|A bolt of man-made
lightning shattered a quiet summer's evening in 1899 announcing the birth
of a new invention that the world still has yet to use. The emergence of
the lightning bolt from Tesla's lab in Little London (Colorado Springs) on
the scale that the world had never seen before--and would rarely see again
--signaled the birth of a brave new world. Nikola Tesla-inventor of
radio and the alternating current (AC) motor-was at his zenith.
Looking back, it is hard to imagine how Tesla --inventor of radio and a celebrity in his own time -- went from celebrity status to being noted as an obscure inventor of AC motors. Even today, history books, movies, and professors credit Marconi with the invention of the radio, although the US Supreme Court in June 1943 released a landmark decision stating that the Tesla patents preceded Marconi's application by ten years, thus denying Marconi any patent rights. The absurd perpetuation of denying Nikola Tesla credit for his work and discoveries have given birth to a number of conspiracy theories and claims of deliberate suppression of ideas!
These theories may or may not be true, but they have undeniably placed an air of mystique surrounding Nikola Tesla and his ideas. Nikola Tesla is credited with over 100 American patents. Serbian-Croatian by birth, Tesla valued his American citizenship far more than his numerous inventions. So much so, that he would lock his citizenship papers in a safe, while leaving his patents and lab notes laying around in the open his laboratory.
His first notable work was during his first year in the United States when he worked for another prominent inventor--Thomas Alva Edison. Tesla greatly improved Edison's DC generators and attempted to convince Edison that an alternating current motor was possible. Edison gave Tesla some fatherly advice that he should forget about all of that AC nonsense. Later, Tesla and Edison had a falling out which resulted in Nikola Tesla going to work as a ditch digger.
After leaving Edison's employ, Tesla was approached by George Westinghouse who wanted to purchase Tesla's AC patents. Westinghouse and Tesla became lifelong friends. Tesla's patents enabled the long distance transmission of electricity for the use of power. His patents were first utilized in Telluride, Colorado, and revived the ailing mining industry.
The installation of the AC system at Telluride was independently duplicated in Frankfort, Germany three months later. These successes were the opening skirmishes in what became popularized by the press as the AC/DC Warbetween Westinghouse and Tesla on one side, and Edison on the other! Edison tried vainly to frighten public about the dangers of AC by electrocuting cats and dogs. Tesla countered by passing thousands of volts... through his body!!!
The world was astonished by Tesla's demonstrations of the wonders of AC at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Although Edison refused to sell his light bulbs to Tesla, the Exposition was awash in the brilliant lights that Tesla himself invented at the last minute. The dispute culminated in a decision by Lord Kelvin to use the AC system to harness Niagara Falls--Nikola Tesla's life-long dream to harness the power of Niagara Falls was realized at last.
The harnessing of the immense powerhouse at Niagara Falls resulted in the creation of new power intensive industries. ALCOA and Union Carbide are just a few companies that have their roots in the emergence of cheap energy. However, Tesla considered the use of 60Hz AC power as temporary foundation of power. He intended to give the world wireless power by the end of the 19th century and devoted his research to that end.
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More on Tesla's discovery of the "brush effect" can be found in....
Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla by Thomas Cummerford Martin
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