“The world will wait a long time for Nikola Tesla’s equal in achievement and imagination.”
~ E. Armistron
Update: 12/22: A recent development might save Tesla’s laboratory base in Shoreham so it can be turned into a museum. A developer, Mark Baisch, wants to build apartments for seniors on 4.5 acres of Nikila Tesla’s Shoreham lab property, and give the building and the remainder of the land to a nonprofit.
The Wardenclyffe lab, which was lost by Tesla in 1915 due to mounting debt, has been filled with contamination and closed for 25 years. It is the only standing monument to Tesla’s work and it was designed by the famous 20th-century architect Stanford White.
The property’s owner is a Belgium-based imaging company, Agfa-Gevaert, and they are collaborating with Baisch on the possible purchase.
Baisch’s concern, is the environmental health of the land, which has already been through millions of dollars in clean up and restoration. The DEC will release their review of the environment suitability shortly.
Jane Alcorn, president of Tesla Science Center said the property would be used as a science museum, public meeting space, and working laboratory.
The nonprofit has state and federal grants lined up and is reaching out for donors.
Original Story: One of the greatest men of the last century and beyond spent most of his life in New York as a U.S. citizen. His papers were sent to Yugoslavia nine years after his death, his birthplace was destroyed in 1941, and now his laboratory in Shoreham, Long Island is in danger of being lost to developers. This great piece of history might be lost forever. It is for sale for $1.6 million and there are no takers as of yet.
Nikola Tesla, July 10, 1856 – January 7, 1943, was a Serbian-American inventor, mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. His father was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and a military commander. His mother, an illiterate, was an extremely talented inventor of household appliances and a genius with needlework.
Tesla was born at the “stroke of midnight” during a summer storm with lightning. The village midwife was afraid of storms and said, “He’ll be a child of the storm.” His mother said, “No, of light.” Both turned out to be true.
His mother was blinded when he was 16 and Tesla took over much of the finances. His father died in 1879. His mother lay dying in April, 1892. Nikola rushed home from Paris, arriving hours before she died. Her last words were, “You’ve arrived, Nidzo, my dear.”
In 1873, Tesla studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague.
While in Budapest in 1881, Tesla was walking through a park with a friend when the solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind and with it, the principle of the induction motor. He built a prototype of the induction motor in 1883 and it worked. It was considered radical in Europe so he decided to take up an offer to work for Thomas Edison in NY.
The induction motor is widely used in industry and household appliances today.
While most of children dream about play and toys, Tesla’s dream was to go to America and harness the power of Niagara Falls. In 1895, he designed the first hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls utilizing the alternating current as opposed to the direct current.
Charles Batchelor, inventor and friend of Thomas Alva Edison gave Tesla an introduction letter in 1884. Batchelor wrote to Thomas Edison, ” I know two great men, one is you and the other is this young man.” Tesla began working for Edison. For the next 59 years, Tesla worked and lived in NY.
While working in Edison’s lab in NJ, his disagreement with Edison began over direct current versus alternating current. Tesla developed the modern alternating current electrical supply system – AC current and was the beginning of commercial electricity.
Edison made a huge investment in the direct current but he fought a losing battle. Edison built direct current powerhouses all along the Atlantic seaboard. Tesla saw all currents as cyclic and believed that the alternating current was more efficient, supplying electric in multiple waves using the polyphase principle.
Tesla once said of Edison, If Edison had to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed with the diligence of a bee to examine straw after straw until he found [it]. I was a sorry witness to such doings … a little theory … would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.
Edison’s direct current lamps were weak and inefficient and DC was unable to step up to high voltage levels needed for long distance transmission. Direct current flows nonstop in one direction but alternating current changes direction 50 or 60 times per second and can step up to high voltage levels minimizing power loss as it travels across great distances.
Tesla began building generators, motors and transformers using the polyphase alternating current system, holding patents which George Westinghouse bought. When Westinghouse visited Tesla’s laboratory, he was amazed at his inventions using the current and the partnership began. This also began the war of the currents as Edison saw his empire disintegrate before his eyes.
In 1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field which provides the basis of nearly all devices that use alternating current and is one of the ten greatest discoveries of all time.
At the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, an international exposition was held which, for the first time, devoted a building to electrical exhibits. It was a historic event as Tesla and George Westinghouse introduced visitors to AC power by using it to illuminate the Exposition. On display were fluorescent lamps developed by Westinghouse and single node bulbs. An observer noted:
Within the room was suspended two hard-rubber plates covered with tin foil. These were about fifteen feet apart, and served as terminals of the wires leading from the transformers. When the current was turned on, the lamps or tubes, which had no wires connected to them, but lay on a table between the suspended plates, or which might be held in the hand in almost any part of the room, were made luminous. These were the same experiments and the same apparatus shown by Tesla in London about two years previous, “where they produced so much wonder and astonishment”.
