Nikola Tesla

by JASON | 1:06 PM in |

You’d think you’d know his name. Every time you turn on a light, or turn on your radio, his contributions are as far reaching as those as Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, or even his nemesis, Tom Edison. This mysterious, tall, dark Serbian, invented alternating current, wireless communication, the modern electric motor, basic laser and radar technology, x-rays, neon, robotics, remote control, and cellular technology, and even star wars tactical warfare. All over a hundred years ago.

Tesla is often described as an important scientist and inventor of the modern age, a man who "shed light over the face of Earth".[3] He is best known for many revolutionary contributions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

After his demonstration of wireless communication (radio) in 1894 and after being the victor in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America.[4] Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. During this period, in the United States, Tesla's fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture,[5] but due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist.[6][7] Never having put much focus on his finances, Tesla died impoverished at the age of 86.

Tesla and Edison did not get along well. Earlier Tesla had worked for the Edison General Electric company in Europe, but was unpaid for his service and had to go into labour for a few years. Later, Edison promised Tesla $50,000 if he could redesign his DC electrical dynamos. When Tesla did this, Edison told Tesla that he had been joking about the money. Edison and Tesla quickly parted companycitation needed.

Westinghouse contacted Tesla, and obtained patent rights to Tesla's AC motor. Tesla had conceived the rotating magnetic field principle in 1882 and used it to invent the first brushless AC motor or induction motor in 1883. Westinghouse hired him as a consultant for a year and from 1888 onwards the wide scale introduction of the polyphase AC motor began. The work led to the modern US power-distribution scheme: three-phase AC at 60 Hz, chosen as a rate high enough to minimize light flickering, but low enough to reduce reactive losses, an arrangement also conceived by Tesla.

Westinghouse's promotion of AC power distribution led him into a bitter confrontation with Edison and his DC power system. The feud became known as "the War of Currents." Edison claimed that high voltage systems were inherently dangerous. Westinghouse replied that the risks could be managed and were outweighed by the benefits. Edison tried to have legislation enacted in several states to limit power transmission voltages to 800 volts, but failed.

The battle went to an absurd level when, in 1887, a board appointed by the state of New York consulted Edison on the best way to execute condemned prisoners. At first, Edison wanted nothing to do with the matter.

Westinghouse AC networks were clearly winning the battle of the currents, and the ultra-competitive Edison saw a last opportunity to defeat his rival. Edison hired an outside engineer named Harold P. Brown, who could pretend to be impartial, to perform public demonstrations in which animals were electrocuted by AC power. Edison then told the state board that AC was so deadly that it would kill instantly, making it the ideal method of execution. His prestige was so great that his recommendation was adopted.

Harold Brown then sold gear for performing electric executions to the state for $8,000. In August 1890, a convict named William Kemmler became the first person to be executed by electrocution. Westinghouse hired the best lawyer of the day to defend Kemmler and condemned electrocution as a form of "cruel and unusual punishment". The execution was messy and protracted, and Westinghouse protested that they could have done better with an axe. The electric chair became a common form of execution for decades, although it had been proven to be unsatisfactory for the task. However, Edison failed in his attempts to have the procedure named "Westinghousing".

Edison also failed to discredit AC power, whose advantages outweighed its hazards. Even General Electric, which absorbed Edison General Electric in 1892, decided to begin production of AC equipment.