Nikola Tesla – International Man of Mystery

Few people recognize the extensive and lasting contributions made to modern science by Nikola Tesla. Having registered over 700 patents worldwide during his long and eventful career, the prolific inventor was a true visionary and a gift to modern human progress. Although Thomas Edison is credited in popular culture as the father of the light bulb, the entire lighting industry — indeed, all industry as we know it today — owes Tesla a great debt.

Tesla’s induction motor

Tesla’s alternating current induction motor

Argued by some as the true father of electricity, Tesla is perhaps best known for his help in fueling the Second Industrial Revolution (aka the Technological Revolution) and for his rivalry with Thomas Edison. His most valuable contributions were to the design of modern AC electricity supply, which currently powers our grid the world over, and his work with AC induction motors, which are still widely used in industry and household appliances. It was Tesla’s research and patents on AC transformers that made the high voltage AC electrical grid possible.

Nikola tesla

The public battle between Tesla’s AC electricity system and Edison’s DC system, referred to as the AC/DC Wars, saw Tesla and his financier Westinghouse emerge victorious after they won the bid to light the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair with AC power.

Modern AC Power Lines

Modern AC high voltage power lines

Tesla is less well known for his work with radio, remote radio control (RC), and early X-Ray. His experiments, patents, and demonstrations on these technologies influenced a number of great minds who continued his work to eventually bring them into mainstream use.

Plasma ball

Plasma ball – first invented by Tesla

Although a superstar celebrity in his day, his fame at its height at the turn of the 20th century, Tesla’s legacy fell into comparative obscurity following his death in1943, while Edison remained a household name. The 1990s saw a resurgence in Tesla’s popularity and an interest in his more unusual experiments, such as wireless electricity, and his “mad scientist” mystique. Ironically, today’s luxury electric cars that borrow and brandish the Tesla name run on batteries—DC power. But it just doesn’t sound as cool to say, “I drive an Edison.”

Electric Car

Electric (DC) car from Tesla Motors

Nikola Tesla

"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."

- Nikola Tesla