It’s a travesty that our schools do not teach more of probably one of the greatest if not the greatest inventors of the 20th Century – We are of course meaning Nikola Tesla. Apart from the USA, Canada and Japan, the rest of the world operates on AC (alternating current) electricity that Tesla invented. So, whenever you plug in your hairdrier or soldering iron, spare a thought for the man who created the power source enabling you to do this.
How about though we talk of some of other Nikola Tesla inventions as well, such as the radio, X- Ray and transistor. But there are also many many other inventions of his that were vastly ahead of the times. There is also a resurgence of many of his experiments and inventions that were thwarted at the time by greedy money makers like J P Morgan because there wasn’t a dollar in it for them. Here we are talking about his desire to make electricity free for all.
With his AC power invention, Tesla was financially backed by George Westinghouse. At the same time Edison had developed DC (direct current). When Tesla as a new immigrant into the states first arrived, he worked for Edison. Edison had given him a challenge when Nicola Tesla said he could improve the efficiency of Edison’s dynamo’s. Edison said if he could do this he would give him $50,000. Tesla worked tirelessly, once for a 32 hour stretch and eventually proved to Edison that he had indeed improved the dynamo’s and asked for his $50,000. Edison laughed and replied that Tesla as a new immigrant didn’t understand American humor. Actually Tesla’s humor was well known. He worked out on Edison immediately and spent the next two years working with a ditch digging gang.
Chicago World Fair 1893 – Showing 4 of the 12 1000 HP Generators
Both systems were competing with each other and both men turned into showmen to prove the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.
Edison would take stray dogs and cats off the street and then invite the media to view these animals while he quickly destroyed them using Tesla’s AC power. On the other hand, Tesla at an exhibition had a lightbulb in each hand and stood with cork soled shoes while powering himself and the bulbs up, to show that AC was perfectly safe.
Edison won the showmen award though by persuading authorities who were about to execute a man on death row to use Nikola Tesla inventions of AC power for the job instead of hanging. Tragically the authorities miscalculated the amount of current used to kill the man and newspapers reported a smoky, messy death.
However, Telsla won the ‘War of the currents’ as this battle became known. Westinghouse as said was Teslas financial backer in this but Westinghouse got squeezed by J P Morgan to the extent that George Westinghouse was going bankrupt. The deal he had with Tesla of royalties of $2.50 per horsepower of AC electricity would have made Tesla a billionaire but when confronted by Westinghouse with his cards on the table that he faced ruin by Morgan, Tesla remembered that it was Westinghouse who alone had supported him when nobody else would, so he accepted a small settlement cheque from Westinghouse and walked out of the deal.
This lead to all the tycoons in the States fighting over power lines, power stations and municipalities. Tycoons wanted every person to pay for every watt of electricity transferred through the lines.Morgan lead the tycoons even foreseeing that copper would have to be used for power lines across every continent. He then bought up copper mines before anyone else had thought of it.
But Tesla unlike the tycoons was not driven by bags of money. he just excelled at discovering new things and still had ideas of free electricity for everyone.
Next Nikola Tesla concentrated his energy on methods of transferring messages wirelessly. In 1889 he moved his operation to Colorado.