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Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla – Ingenious physicist, engineer, inventor in the field of electrical engineering and radio engineering Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in the village of Smilany, the Austrian Empire, now it is the territory of Croatia. Died January 7, 1943, in New York, USA.Ingenious physicist, engineer, inventor in the field of electrical engineering and radio engineering
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in the village of Smilany, the Austrian Empire, now it is the territory of Croatia. Died January 7, 1943, in New York, USA.Tesla grew up in Austria-Hungary, and in his mature years he mainly worked in France and the USA.Tesla is widely known for its revolutionary scientific contribution to the study of the properties of electricity and magnetism in the late XIX – early XX centuries. 

Tesla’s patents and theoretical works provided the basis for the invention and development of many modern AC-powered devices, multiphase systems and an electric motor, which made it possible to accomplish the so-called second stage of the industrial revolution.

Nikola Tesla is known as a supporter of ether physics: his numerous experiments and experiments are known, which aimed to show the presence of ether as a special form of matter amenable to use in engineering.

The name of N. Tesla is the unit for measuring the density of magnetic flux (magnetic induction). Among the many awards of the scientist – the medals of E. Cresson, J. Scott, T. Edison.

Contemporaries biographers considered Tesla “the man who invented the XX century” and the “patron saint” of the ether and modern electricity. After the demonstration of the radio and the victory in the “War of Currents”, Tesla received widespread recognition as an outstanding electrical engineer and inventor. Tesla’s early work paved the way for modern electrical engineering. His discoveries of the early period were of innovative importance. In the United States, Tesla could compete with any inventor or scientist in history or popular culture.

The Tesla family lived in the village of Smilany, 6 km from the city of Gospic, the main city of the historic province of Lika, which at that time was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.His father is Milutin Tesla (1819–1879), a priest of the Sremskoe eparchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a Serbian. Mother – Georgina (Juka) Tesla (1822-1892), nee Mandic, was the daughter of a priest. On June 28 (July 10), 1856, the fourth child appeared in the family, Nicola. In total, the family had five children: three daughters — Milka, Angelina and Maritsa, and two sons — Nikola and his elder brother, Dana. When Nicholas was five years old, his brother died, falling from his horse.

The first class of elementary school Nicola graduated in Smilyany. In 1862, shortly after the death of Dane, the father of the family received a dignity increase, and the Tesla family moved to Gospic, where Nikola completed the remaining three classes of elementary school, and then the three-year lower real gymnasium, which he graduated in 1870. In the autumn of the same year, Nikola entered the Higher Real School in the city of Karlovac. He lived in the house of his aunt, father’s cousin, Stanki Baranovich.

Milutin Tesla, Serbian priest, Nikola’s father

In July 1873, Nikola received a certificate of maturity. Despite the order of his father, Nicola returned to the family in Gospic, where there was an epidemic of cholera, and immediately became infected, although it is not completely clear whether it was actually cholera. Doctors believed that his days were numbered. For moments coming to his senses, Nicola asked his father to allow him to continue his studies as an engineer, promising that if he received consent, he would “cure himself, because he would find the will to live”. The father who had lost all hopes finally agreed – and then, to the surprise of the doctors, the unexpected did happen: Tesla recovered in a few days. The disease lasted 9 months.Nicola, who had recovered, was soon to be called up for a three-year service in the Austro-Hungarian army. Relatives found him not healthy enough and hid in the mountains. He returned back only in the early summer of 1875.

Birth certificate of Nikola Tesla (Serbian-Slavic Cyrillic)

In the same year, Nicholas enrolled in a higher technical school in Graz (now Graz Technical University, where Professor Stefan Marinov taught until 1997) and began to study electrical engineering. Observing the work of the Gram machine at the lectures on electrical engineering, Tesla came to the idea of ​​the imperfection of DC machines, but Professor Jacob Peschl subjected his ideas to sharp criticism, giving a lecture about the impossibility of using AC in electric motors before the whole course. In the third year, Tesla became interested in gambling, losing large sums of money in cards. 

