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Fun Facts - NIKOLA TESLA



Nikola Tesla (Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Тесла; 10 July 1856 – 7 January 1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, and futurist. He was an important contributor to the use of commercial electricity, and is best known for developing the modern alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. His many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were based on the theories of electromagnetic technology discovered by Michael Faraday. Tesla's patents and theoretical work also formed the basis of wireless communication and the radio.

Born in the village of Smiljan (now part of Gospić, present day Croatia), Tesla was a subject of the Austrian Empire by birth and later became an American citizen. Because of his 1894 demonstration of short range wireless communication through radio and his eventual victory in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. He pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. In the United States during this time, Tesla's fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture. Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transfer to power electronic devices in 1891, and aspired to intercontinental wireless transmission of industrial power in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.

Towards the end of his life in the 1930s, Tesla became reclusive, living alone in a New York City hotel room and only appearing occasionally to make unusual statements to the press. Because of his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years Tesla gained a reputation in popular culture as the archetypal "mad scientist". He died penniless and in debt in January, 1943.

Tesla's work fell into relative obscurity after his death but since the 1990s his reputation has experienced a popular culture comeback. In 2005 he was listed amongst the top 100 nominees in the TV show "The Greatest American", an open access popularity poll conducted by AOL and The Discovery Channel.

The SI unit measuring magnetic field B (also referred to as the magnetic flux density and magnetic induction), the Tesla, was named in his honor (at the CGPM, Paris, 1960).

  • In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison's ideas. According to Tesla's autobiography, in the same year he conceived of his and began developing various devices that use for which he received patents in 1888. The paternity of the invention remains controversial since a prototype induction motor was demonstrated in Europe in 1885 by . Ferraris published his findings in 1888.

    On 6 June 1884, Tesla first arrived in the United States, in New York City with little besides a letter of recommendation from , a former employer. In the letter of recommendation to , it is claimed that Batchelor wrote, 'I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man', but the exact contents of the letter is disputed in McNichol's book. Edison hired Tesla to work for his Edison Machine Works. Tesla's work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving some of the company's most difficult problems. Tesla was even offered the task of completely redesigning the Edison company's .

    In 1885 Tesla claimed he could redesign Edison's inefficient motor and generators, making an improvement in both service and economy. According to Tesla, Edison remarked "There's fifty thousand dollars in it for you - if you can do it". This has been noted as an odd statement from an Edison whose company was stingy with pay and did not have that sort of cash on hand. After months of work when Tesla finished the task and inquired about payment Edison claimed he was only joking replying, "Tesla, you don't understand our ". Edison offered a $10 a week raise over Tesla's US$18 per week salary, but Tesla refused it and immediately resigned.


  • Nikola Tesla was born July 10, 1856, in the Lika region of the Austrian Empire (modern-day Croatia).

  • Tesla earned degrees in physics, mathematics, and mechanical and electrical engineering from the Austrian Polytechnic Institute.

  • In 1881, Tesla moved to Budapest, Hungary, to work for the American Telephone Company. It was during his work there that he reportedly invented a telephone amplifier or repeater that some believe was actually the world's first loudspeaker system.

  • In 1882, Tesla moved to Paris to work for the Continental Edison Company, where he developed the induction motor, and began working with rotating magnetic fields.

  • Tesla arrived in the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison's Machine Works Company. One of his first assignments was to completely redesign the company's direct current generators.

  • In 1886, Tesla founded the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing Company. Within the first year, Tesla's financial investors disagreed with his plan for an alternating current motor and fired him from the company.

  • In reply to: 1887, Tesla constructed the first brushless alternate-current inductor motor, which he demonstrated to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE).

  • In reply to: 1888, Tesla worked with George Westinghouse at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company's Pittsburgh labs on the Tesla coil, originally developed for wireless communication and power transmission.

  • At the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, Tesla and Westinghouse introduced AC power by using it to illuminate the building that housed electrical exhibits.

  • In 1895, Tesla generated 1 million AC volts using a conical Tesla coil. Around the same time, Tesla investigated the skin effect in conductors, designed tuned circuits, invented a machine for inducing sleep, and transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, effectively building the first radio transmitter.

  • Tesla applied for the first basic radio patent in 1897. A year later, he demonstrated a radio controlled boat to the U.S. military.

  • In the early 1890s, Tesla began work on a wireless power transmission facility known as the Wardenclyffe Tower. His $150,000 project was financed in part by J.P. Morgan. The tower's performance didn't meet expectations, and it was eventually dismantled for scrap metal.

  • In 1904, the U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision on the radio patent and awarded it to Guglielmo Marconi. In 1943, shortly after Tesla's death, the U.S. Supreme Court once again upheld his radio patent, in effect making him the inventor of the radio.

