Inventor Nikola Tesla’s Unfulfilled Dream: Wireless Power Supply

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Nikola Tesla 

Who was Nikola Tesla? This name may not be familiar to most people now, but no doubt everyone is enjoying the benefits of his invention.

He died 80 years ago, but the Serbian-American inventor owes much of the reason why this article can be read by you and me on your phone, tablet or other device.

“I think Tesla was not just the father of electricity or global communications,” historian and filmmaker Michael Krause told the BBC. “He was ahead of his time – he was a A man of vision who has contributed to the evolution of mankind.”

Back in the late 1890s, when Tesla was walking up and down the stage of a lecture hall at Columbia College in New York City, light tube in hand, introducing his newly invented oscillating transformer to the audience, the human world was still largely in the dark.

“Electricity was the stuff of the future when most people had to go to places where it was demonstrated to see it in action,” historian Iwan R. So described in the book Tesla and the Future of Electricity.

Of course, that quickly changed.


bright lights

Inventor Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943 ) lectures at the Paris Physical Society and the International Electrotechnical Society


Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in the Habsburg Empire of Austria. His hometown, Smirjan, is now in Croatia, but his family is Serbian. He left his hometown as a young man for the brightly lit metropolis of the New World.

He arrived in New York in 1884 to work for the famous inventor and businessman Thomas Edison.

“He came from an ancient world and became one of the protagonists of modern civilization,” Krauss said.

According to another biographer, Inez Whitaker Hunt, the electrical and mechanical engineer — and futurist — had only a few dollars in his pocket when he first set foot on American soil. points and calculation drafts around an aircraft.

It wasn’t flying machines that made Tesla famous, though. He spent years perfecting the AC motor.

His arrival in the United States came at an opportune time; the battle over different types of electricity was heating up.


Power up the world

In 1899, Tesla's laboratory in Colorado Springs, behind his invention of the "magnifying transmitter" (magnifying transmitter)

At the time, the world needed more energy to grow, so there was a race to find the most efficient way to generate and power electric machines and lighting.

“There are two different power transmission systems competing with each other,” Morus told the BBC.

The focus of the competition is whether to use alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC) for power transmission. The two sides are American entrepreneur and engineer George Westinghouse (George Westinghouse) and Tesla boss Thomas Edison.

Edison’s company invested in direct current, which could only flow in one direction and for short distances at one voltage.

Alternating current flows in multiple directions, can travel longer distances, can step up or step down voltage, and can send power to more places.

Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.  His ashes and personal belongings are stored there

“It’s a bit like comparing a horse and buggy to a jet airplane,” Tesla biographer Mark Cypher told the BBC history podcast The Eyewitness.

When Tesla arrived in New York, he had a “jet plane” in his pocket—he had been experimenting with alternating current while working in Europe, and in 1883 built his first induction motor.

But because Edison insisted on direct current transmission, the two broke up. Soon Westinghouse bought the patent rights to Tesla’s AC transformer and motor system.

Tesla’s design was able to transmit electricity over long distances cost-effectively and is still used today.


tesla’s acting genius

A statue of Tesla in the courtyard of Tesla's research institute in New York during his lifetime

“We still use alternating current today, and the power generation and transmission system is still based on Tesla’s ideas,” Ivana Zoric, curator at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, told the BBC.

In fact, Tesla’s system remains the primary method of producing, transmitting, and distributing electrical energy. Still, many electrical devices today depend on another of his inventions.

“Induction motors were very innovative at the time, and they are still used today in industry and in many household appliances—even in electric vehicles,” he said.

In 1891, Tesla invented the Tesla Coil, a device that emits beautiful flying currents to transmit electricity wirelessly. It is still used today in radio and television sets, among other electronic equipment.

Two years later, Tesla and Westinghouse won the bid for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the European discovery of America, and Tesla became a superstar.

“When people realized the power of this invention, Tesla got the job to build the power plant at Niagara Falls,” Zoellick said.

It was the world’s first hydroelectric power plant, and Tesla owned nine of the 13 patents used in its construction.

“People knew who the great Mr. Tesla was, and he was a hit,” Molus said.

Tesla soon established his own laboratory and began experimenting in the fields of wireless communication and energy transmission.

According to Moruss, he also opened his doors to the public, showing off his masterful understanding of showmanship.

“He’s trying to sell his unique vision of this wireless world and free energy, trying to sell himself as someone who can make this vision of the future a reality.”


wireless future

In December 1899, Tesla took a photo with the "magnifying transmitter" in his laboratory

When the world relied on wires to transmit information to send telecommunications, Tesla began experimenting with wireless signal transmission.

All of his new experiments require funding. In the early 1890s, he managed to secure funding from American financier JP Morgan to begin construction of his Wireless World Broadcasting Tower on Long Island.

His grand goal was to provide global communications—a wireless system that would enable instant global video and voice communication, and anyone, anywhere to get information.

However, Morgan later withdrew his support.

“Unfortunately, his biggest dream, an international system to provide people with electricity and communication systems, didn’t come true because he wasn’t there yet, or the technology didn’t exist yet,” Krauss said.

Tesla continued to work on various projects, but often lacked funding, and many of his ideas remained in his notebooks, largely because he did not understand that science and engineering were highly collaborative processes involving many people.

“Tesla made a big mistake. He really thought he was the only one who could create the electric future. He wasn’t interested in collaborating and working with other people,” Molus said.

Known as “The Geek”, he is considered a deeply germaphobe and has been heavily criticized for his claims about communicating with other planets.


death of tesla

Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade


Tesla died in 1943 in a New York hotel room, where he spent the last 10 years of his life.

“In 1951, Tesla’s personal effects were shipped to Belgrade, Serbia, thanks to the efforts of his nephew,” Zoellick said.

Four years later, the Nikola Tesla Museum opened in Belgrade, which still attracts thousands of visitors every year. It also attracts hundreds of researchers because of the museum’s collection of 160,000 Tesla documents, including plans, sketches and photographs.

While Tesla’s archives are accessible online, many of his personal items remain in storage because the museum doesn’t have enough exhibition space.

“We currently keep Tesla’s bed, refrigerator, wardrobe, his 13 suits, 75 ties, more than 40 pairs of gloves, etc.,” Zoellick said. “We hope to be able to display these collections once we get more space. .”

Tesla's belongings, including furniture from the hotel room he lived in for the last decade of his life, are now on display at the Tesla Museum


In 1956, a year after the museum opened, a unit for measuring magnetic field strength was named after Tesla.

Serbia has streets, schools, airports named after him, and in Serbia and Croatia, Tesla is on banknotes and coins.

American entrepreneur Elon Musk founded one of the world’s first electric car manufacturers, and named its products and companies after Tesla; in 2018, SpaceX launched a Tesla to Mars on a Falcon Heavy rocket. Pull the sports car.

But how does Tesla see our future?

“I think if Tesla were alive today, he would say that humans are more concerned with comfort than the future and the problems it might bring,” Zoellick said.

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