AT In his memoirs, Tesla wrote that he was motivated by “not only the desire to have fun, but also the failure to achieve the intended goal.” He always handed out winnings to the losers, for which he soon became known as an eccentric. In the end, he lost so much that his mother had to borrow from his friend. Since then, he has never played cards.

On April 17 (29), 1879, Nikola’s father died.

Tesla got a job as a teacher in a real gymnasium in Gospic, the one where he studied. Work in Gospic did not suit him. The family had little money, and only thanks to financial assistance from their two uncles, Petar and Pavel Mandic, the young Tesla was able to leave for Prague in January 1880, where he entered the Faculty of Philosophy of Prague University.

He studied only one semester and was forced to seek work.

Until 1882, Tesla worked as an electrical engineer at a government telegraph company in Budapest, which at that time was engaged in building telephone lines and building a central telephone exchange. In February 1882, Tesla invented how a phenomenon could be used in an electric motor, later called a rotating magnetic field.

The house where Tesla was born. Currently a museum

Work in the telegraph company did not allow Tesla to carry out his plans to create an alternating current electric motor. At the end of 1882, he settled at the Edison Continental Company (Paris). One of the company’s largest works was the construction of a power station for the railway station in Strasbourg. At the beginning of 1883, the company sent Nicola to Strasbourg to solve a number of working problems the company had while installing the lighting equipment of the new railway station. In his spare time, Tesla worked on the production of a model of an asynchronous electric motor, and in 1883 demonstrated the operation of the engine in the city hall of Strasbourg.

23 year old Nikola Tesla

By the spring of 1884, work on the Strasbourg railway station was completed, and Tesla returned to Paris, expecting a premium of $ 25,000 from the company. Having tried to get the bonuses due to him, he realized that he could not get the money and, offended, quit.

One of the first biographers of the inventor B. N. Rzhonsnitsky asserts: “His first thought was to go to Petersburg, since in those years many important discoveries and inventions were made for the development of electrical engineering. The names of Pavel Nikolaevich Yablochkov, Dmitry Alexandrovich Lachinov, Vladimir Nikolaevich Chikolev and others were well-known to electricians of all countries, their articles were published in the most common electrical engineering journals of the world and, of course, Tesla was also known. ” But at the last moment one of the administrators of the Continental Company, Charles Bechlor (Eng. Cha r les Batchelor), persuaded Nicola to go to the United States instead of Russia. Bechlor wrote a letter of recommendation to Edison, his friend:

“It would be an unforgivable mistake to allow such a talent to go to Russia. You will still be grateful to me, Mr. Edison, for the fact that I did not take a few hours to convince this young man to give up the idea of ​​going to St. Petersburg. I know two great people – one of them is you, the second is this young man. ”.

The first major biographer of Tesla, John O’Neill, mentions this note for the first time. The documented text of the note has not yet been published.

N. Tesla with “The Theory of Natural Philosophy:” Ruger Boschkovich against the background of an RF transformer coil in his laboratory on Howton Street

On July 6, 1884, Tesla arrived in New York. He got a job at the Thomas Edison Company (Edison Machine Works) as a repair engineer for electric motors and DC generators.

Edison rather cold perceived the new ideas of Tesla and more and more openly expressed disapproval of the direction of personal investigations of the inventor. In the spring of 1885, Edison promised Tesla $ 50,000 (at that time an amount equivalent to about 1 million modern dollars) if he succeeds in improving the DC electric machines invented by Edison. Nicola actively took up the job and soon presented 24 varieties of the Edison machine, a new switch and controller that significantly improved performance. Approving all improvements, known for his unscrupulousness Edison, refused to answer Tesla’s question about remuneration, noting that the emigrant does not understand American humor so far. Insulted Tesla immediately resigned.

After working for a year in the Edison company, Tesla gained prominence in business circles. Upon learning of his dismissal, a group of electrical engineers offered Nicholas to organize their company related to electrical lighting. Tesla’s projects on using alternating current did not inspire them, and then they changed the original proposal, limiting themselves only to the proposal to develop a project for an arc lamp for street lighting. A year later, the project was ready. Instead of money, entrepreneurs proposed to the inventor a part of the shares of a company created for operating a new lamp. This option did not suit the inventor, the company in response tried to get rid of it, trying to slander and defame Tesla.

