The Life and Times of the Great Inventor, Nikola Tesla

Authors: Dr. James Breakall

Source: FERMAT, Volume 02, Communication 4, Mar_Apr, 2014.

Abstract: To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Nikola Tesla in 2006, Prof. Breakall and Mr. David Blood presented a very memorable and popular public seminar and demonstration for the EE Department at Penn State. At this event, the life and times of Nikola Tesla were discussed and several Tesla coils were displayed and utilized for various live demos with audience participation. This seminar was videotaped and Prof. Breakall will play this DVD and slide presentation at this Spring, 2014, EE Graduate Colloquium.

Nikola Tesla is clearly one of the greatest scientists and inventors in the history of the technological development of humankind. His patents and theoretical work created conditions for the electrification of the world by his system of poly-phase alternating current, the system that is still presently used all over the world. His work in the field of high-frequency currents and wireless transmission of electromagnetic waves made the development of radio and telecommunications possible. Tesla’s research also helped towards the invention of radar, and in many ways brought about the development of lighting. Tesla always arrived at an invention in a rather unusual way. He first would work out the whole idea of the way a device should work to the smallest detail in his mind, and then he would “see” how it works, and then he would proceed to prove it theoretically, sketch it, and finally make the device itself that would then work without any problem. Working things out in his mind and not on paper would insure that his inventions would be protected. Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan, a small village near Gospić, Croatia.

At the end of the 19th century in Colorado Springs, CO, Tesla performed various experiments with very high voltages and high-frequency currents. In the laboratory he managed to produce artificial lightning with the voltage discharge of many millions of volts and the length of the lightning of up to 40 meters. Nikola Tesla filed a total of some 300 patents all over the world. He received honorary doctorates for his work at numerous universities including Columbia University, Yale University, University de Poitiers, Polytechnic Institutes of Graz, Vienna and Bucharest, Universities of Belgrade, Brno, Grenoble, Paris, Prague, Sofia, and Zagreb. Nikola Tesla never married, he left no direct heirs, and he also suffered from many phobias. He was fascinated by cleanliness and the number three. At the end of his life he liked to keep company with pigeons.

Besides his native language, Tesla fluently spoke English, French, German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian. He died in 1943 in a hotel in New York. To honor the great inventor, the unit for magnetic induction in the SI system was named Tesla in 1960. In 1975, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established the Nikola Tesla Award that is given to deserving individuals in the field of electro-energetics. As commendation for Tesla’s achievements, a crater on the Moon carries his name.

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The Life and Times of the Great Inventor, Nikola Tesla