Nikola Tesla has been referred to as "the man who invented the 20th century." His use of alternating electrical currents and invention of the AC engine wrought revolutionary changes in power generation and transmission that remain the global standard today. Tesla recited entire books from memory, and designed his machines in his head, rather than on paper. He was frequently ridiculed for proposing "impossible" inventions … which he then invented anyway.
The son of an Orthodox Priest, Tesla claimed to sleep just 2 to 3 hours a day. Whereas Sir Isaac Newton needed 3-4 hours of sleep.
When Tesla arrived in New York from Serbia, he had 4 cents to his name.
Tesla brought a letter of recommendation to Thomas Edison
that read: "My Dear Edison
: I know two great men and you are one of them. The other is this young man!"
He was offered $50,000 to improve some of Edison
's ideas, but when he delivered, Edison claimed that he had only been "joking," and refused to pay.
Tesla achieved the "impossible" by demonstrating a working brushless polyphase AC induction motor to a group of wealthy investors – none of whom would invest a penny.
In 1886, Tesla persuaded investors to fund the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing Company. Tesla invented a revolutionary arc lamp and the company made money. The investors then promptly reaped the profits and fired Tesla, who was forced into manual labor to survive.
Tesla discovered X-ray radiation 3 years before Willhelm Roentgen was credited for the same discovery.
As a boy, Tesla saw a likeness of Niagra Falls, and dreamed of harnessing the power of the water to create electricity. In 1893, he succeeded in doing just that. Investors included W. K. Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Although Tesla demonstrated his invention of the radio in 1893 and received a patent, the patent office stripped the award in 1904 and gave it instead to Guglielmo Marconi. Both Thomas Edison
and Andrew Carnegie invested in Marconi. Tesla fought for 29 years to reacquire his patent, finally getting a hearing in the US Supreme Court. Finding that 15 of Marconi's 16 patents were actually invented by Tesla, the court rules in Tesla's favor in 1944 – a year after his death.
When inventor George Washington Carver’s paintings were displayed at the 1893 World's Fair Exposition, they were lit using Tesla's AC power – although Edison
refused to allow use of his light bulbs.
In 1898, the United States military showed no interest when Tesla demonstrated a remote-controlled boat. Tesla's wireless device was the beginnings of the technology that enabled robotics initially conceived by Leonardo da Vinci
Tesla worked for years attempting wireless transmission of electricity and believed that electricity could be projected into the upper atmosphere for storage and access at will.
J Pierpont Morgan invested $150,000 in Tesla's idea to build a gigantic radio transmitter – but refused to invest any further after it was revealed that Tesla was instead trying to transmit electrical power wirelessly.
In order to keep electricity inexpensive to the public, Tesla sold George Westinghouse his own royalties, worth $12 million, for $216,000. If Tesla had kept his royalties, he may have been the first billionaire, sharing financial history with the likes of John D. Rockefeller the worlds first in 1916, Howard Hughes
, and Bill Gates who became the first man to reach $100 billion in 1999.
In 1917, he received the Edison
Medal from the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. A previous president of the AIEE was Alexander Graham Bell
Tesla and the great storyteller, Mark Twain, were very close friends.
Orson Wells played Tesla in the 1980 Yugoslavian film Tajna Nikole Tesle (English: "The Secret of Nikola Tesla").
In his latter years, Tesla asserted that he had discovered a limitless power supply form a source that no one had suspected, but he never revealed the source.
He claimed to have designed a death ray – or "peace ray," as he preferred – that could electrocute an approaching army completely at a distance of 200 miles.
Tesla adorned the cover of Time Magazine in 1931, and was praised by Albert Einstein
as "an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents..."
In 1928 he received his last patent, a forerunner to the helicopter, initially conceived by Leonardo da Vinci
. In his lifetime some have said that he applied for 840 patents and received 700. What can be found is that he has 112 US Patents and 34 International Patents. Regardless, he was known as the father of radio, television, power transmission, and the induction motor.
January 7, 1943: Tesla died penniless and alone in room #3327 of the Hotel New Yorker. After his death, the United States Government seized all of his research and writing, most of which never again reappeared.
Thousands paid respects to Tesla at his Manhattan funeral.