From the autumn of 1886 to the spring, the young inventor had to interrupt his auxiliary work. He was engaged in digging ditches, “he slept where it was necessary, and ate what he would find.” During this period, he became friends with a similarly located engineer, Brown, who was able to persuade several of his acquaintances to provide a small financial support for Tesla. In April 1887, the Tesla Arc Light Company, created with this money, began to develop street lighting with new arc lamps. Soon the viability of the company was proved by large orders from many US cities. For the inventor himself, the company was only a means to achieve the cherished goal.

Under the office of his company in New York, Tesla rented a house on Fifth Avenue near the building occupied by Edison.Between the two companies, an intense competitive struggle unfolded, known in America under the name “War of Currents” (War of Currents).

In July 1888, the famous American industrialist George Westinghouse bought over 40 patents from Tesla, paying an average of 25 thousand dollars for each. Westinghouse also invited the inventor as a consultant at the factories in Pittsburgh, where industrial designs of AC machines were developed. The work did not bring satisfaction to the inventor, hindering the emergence of new ideas. Despite the persuasion of Westinghouse, a year later, Tesla returned to his laboratory in New York.

Shortly after returning from Pittsburgh, Nikola Tesla traveled to Europe, where he visited the World Exhibition of 1889, held in Paris; visited his mother and sister Maritsa.

In 1888-1895, Tesla was engaged in the study of magnetic fields and high frequencies in his laboratory. These years were the most fruitful: he received many patents. Guide American Institute of Electrical Engineers (American Institute of Electrical Engineers) invited Tesla to give a lecture on their work. On May 20, 1892, he spoke to an audience that included prominent electrical engineers of the time, and was a great success.

March 13, 1895 in the laboratory on Fifth Avenue there was a fire. The building burned to the ground, destroying the latest achievements of the inventor – mechanical oscillator, a new method of electric lighting, a new method of wireless transmission of messages over long distances and a method of studying the nature of electricity. Tesla himself said that he can restore all his discoveries from memory.

Financial assistance to the inventor was provided by the Niagara Falls Company. Thanks to Edward Adams, Tesla had $ 100,000 to build a new lab. Already in the autumn, research was resumed at a new address: 46 Hauston Street. At the end of 1896, Tesla achieved radio transmission over a distance of 30 miles (48 km).

Nikola Tesla in a laboratory in Colorado Springs. Early 1900s (photo obtained by double exposure)

According to Tesla’s suggestion, standing waves from Colorado Springs had the greatest intensity near Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean.

In May 1899, at the invitation of the local electrical company, Tesla moved to the resort town of Colorado Springs (Colorado Springs) in the state of Colorado. The town was located on a vast plateau at an altitude of 2000 m. Severe thunderstorms were not uncommon in these places.

In Colorado Springs, Tesla set up a small lab. This time the sponsor was the owner of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, who allocated $ 30,000 for research. To study the thunderstorms, Tesla designed a special device, which is a transformer, one end of the primary winding of which was grounded, and the other connected to a metal ball on a rod moving upwards. A sensitive self-adjusting device connected to the recording device was connected to the secondary winding. This device allowed Nikola Tesla to study changes in the Earth’s potential, including the effect of standing electromagnetic waves caused by lightning discharges in the Earth’s atmosphere (after more than five decades, this effect was studied in detail and later became known as “Schumann Resonance”). Observations led the inventor to the idea of ​​the possibility of transmitting electricity without wires over long distances.

The following experiment Tesla sent to study the possibility of self-creation of a standing electromagnetic wave. In addition to a multitude of induction coils and other equipment, he designed a “amplifying transmitter”. The coils of the primary winding were wound on the huge base of the transformer. The secondary winding was connected with a 60-meter mast and ended with a copper ball of a meter diameter. When passing an alternating voltage across the primary coil of several thousand volts, a current with a voltage of several million volts and a frequency of up to 150 thousand hertz occurred in the secondary coil.

