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Who was Nikola Tesla?

written by: Meetu • edited by: RC Davison • updated: 8/18/2009

The credit for inventing alternating electric current (AC), which is used in everyday life, goes to Nikola Tesla, an inventor beyond compare. He not only gave AC current to mankind, but was also responsible for setting up the first hydroelectric plant. Read about his life and inventions.

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    Who was Tesla?

    A simple answer to this question would be that he was an inventor, an engineer. But looking at his works and contributions this is only a one line statement summarizing this great inventor. He was the marshal to the Second Industrial Revolution. He introduced the concept of AC current that is the electricity we understand and use today.

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    Early Life

    Nikola Tesla was born on July 10th in the year 1856 in Smiljan, Lika which is a part of present Croatia. Milutin Tesla, his father, was a Serbian Orthodox priest and his mother, though a housewife, was an inventor in her own way. Tesla studied at the Realschule, Karlstadt, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. Electricity fascinated him and he decided to make a career as an electrical engineer.

    Tesla was the fourth child of his parents. He was blessed with a photographic memory and the ability to visualize three dimensionally. He had the ability to visualize his complete experiments and the equipment.

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    Work and Inventions

    Tesla started working as a simple electrical engineer in Edison Machine Works, a plant set up to manufacture dynamos and large electric motors. While in his tenure at the company he worked to improve the DC Dynamos. He worked with his full heart and earned many new patents for the company. His own earnings from the company were a paltry sum of $18 per week. Tesla pointed out the inefficiency of direct current powerhouses and that the solution lay in the use of alternating current. This was the key point of disagreement between Edison and Tesla. Tesla could comprehend well in advance that the future lay in alternating current and hence lay the foundations of the Second Industrial Revolution.

    George Westinghouse, an industrialist and inventor was highly impressed with Tesla and after a visit to Tesla’s laboratory a partnership between the two emerged. This partnership was responsible for use of AC electricity in our daily lives. In 1891, he invented a coil (Tesla Coil) which is used in radio and televisions even today. In 1893, he revealed the marvels of alternating current in Chicago. In 1895, he designed the first hydroelectric power plant on the Niagara Falls. Tesla started the second industrial revolution. From that point on, electricity would be transmitted by alternating current over much larger distances than the direct current method of Edison and converted to mechanical power. In the year 1899, Experiment Laboratory was set up at Colorado Springs for high voltage experiments. Amongst his many inventions, the famous one’s are: alternating current, concepts of the laser beam, wireless communication, robotics, and Tesla’s turbines.

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    Awards and Honors

    Among the many awards and honors to his credit, Nikola Tesla was the recipient of Edison Medal in 1917. The International Unit of Magnetic Flux Density was named after him and is called “Tesla". A commemorative stamp was taken out by US Postal Services in the year 1983. The Order of Danilo was conferred upon him by King Nikola of Montenegro. To recognize his contributions in the field of electrical engineering, the ‘Nikola Tesla’ award was instituted in 1976 by the Institute of Electrical Engineers. July 10th every year is celebrated as Nikola Tesla Day in the United States.

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    Nikola Tesla (Picture taken from www.teslasociety.com)

    Picture taken from www.teslasociety.com
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    Tesla's Electric Motor (Picture taken from www.teslasociety.com)

    Picture taken from www.teslasociety.com

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