Tesla also explained the principles of the rotating magnetic field and induction motor by demonstrating how to make an egg made of copper stand on end in his demonstration of the device he constructed known as the “Egg of Columbus.”
Tesla invented the Tesla coil in 1891, which is widely used in radio, TV’s and other electronic equipment. He became a citizen that same year.
He also discovered the fluorescent light, laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla turbines and vertical take off aircraft. He is the father of the radio and modern electrical transmissions systems. He explored solar energy and the power of the oceans. He envisioned interplanetary communications and satellites. He developed principles of telegraphy without wires in 1893.
He made X-rays of a man, published in 1896, with X-ray tubes of his own design at the same time Roentgen announced his discovery of X-rays. Tesla never tried to take any acclaim and Roentgen and Tesla congratulated each other.
He experimented with shadowgraphs, carbon button lamps (X-rays shot from 40 feet away), the power of electrical resonance and various types of lighting. He invented a special vacuum tube which emitted light which was later used in photography. He patented a bladeless steam turbine based on a spiral flow principle and a pump design to operate at very high temperatures.
In 1896, he patented the basic system of radio later used by Marconi. He constructed an instrument to receive radio waves and transmitted radio waves from his laboratory. In 1943, the US Supreme Court held Marconi’s patent invalid, declaring Tesla’s most significant contribution as the inventor of radio technology.
In 1899, Tesla discovered terrestrial stationary waves. He proved the earth could be used to conduct and would be responsive as a tuning fork to electrical vibrations of a certain frequency. He lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles in what was essentially man-made lightning.
J. Pierpont Morgan provided the financial support for Tesla’s Wardenclyffe laboratory with its famous transmitting tower in Shoreham, Long Island, between 1901 and 1905. The tower was 187 feet high with a 68 foot copper dome which enclosed the magnifying transmitter. It was meant to be the first broadcast system which could transmit signals and power without wires to any place on earth.
Morgan and Tesla argued about the use of the tower and Morgan withdrew funding. Morgan wanted to make money from it but that was not going to happen if anyone could draw power. As Morgan said, “If anyone can draw on the power, where do we put the meter?”
Nikola Tesla sacrificed a personal fortune in exchange for a promise by his investors that they would provide his AC power technology freely to anyone in the world who wanted to build on it.
In 1917, for wartime security reasons the tower was demolished. The 100 foot foundation is still intact. The laboratory was designed by Stanford White in 1901 and topped with a bicentennial plaque.
Tesla lived the good life until Morgan’s money was pulled back. He wrote poetry and spoke half the languages of Europe. But he never married. He couldn’t bear physical contact with other people and had a serious phobia about germs. He didn’t like women wearing earrings and had other strange idiosyncrasies about women. He allegedly had an interest in one woman but she was married to a friend. He was thought to be asexual.
He was handsome and his personality was described as one of “distinguished sweetness, sincerity, modesty, refinement, generosity, and force . . . .” in a book by Cheney. Some described him as a snob. He was a private person who believed in Buddhism and the Bible, but it is unclear what he believed exactly.
Tesla was one of the greatest inventors and scientists of his time. He was eccentric and since he thought out of the box, way out of the box, his ideas often seemed scientifically and technologically bizarre. Sometimes ostracized, he also counted Mark Twain and Albert Einstein among his friends. He was stereotyped as a mad scientist late in life and died with very little money in Hotel New Yorker, room 3327 on the 33rd floor in his two-room suites.
Tesla loved the United States and was a true patriot.
Tesla was a visionary and his birthday, July 10th, is Tesla Day in NY. Life Magazine’s special issue, September, 1997, listed Tesla as one of the 100 most famous people of the last 1,000 years. He was one of the great men who changed the course of history. His induction motor and alternating current began the Industrial Revolution.
After his death on January 8, 1943, the government conducted a careful confiscation of his papers under the Office of Alien Property. His papers and personal belongings were brought to Manhattan Warehouse and Storage Company and a certificate of ownership was issued to his nephew Sava Kosanovic. It was wartime and the US government microfilmed his papers for use by our armed forces. In 1952, the estate was shipped to Yugoslavia. His work can be found at www.tesla-museum.org
A state funeral was held at St. John The Divine Cathedral in New York City. He was cremated and his ashes were interned in a golden sphere, Tesla’s favorite physical shape. They are on permanent display at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade with his death mask.