During the experiment, lightning-like discharges emanating from the metal ball were recorded. The length of some discharges reached almost 4.5 meters, and thunder was heard at a distance of up to 24 km. The first run of the experiment was interrupted due to a burned-out generator at a power plant in Colorado Springs, which was the source of current for the primary winding of the “amplifying transmitter”. Tesla was forced to stop the experiments and independently repair the failed generator. A week later, the experiment was continued.

Based on the experiment, Tesla concluded that the device allowed him to generate standing waves that spherically propagate from the transmitter and then converge with increasing intensity at the diametrically opposite point of the globe, somewhere around the islands of Amsterdam and Saint-Paul in the Indian Ocean.

Nikola Tesla recorded his notes and observations from experiments in a laboratory in Colorado Springs in a diary, which was later published under the name “Colorado Springs Notes, 1899–1900”.

In the fall of 1899, Tesla returned to New York.

Project “Wondercliff”

John Pierpont Morgan, an industrialist who financed Tesla’s research, 1903

60 km north of New York on Long Island, Nikola Tesla acquired a piece of land bordering the possessions of Charles Warden. The area of ​​0.8 km² was located at a considerable distance from the settlements. Here Tesla planned to build a laboratory and a science campus. According to his order, the architect V. Grou designed the project of a radio station – a 47-meter-high wooden frame tower with a copper hemisphere at the top. The construction of such a structure made of wood gave rise to many difficulties: because of the massive hemisphere, the center of gravity of the building shifted upwards, depriving the structure of stability. With difficulty, I managed to find a construction company that took on the project.The construction of the tower was completed in 1902. Tesla settled in a small cottage nearby.

Making the necessary equipment was delayed because the industrialist John Pierpont Morgan, who financed it, broke the contract after he learned that instead of practical goals for the development of electric lighting, Tesla plans to engage in research on wireless transmission of electricity. Having learned about the termination by Morgan of financing the projects of the inventor, other industrialists also did not want to deal with him. Tesla was forced to stop construction, close the laboratory and disband staff. Paying off creditors, Tesla was forced to sell the land. The tower was abandoned and stood until 1917, when the federal authorities suspected that German spies use it for their own purposes. Unfinished project Tesla blew.

XX century

After 1900, Tesla received many other patents for inventions in various fields of technology (electric meter, frequency meter, a number of improvements in radio equipment, steam turbines, etc.)

In the summer of 1914, Serbia was at the center of events leading to the start of the First World War. Staying in America, Tesla took part in raising funds for the Serbian army. Then he begins to think about creating a super-weapon: “The time will come when some scientific genius will come up with a machine capable of destroying one or several armies with one action.”

In 1915, newspapers wrote that Tesla was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics. Simultaneously Thomas Edison was announced. The inventors were asked to divide the award in two. According to some sources, the mutual hostility of the inventors led both of them to abandon it, thus rejecting any possibility of sharing the prize. In fact, Edison was not offered a prize in 1915, although he was nominated for it, and Tesla was first nominated in 1937.

On May 18, 1917, Tesla was awarded the Edison Medal, although he himself resolutely refused to receive it.

In 1917, Tesla proposed the principle of operation of a device for radio detection of submarines.

In 1917–1926, Nikola Tesla worked in various cities of America. From summer 1917 to November 1918, he worked for Pile National in Chicago; in 1919-1922 he was in Milwaukee with Ellis Chalmers; The last months of 1922 took place at the Waltham Watch Company in Boston, and from 1925 to 1926 Tesla developed the gasoline turbine for the Budd Company in Philadelphia.

In 1934, an article by Tesla was published in Scientific American, which caused a wide resonance in scientific circles, in which he examined in detail the limits of the possibility of obtaining ultrahigh voltages by charging spherical containers with static electricity from rubbing belts and doubted that the discharges of this electrostatic generator could help in the study of the structure of the atomic nucleus.