  • In the 1910s, Tesla started exhibiting pronounced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder. He became obsessed with the number three, often walking around a building three times before entering, and demanding a stack of three folded cloth napkins beside his place at every meal.

  • In August 1917, Tesla established the principles regarding frequency and power level for the first primitive radar units.

  • Late in his life, Tesla began working on defense projects, including what he claimed was a teleforce weapon or “death ray.” The death ray was supposedly related to his research on ball lightening and plasma.

  • In January 1943, Tesla died of heart failure at the age of 86 in New York. Despite selling his AC electricity patents, Tesla was destitute when he died.


  • Nikola was born the son of an Orthodox Priest, Tesla claimed to sleep just 2 to 3 hours a day. Whereas Sir Isaac Newton needed 3-4 hours of sleep daily.


  • When Tesla arrived in New York from Serbia, he had 4 cents to his name.


  • Tesla brought a letter of recommendation to Thomas Edison that read: "My Dear Edison: I know two great men and you are one of them. The other is this young man!"


  • He was offered $50,000 to improve some of Edison's ideas, but when he delivered, Edison claimed that he had only been "joking," and refused to pay him.


  • Tesla achieved the "impossible" by demonstrating a working brushless polyphase AC induction motor to a group of wealthy investors – none of whom would invest a penny.


  • In 1886, Tesla persuaded investors to fund the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing Company. Tesla invented a revolutionary arc lamp and the company made money. The investors then promptly reaped the profits and fired Tesla, who was forced into manual labor to survive.


  • Tesla discovered X-ray radiation 3 years before Wilhelm Roentgen was credited for the same discovery.


  • As a boy, Tesla saw a likeness of Niagra Falls, and dreamed of harnessing the power of the water to create electricity. In 1893, he succeeded in doing just that. Investors included W. K. Vanderbilt, son of Cornelius Vanderbilt.


  • Although Tesla demonstrated his invention of the radio in 1893 and received a patent for it, the patent office stripped the award in 1904 and gave it instead to Guglielmo Marconi. Since both Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie had invested in Marconi and not in Tesla. Tesla fought for 29 years to reacquire his patent, finally getting a hearing in the US Supreme Court. With finding that 15 of Marconi's 16 patents were actually invented by Tesla himself, the court rules in Tesla's favor in 1944 – a year after his death.


  • When inventor George Washington Carver’s paintings were displayed at the 1893 World's Fair Exposition, they were lit using Tesla's AC power – although Edison refused to allow use of his light bulbs.


  • In 1898, the United States military showed no interest when Tesla demonstrated a remote-controlled boat. Even though Tesla's wireless device was the beginning of the technology that enabled robotics that were initially conceived by Leonardo da Vinci.


  • Tesla worked for many years attempting his wireless transmission of electricity and believed that electricity could be projected into the upper atmosphere for storage and access at will.


  • J Pierpont Morgan invested $150,000 in Tesla's idea to build a gigantic radio transmitter – but then refused to invest any further after it was revealed that Tesla was instead trying to transmit electrical power wirelessly.


  • In order to keep electricity inexpensive to the public, Tesla sold George Westinghouse his own royalties, which were worth $12 million, for just $216,000. If Tesla had kept his royalties, he may have been the first billionaire, sharing financial history with the likes of John D. Rockefeller the worlds first in 1916, Howard Hughes, and Bill Gates who became the first man to reach $100 billion in 1999.


  • In 1917, he received the Edison Medal from the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. A previous president of the AIEE was Alexander Graham Bell.


  • Tesla and the great storyteller, Mark Twain, were very close friends.


  • Orson Wells played Tesla in the 1980 Yugoslavian film Tajna Nikole Tesle (English translation: "The Secret of Nikola Tesla").


  • In his latter years, Tesla asserted that he had indeed discovered a limitless power supply from a source that no one else had even suspected, but he never revealed the source.


  • He claimed to have designed a death ray – or "peace ray," as he preferred – that could electrocute an approaching army completely at a distance of 200 miles.


  • Tesla adorned the cover of Time Magazine in 1931, and was praised by Albert Einstein as "an eminent pioneer in the realm of high frequency currents..."


  • In 1928 he received his last patent, which was a forerunner to the modern day helicopter, which was initially conceived of by Leonardo da Vinci. In his lifetime some have stated that he had applied for 840 patents and received 700. What can be found is that he has 112 US Patents and 34 International Patents. Regardless, he was known as the Father of Radio, Television, Power Transmission, and the Induction Motor.


  • Nikola Tesla's Death:

  • On January 7, 1943: Tesla died penniless and alone in room #3327 of the Hotel New Yorker. Soon after his death, the United States Government (with the help of the FBI) seized all of his research materials and writings, most of which never again reappeared.