Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian inventor, mechanical and electrical engineer. He is best known for developing polyphase alternating current (AC) system of generators, motors and transformers.

Early life

Nikola Tesla was born to Serbian parents on July 10, 1856 in small village called Smiljan in Lika (Austria-Hungary), which is located in modern-day Croatia. His father was a priest of Serbian Orthodox Church. His mother, although illiterate, was an inventor of small household appliances. He had one older brother (who died in a horse-riding accident) and three sisters. One of his childhood dream was to come to America and harness the power of Niagara Falls.


Tesla attended school at Higher Real Gymnasium in Karlovac. After that he went on to study electrical engineering in 1875 at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria. He studied the uses of alternating current, however he didn’t receive the degree from the university, as he stopped attending lectures after the first semester of his third year. Tesla had photographic memory, which enabled him to memorize the huge amount of books he used to read. He was also a polyglot, speaking 8 languages – Serbian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.


Tesla’s greatest achievement is his polyphase alternating current system. Today, almost all electricity in the world is generated, transmitted, and turned into mechanical power by the means of his system.

He moved to the United States in 1884. He had a letter of recommendation from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison. “I know two great men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is you and the other is this young man.” He stationed himself in New York and began working for Edison. Tesla and Edison had a disagreement, as Tesla was favoring alternating current over Edison’s direct current. Over time this disagreement climaxed in the war of currents, as Edison fought a losing battle to protect his investment in direct current equipment and facilities.

In 1886, Tesla formed his own company called “Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing”. Nikola Tesla developed alternating current system of generators, motors and transformers and held 40 US patents on the system, which George Westinghouse bought, wanting to supply United States with the Tesla system which was far superior to Edison’s.

In 1891, he received United States citizenship and it was also the year he invented “Tesla Coil” which is used to produce high voltage, low current, high frequency alternating current electricity.

Tesla was also one of the fathers of wireless technology. In 1898 Tesla announced his invention of a boat guided by remote control. In the beginning people didn’t believe him, but Tesla proved his claims in front of a crowd in Madison Square Garden.

Nikola Tesla stayed in Colorado Springs, from May 1899 until 1900, where Tesla made one of his most important discoveries – terrestrial stationary waves. Tesla 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 frequency. He also lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles. He was also certain that he had received signals from another planet in his laboratory, however scientific journals had hard time believing that.

Later life

In August 1917, Tesla established principles regarding power level and frequency for the first primitive radar units.

In his later life Nikola Tesla started to exhibit symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He became obsessed with the number three; he often feeling the need to do things in threes. When he stayed in hotels, he always asked for a room with a number that is divisible by three. He also had obsession with pigeons, and could often be seen feeding them in Central Park.

He was on the cover of Time magazine in 1931 on his 75th birthday.

When he was 81, Tesla said he had completed a “dynamic theory of gravity”, however it was never released to public.

Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943 from heart thrombus at the age of 86. He was in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel, where he lived for the last 10 years of his life.

Nikola Tesla quotes

“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.”

“Money does not represent such a value as men have placed upon it. All my money has been invested into experiments with which I have made new discoveries enabling mankind to have a little easier life.”

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

“Most certainly, some planets are not inhabited, but others are, and among these there must exist life under all conditions and phases of development.”

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