The passing of Nikola Tesla

Already in old age, Tesla was hit by a passenger car, he got a broken ribs. The disease caused acute inflammation of the lungs, which became chronic. Tesla was bedridden.

In Europe, the war began. Tesla deeply worried about his homeland, which was in occupation, repeatedly making hot appeals for peace to all Slavs (in 1943, after his death, the first Guards Division of the Yugoslav People’s Liberation Army was given the name of Nikola Tesla ).

On January 1, 1943, Eleanor Roosevelt, the spouse of the President of the United States, expressed her wish to visit Tesla for the patient. Yugoslav Ambassador to the USA Sava Kosanovich (who was Tesla’s nephew) visited him on January 5 and arranged a meeting. He was the last to talk with Tesla.

Tesla died of heart failure on the night of January 7-8, 1943. Tesla always demanded that no one interfered with him; on the doors of his hotel room in New York even hung a special sign. The body was discovered by the maid and the director of the New Yorker Hotel only 2 days after his death. On January 12, the body was cremated, and an urn with ashes was installed at Ferncliffe Cemetery in New York. She was later transferred to the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.

Inventions and scientific works of Nikola Tesla

Alternating current

Since 1889, Tesla began to study high frequency currents and high voltages. He invented the first samples of RF electromechanical generators (including inductor type) and a high-frequency transformer (Tesla’s transformer, 1891), thereby creating the prerequisites for the development of a new branch of electrical engineering – RF technology.

In the course of research on high-frequency currents, Tesla paid attention to safety issues. Experimenting on his body, he studied the effect of alternating currents of different frequency and power on the human body. Many of the rules, first developed by Tesla, entered into the modern basics of safety when working with high-frequency currents. He found that at a current frequency of more than 700 Hz, an electric current flows across the surface of the body, without harming the tissues of the body. Electrotechnical devices developed by Tesla for medical research, are widespread in the world.

Experiments with high-frequency currents of high voltage led the inventor to the discovery of a method for cleaning dirty surfaces. A similar effect of currents on the skin has shown that it is thus possible to remove small rashes, clean pores and kill germs. This method is used in modern electrotherapy.

Field Theory

On October 12, 1887, Tesla gave a rigorous scientific description of the essence of the phenomenon of a rotating magnetic field. On May 1, 1888, Tesla received its main patents for the invention of multiphase electric machines (including an asynchronous electric motor) and systems for the transmission of electricity through multiphase alternating current. Using a two-phase system, which he considered to be the most economical, a number of industrial electrical installations were launched in the United States, including the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant (1895), the largest in those years.


Tesla was one of the first to patent the method of reliably obtaining currents that can be used in radio communications. US Patent 447,920, issued in the USA on March 10, 1891, described the “Method of Operating Arc-Lamps”, in which the alternator produced high-frequency (by the standards of that time) current fluctuations of the order of 10,000 Hz A patented innovation was the method of suppressing the sound produced by an arc lamp under the influence of an alternating or pulsating current, for which Tesla came up with the use of frequencies that are beyond the perception of human hearing. According to modern classification, the alternator operated in the range of very low radio frequencies.

Tesla demonstrates the principles of radio communications, 1891

In 1891, at a public lecture, Tesla described and demonstrated the principles of radio communications. In 1893, he came to grips with wireless communications and invented the mast antenna. In 1893, Tesla built the first wave radio transmitter, ahead of Marconi and Popov for several years. In 1943, the US Supreme Court confirmed Tesla’s primacy in this invention.


Statue of Nikola Tesla in front of St. Sava Orthodox Church, Manhattan, New York

Tesla coils are still sometimes used precisely to produce long spark discharges resembling lightning. In 1998, an engineer from Stanford, Greg Leigh, demonstrated to the public the effect of “lightning by order”, standing in a metal cage under the giant outline of Tesla and controlling the lightning with a metal “magic wand”. He recently launched a campaign to raise funds for the construction of two more “Tesla towers” ​​in the southwestern United States. The project will cost $ 6 million. However, the lightning master hoped to recover costs by selling the unit to the Federal Aviation Administration. With the help of it, aviators will be able to study what is happening with the planes caught in a thunderstorm.

