Nikolas Tesla: A Wizard, A True Star
Tesla was born 156 years ago, and his legacy continues.
Web2Carz Staff Writer
Published: July 15th, 2012
ver pass a building or cross a bridge and wonder who it might be named after? Unless it’s for a former president, mayor, or war hero, the pediatrics wing or business school you walk past every day bears the name of some wealthy donor who, in his dotage decided to endow a hospital or university—most likely to assuage his guilt for the indiscretions which made him rich in the first place. It's also entirely possible that the millions of New Yorkers who pass the intersection at 40th street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan and see the plaque that memorializes Nikola Tesla might associate the legendary Serbian inventor with the ‘90s one-hit-wonder band Tesla, rather than one of most important figures in this country's history.
Educated in Vienna and Prague, Tesla was 28 when he arrived in America in 1884 and he immediately went to work for Thomas Edison, who tasked the young engineer to redesign the Edison Company’s direct current generators. Though he completed the assignment, Edison's refusal to pay Tesla the promised sum of $50,000 for his efforts sullied the relationship and the two parted ways. Thus began an epic feud between the two men, which would span decades.
Tesla went on to form his own company and discover an electrical system known as “alternating current” (AC) which today is responsible for powering every home in the world. It was a revolutionary discovery that fanned the flames of a bitter rivalry with his former employer, Edison, who was at work on developing his own system, "direct current" (DC). Edison’s DC power proved to be inferior to Tesla’s AC, because of its weaker voltages and inability to transmit long distances.
One of Tesla's best-known inventions was the Tesla coil, an electrical transformer that the inventor used in his experiments with AC, X-ray generation, and the wireless transmission of electricy, which was one of his boldest visions. Tesla would also eventually prove to the world that hydroelectric power was a viable energy source. And though he was the first person to record radio waves from outer space his achievements have not captured the public imagination the way Edison’s have. Still, the name Tesla is synonymous with innovation and also the namesake of the electric car company Tesla Motors.
And though he died penniless, Tesla's life has captured the imagination of novelists, playwrights and filmmakers. David Bowie portrayed the eccentric inventor in Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, and Tesla will soon be the subject of an upcoming feature film, starring Christian Bale as Tesla and Nicolas Cage as Edison.