Who Was Nikola Tesla?
Nikola Tesla (July 10, 1856 to January 7, 1943) was an engineer known for designing the alternating-current (AC) electric system, which is still the predominant electrical system used across the world today. He also created the ‘Tesla coil,’ which is still used in radio technology. Born in what is now Croatia, Tesla came to the United States in 1884 and briefly worked with Thomas Edison before the two parted ways. He sold several patent rights, including those to his AC machinery, to George Westinghouse.
Nikola Tesla’s Inventions
Throughout his career, Tesla discovered, designed and developed ideas for a number of important inventions – most of which were officially patented by other inventors – including dynamos (electrical generators similar to batteries) and the induction motor. He was also a pioneer in the discovery of radar technology, X-ray technology, remote control and the rotating magnetic field – the basis of most AC machinery. Tesla is most well-known for his contributions in AC electricity and for the Tesla coil.
AC Electrical System
Tesla designed the alternating-current (AC) electrical system, which would quickly become the preeminent power system of the 20th century and has remained the worldwide standard ever since. In 1887, Tesla found funding for his new Tesla Electric Company, and by the end of the year he had successfully filed several patents for AC-based inventions. Tesla’s AC system soon caught the attention of American engineer and businessman George Westinghouse, who was seeking a solution to supplying the nation with long-distance power. Convinced that Tesla’s inventions would help him achieve this, in 1888 he purchased his patents for $60,000 in cash and stock in the Westinghouse Corporation.
As interest in an AC system grew, Tesla and Westinghouse were put in direct competition with Thomas Edison, who was intent on selling his direct-current (DC) system to the nation. A negative-press campaign was soon waged by Edison, in an attempt to undermine interest in AC power. Unfortunately for Thomas Edison, the Westinghouse Corporation was chosen to supply the lighting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and Tesla conducted demonstrations of his AC system there.
Hydroelectric Power Plant
In 1895, Tesla designed what was among the first AC hydroelectric power plants in the United States, at Niagara Falls. The following year, it was used to power the city of Buffalo, New York – a feat that was highly publicized throughout the world and helped further AC electricity’s path to becoming the world’s power system.
The Tesla Coil
In the late 19th century, Tesla patented the ‘Tesla coil,’ which laid the foundation for wireless technologies and is still used in radio technology today. The heart of an electrical circuit, the Tesla coil is an inductor used in many early radio transmission antennas. The coil works with a capacitor to resonate current and voltage from a power source across the circuit. Tesla himself used his coil to study fluorescence, x-rays, radio, wireless power and electromagnetism in the earth and its atmosphere.
Tesla Motors & the Electric Car
In 2003, a group of engineers founded Tesla Motors, a car company named after Nikola Tesla dedicated to building the first fully electric-powered car. Entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk contributed over $30 million to Tesla in 2004 and serves as the company’s co-founder CEO. In 2008, Tesla unveiled its first electric car, the Roadster. A high-performance sports vehicle, the Roadster helped changed the perception of what electric cars could be. In 2014, Tesla launched the Model S, a lower-priced model that, in 2017, set the Motor Trend world record for 0 to 60 miles per hour acceleration at 2.28 seconds. Tesla’s designs showed that an electric car could have the same performance as gasoline-powered sports car brands like Porsche and Lamborghini.
When and Where Was Nikola Tesla Born?
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in what is now Smiljan, Croatia.
Childhood and Education
Nikola Tesla was one of five children, including siblings Dane, Angelina, Milka and Marica. Tesla’s interest in electrical invention was spurred by his mother, Djuka Mandic, who invented small household appliances in her spare time while her son was growing up. Tesla’s father, Milutin Tesla, was a Serbian orthodox priest and a writer, and he pushed for his son to join the priesthood. But Nikola’s interests lay squarely in the sciences.
After studying at the Realschule, Karlstadt (later renamed the Johann-Rudolph-Glauber Realschule Karlstadt); the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria; and the University of Prague during the 1870s, Tesla moved to Budapest, where for a time he worked at the Central Telephone Exchange. It was while in Budapest that the idea for the induction motor first came to Tesla, …