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Engineers that Changed the World - Nikola Tesla - Part II

written by: johnsinit•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 12/26/2008

Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest scientists and inventors who lived during the period 1856 - 1943. His inventions are present in many aspects of science - but he is mainly known for inventing the radio and the use of alternating current. This is the second part of his biography

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    Nikola Tesla

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    Tesla's Own Company

    As it was mentioned in the first part, Tesla (a Croat by nationality and Austo-Hungarian by citizenship) had emigrated to US and worked with Thomas Alva Edison. However, as they were having constantly disagreements whether direct current (Edison's "love") or alternating current should be researched more, Tesla parted ways with Edison and eventually started his own business. He formed his own company "Tesla Electric & Light Manufacturing" in 1886 under that banner, Tesla created some of his most creative work and the greatest inventions ever known.

    A large part of Tesla’s work was concentrated on wireless transmission of AC electricity over large distances. He maintained: “Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe.” Something that today is taken for granted and is known as the Tesla effect. In subsequent years till 1900, Tesla's work revolved around X-Rays, high frequency AC, transmission of electromagnetic energy, and building the first radio transmitter (the Nobel Prize for which, however, was given to Marconi), and mainly wireless transmission. He also built Wardenclyffe, the first wireless power transmission facility. The company, however, was indulged in a "War of Currents" with Edison (Ac v/s DC) which led to the bankruptcy of Edison's company, but also damaged the Tesla's company financial infrastructure.

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    20th century - The Downfall

    Post 1900, things went downhill. After the First World War, the company lost the funding it received from the European companies. The Nobel Prize for the radio going to Marconi upset and distressed Tesla to a great extent. He was also becoming increasingly psychologically deviated, and developed OCD. His financial acumen never being sharp, he was in debt very soon. In these years of his life till his death in 1943 Tesla worked on ideas and theories that he did not complete and the work was eventually seized by the US government, considering its sensitive nature. He was quite reserved and remained celibate throughout his life. He received considerable fame and adulation. However, Tesla was largely eccentric, had little regard for material possessions and very few but very close friends.

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    Legacy

    Historically, Tesla is known as “the patron saint of electricity”, “the father of physics” and “the man who invented the twentieth century”. A museum of his name exists in Belgrade. Many companies were renamed in his name. A crater on the moon and an asteroid is also named after Nikola Tesla. Currency notes and coins carried his picture and many honors were presented to him in Romania, Austria, Croatia and Czech Republic. Also, a familiar to every electrician - the Tesla unit (SI system) of magnetic flux density.