages acknowledged the loss of

a great genius. Three Nobel Prize winners in physics (Millikan, Compton, and W.H.

Barton) addressed their tributes. One of the outstanding intellects of the world

who paved the way for many of the technological developments of modern times,

Nikola Tesla.

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