How Easily They Forget: Nikola Tesla

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Michael  Jones, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

Michael  Jones, Online English teacher at Acadsoc.

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His innovations such as the long-range electricity transmission systemthe modern lamp, the fluorescent light, and even wireless transmission took man-kind a step further every time, and his works, shrouded in codes, possibly waiting for the right mind to decipher, in order to give answers for current problems.

The next time you wake up, take a look around. Really look around you and see the role that technology is playing in your everyday life. Many of us take for granted just how far we have come in this world – but we take for granted simple things like the internet until the electricity goes off for two days and we aren’t able to watch our favorite series, send emails for work and for some of us, we aren’t able to learn through distance using our computers. Like anything that is taken for granted, none is like taking a human life for granted. Imagine working your entire life to advance the lives of people you have not met, and will possibly never meet, and have those same people calling you a freak, insane and ‘weird’. Imagine your death being sanctioned by a man in a bunker halfway across the world. Imagine your life’s work, possible answers to the world’s current issues, remaining hidden for decades, waiting for the next ‘delusional mind’ that believes that it can. Most chilling, imagine a young boy all the way from South Africa paying homage to you by giving his world-changing company your name – where not even your people knew who you were before the company existed.

This is the story of, quite possibly, the most underappreciated scientist to have ever walked this earth. His inventions, blueprints and boundary-shaking ideas paved the way for modern technology.  His name: Nikola Tesla – and this is his story. Nikola deserves way more credit than he deserves and below are some of the reasons why.

Another great figure you should know the mentor of Helen Keller.

A Brief History

Tesla was born in Croatia on the 10th of July 1856 and died on the 7th of January 1943.[i]An engineer and driven scientist at heart, Nikola create inventions and innovations, and ‘experiments’ with these inventions all in his head from a young age. He doesn’t speak much and is often drawn only to himself and his ideas as a young boy. When the opportunity arises, Tesla boards a boat headed for the United States – that is where he spends more than sixty years of his life, shaping what will become the future and foundation of electronics all over the world, for decades… and quite possibly, even centuries.

Thomas Edison and Tesla

When two great minds come together to work, it is often their falling-out that creates a cold-war that not only pushes each of them further but benefits society as a result. This is the same thing that happened between these two great minds. In his own right, Thomas Edison was an absolute genius and he is usually seen as the forefather of electrical engineering in America. On the other hand, an unheard-of engineer named Nikola Tesla is making waves in his own right.

Tesla, a Serbian parentage, began working for the phone company in Budapest. In 1882, he headed for Paris, where he took a job with the Continental Edison Company. He was invited to work stateside after his supervisor wrote a recommendation praising the young man as a genius on par with Edison himself. While he (Edison) hired Tesla, Edison thought the man’s ideas were “splendid” but “utterly impractical.”[ii]

This is where they clashed:

  1. Methods

Thomas Edison relied heavily on rigorous experimentation to find solutions and that may very well be attributed to his ‘lack of formal education’, and on the other hand, Nikola was so talented and trained, that he could work out methods through formulas way before he exerted energy through physical implementation or ‘experimentation. Each would criticize the other in public when their relationship broke down.

  1. Lifestyles

Nikola Tesla was meticulous to the point that even a germaphobe would be embarrassed. He wrote down expressive and calculated plans and formulas which allowed him the time to work them out in his head way before implementing them. On the other hand, Edison was the ‘get your hands dirty and see where it goes’ kind of engineer – this may be why many are of the opinion that Tesla was lightyears ahead of him in terms of genius.

  1. Working Relationship

So often we see ‘students’ or ‘employees’ having more potential than their supervisors – and when that potential is suppressed, it can only result in conflict. Edison was of the opinion that Tesla’s ideas were out of this world, but highly absurd and impractical. As his employer, he had the power to authorize the exploration of those ideas. With that being said, like anyone with the belief that they can do better alone, Tesla and Edison parted ways: giving rise to a notable advancement of engineering like none other. Owing to their conflict, many engineers still have endless arguments about who was better. When we consider registered patents, Thomas wins hands down. Criticism of Thomas’s methods exists based on the possibility of many of his patents being acquired through theft or sale. When the two went public with their disputes of one another, Thomas claiming Nikola as a crazed individual and Nikola claiming Thomas was far from the genius he was praised to be, it only fueled the engineering industry so positively because each one wanted to outdo the other. So their conflict only benefited the spectators, leaving one with a tarnished legacy, and the other with a corporate legacy.


Tesla’s Most Notable Inventions

Tesla is known for a number of inventions, among them which include:

Tesla CoilThe Tesla coil was invented in 1891 and uses two coils, a primary and a secondary, with each coil having its own capacitor. A capacitor, like a battery, stores energy. The coils are connected to a spark gap, which is just open air where the spark can generate, and the result is that the Tesla Coil can shoot lightning bolts, send electric currents through the body and create electron winds. Tesla developed this innovation because he was obsessed with powering cities wirelessly.

While fluorescent and neon lights weren’t discovered by Tesla, he did make many contributions to the advancement of both. What’s interesting is that no one working with cathode rays, which are the electrons observed in vacuum tubes like neon lights, really came up with a practical application for the technology. Tesla saw an opportunity and experimented with running electrical particles through gases, developing four different types of lighting.

In 1898, at the Electrical Exhibition at Madison Square Garden, Tesla showed off an invention he called “tele-automaton”, which was a boat controlled by radio waves. He didn’t even have a patent because the patent office didn’t want to issue one on something that they didn’t think was feasible, but he proved them wrong at the exhibition. Tesla controlled the battery-operated boat, operating the propeller and lights through the radio waves. This invention was a big first in three different areas. The first was remote controls, influencing the development of objects like television remotes and garage door openers. Secondly, the boat was also one of the earliest robots, as it was a mechanical object that could be controlled without a human physically touching it. Finally, the combination of robotics and radio control technology makes Tesla’s boat the great-grandfather of drones.

Without question, the most important inventions from Nikola Tesla involve his contributions to alternating current (AC). It’s essential to note that he did not invent or even discover AC, but his inventions made AC applicable for widespread use, helping to electrify the world. This made it much more feasible to send large amounts of energy over a large area.[iii]

Homage: Tesla Inc

Today, one cannot mention the idea of sustainable energy without mentioning Elon Musk, co-founder CEO of Tesla Inc, which is a company that produces electric vehicles aimed at combating the sustainability issue of fossil fuels. One can see the similarities between this company and Tesla himself, at Wardenclyffe Tower, coming up with these absurd ideas like the wireless transmission of electricity across the world. To a certain degree, Tesla Inc, just like the man it is named after, cannot seem to escape criticism. When the company first introduced the idea of mass-producing electric vehicles, it was laughed at, when it achieved that, its vehicles were said to be too expensive. And now, when some of the world’s most influential people are purchasing these vehicles, Tesla has to answer for the criticism of the major job losses that would be incurred should the world stop using fossil fuels.

But just like Tesla the man, most of the criticism and questions are not for Tesla Inc to answer – for the advancement of life begs no one to follow suit but compels each of us to make a conscious decision for our survival and the advancement of our livelihood.




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