In one of the scientific journals, Tesla talked about experiments with a mechanical oscillator, by tuning which to the resonant frequency of any object, it can be destroyed. In the article, Tesla said that he connected the device to one of the beams at home, after a while the house began to shake, a small earthquake began. Tesla took the hammer and smashed the invention. Tesla said that it was a natural earthquake to the firefighters and policemen who had arrived. He ordered his assistants to keep silent about the incident.

Memorialization of Nikola Tesla

In many countries, there are monuments to Nikola Tesla, for example, in New York (see above), at Belgrade airport and near the building of Belgrade University. The name of Tesla is the unit of measurement of magnetic induction in the SI system. A jubilee Serbian coin was issued for the 150th anniversary of Tesla, 2006.

Tesla is depicted on the SFRY 1978 banknote. In the center of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, there is a street named after Nikola Tesla, on which there is a monument to the great scientist.

In Croatia, in the resort town of Porec (Croatian Poreč), located on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula, there is the Nikola Tesla Embankment. The name Tesla named streets in Sibenik, Split, Rijeka, Varazdin. The airport in the Belgrade suburb of Surchin was named after Nikola Tesla.

Modern application of Tesla’s ideas

Alternating current is the main method of transmitting electricity over long distances. Electricity generators are the main elements in the generation of electricity at hydropower plants, nuclear power plants, thermal power plants, etc.

Electric motors, first created by Nikola Tesla, are used in all modern machines, electric trains, electric cars, trams, trolley buses

Radio-controlled robotics is widespread not only in children’s toys and wireless television and computer devices (control panels), but also in the military sphere, in the civil sphere, in matters of military, civil and domestic, as well as the external security of countries, etc.

Wireless chargers are beginning to be used to charge mobile phones or laptops.

The personality of Nikola Tesla


He was afraid of microbes in panic, constantly washed his hands and in hotels demanded up to 18 towels per day. If during dinner a fly was sitting on the table, he forced the waiter to bring a new order. Check in at the hotel only if the number of his apartment was a multiple of three.

Phobias and obsessive states were combined in Tesla with amazing energy. Walking down the street, he could make a flip in a sudden rush. He often walked in the park and read Goethe’s Faust by heart, and at these moments brilliant technical ideas filled him. On the other hand, he had an inexplicable gift of foresight. Once, seeing off his friends after the party, he persuaded them not to get on a suitable train and this saved their lives – the train really got off the rails, and many passengers died or were injured …

Nikola Tesla’s eccentric nature caused a lot of rumors. Supporters of conspiracy theories believe that the CIA has coded most of its development and still hides them from the world scientific community. Tesla’s experiments were attributed to the problem of the Tunguska meteorite, to the “Philadelphia experiment” – the transformation of a large US warship with its entire crew into an invisible object, etc.

In his autobiography, Tesla describes a number of “unusual attachments, prejudices and habits” he acquired in his youth:

Tesla played billiards almost professionally.

Fueled fierce antipathy to women’s earrings, especially with pearls.

The smell of camphor gave him a very strong discomfort.

If, in the process of research, he dropped a small square of paper into a liquid, this caused him a particularly horrible taste in his mouth.

Tesla counted the steps when walking, the volume of plates with soup, cups of coffee and pieces of food. If he could not do it, then the food did not give him pleasure, so he preferred to eat alone.

Relationship to people

According to Rzhonsnitsky, “Tesla could not and did not know how to work in a team because of the nature of his character.”

Tesla has never been married. According to him, innocence largely helped his scientific abilities. Nevertheless, he was very popular among women and many were in love with him.


Cavalier of the Montenegrin Order of Prince Danilo I, 2nd degree (1895).

Cavalier of the Grand Cross of the Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia) (1891),

Gold Medal of Elliott Cresson (Elliott Cresson Gold Medal) (1894),

Edison Medal (AIEE, 1916),

The John Scott Medal (1934)

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