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History Wiki

Tesla sitting in front of a spiral coil used in his wireless power experiments at his East Houston St. laboratory

Nikola Tesla (/ˈtɛs/;[1] Template:Lang-sr-cyr Template:IPA-sr; 10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American[2][3][4] inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.[5]

Early life[]

Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla received an advanced education in engineering and physics in the 1870s and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, where he would become a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own. With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company would eventually market.


Attempting to develop inventions he could patent and market, Tesla conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He also built a wireless-controlled boat, one of the first ever exhibited. Tesla became well known as an inventor and would demonstrate his achievements to celebrities and wealthy patrons at his lab, and was noted for his showmanship at public lectures. Throughout the 1890s, Tesla pursued his ideas for wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs. In 1893, he made pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. Tesla tried to put these ideas to practical use in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but ran out of funding before he could complete it.[6]

Mad scientist[]

After Wardenclyffe, Tesla went on to try to develop a series of inventions in the 1910s and 1920s with varying degrees of success. Having spent most of his money, he lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills. The nature of his earlier work and the pronouncements he made to the press later in life earned him the reputation of an archetypal "mad scientist" in American popular culture.[7] Tesla died in New York City in January 1943.[8] His work fell into relative obscurity following his death, but in 1960, the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density the tesla in his honor.[9] There has been a resurgence in popular interest in Tesla since the 1990s.[10]


  1. "Tesla". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. Burgan 2009, p. 9.
  3. "Electrical pioneer Tesla honoured". BBC News. 10 July 2006. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5167054.stm. Retrieved on 20 May 2013. 
  4. "No, Nikola Tesla's Remains Aren't Sparking Devil Worship In Belgrade". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 9 June 2015. http://www.rferl.org/content/tesla-remains-sparking-devil-worship-in-belgrade/27062700.html. 
  5. Laplante, Phillip A. (1999). Comprehensive Dictionary of Electrical Engineering 1999. Springer. p. 635. ISBN 978-3-540-64835-2. https://books.google.com/books?id=soSsLATmZnkC. 
  6. "Tesla Tower in Shoreham, Suffolk County (Long Island), 1901–17) meant to be the "World Wireless" Broadcasting system". Tesla Memorial Society of New York. http://www.teslasociety.com/teslatower.htm. Retrieved on 3 June 2012. 
  7. Van Riper 2011
  8. O'Shei, Tim (2008). Marconi and Tesla: Pioneers of Radio Communication. MyReportLinks.com Books. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-59845-076-7. 
  9. "Welcome to the Tesla Memorial Society of New York Website". Tesla Memorial Society of New York. http://www.teslasociety.com/mri_digest.htm. Retrieved on 3 June 2012. 
  10. Van Riper 2011, p. 150