The Electric Man
What would you consider to be the greatest invention of the past century? The ability to harness the power of electricity gets my vote. We live in a society that heavily relies on electrical power. Simply think back to the chaos that ensued after the power outage that hit New York City in 2003.
The man most directly responsible for the advancement of electricity and magnetism is Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla. Considered by many as "the man who invented the twentieth century”, Tesla had a photographic memory and would often perform complex calculus equations in his head.
Inspired by his illiterate mother who memorized many Serbian literary works, Telsa would envision many of the intricate details of his inventions before putting anything down on paper.
His pioneering work on the AC electric motor, a direct competitor to the inferior Thomas Edison built DC motor, is considered by many to be the greatest modern invention of all time and helped usher in the second industrial revolution.
At the time, most DC motors could only emit power to a range of about four kilometers. With the development of Tesla’s AC motor, the Niagara Power plant was able to emit power at a range of over a thousand kilometers. As a result, 9 of the 13 patents at the plant belonged to Tesla, no surprise given the awesome power of his motors.
His research into wireless transmission was so far ahead of its time that many people accused him of using witchcraft. At a fair in New York in the early 1900’s, Tesla demonstrated a wireless controlled toy boat. The spectators at the fair were convinced that he must be using a gimmick such as wires or magic. They simply could not comprehend the advancements of the near future at time when the automobile had barely been invented.
Using specially built towers Tesla envisioned a worldwide wireless network that could transfer information. When he approached Edison about the idea, he was turned down, as Edison could not see any such idea being profitable. Edison may have given the idea a second thought had he only known that ninety years later, Tim Berners-Lee would invent the worldwide web, giving birth to a craze that has spawned billions of dollars in revenue and continues to create billionaires to this day.
The outbreak of WWI had a profound effect on Tesla and he vowed to create a weapon so powerful that it would end all wars. He envisioned a system that would create an intense electrical force in space, a force strong enough that it could even split the earth in two! He tried to peak the interest of the US Defense Department as well as various European countries but all declined. It wasn’t until years later in a galaxy far far away that the Imperial Forces used this weapon to destroy the planet of Alderaan.
He continued to work well into this later years. In his 70’s Tesla received a patent for an apparatus for aerial transportation that would be the precursor to the VTOL aircraft. In his 80’s he theorized that you could use electricity and magnetism's power to warp space and time, in theory creating time travel. If there was anyone who could have invented the flux capacitor, it would have been Tesla.
Tesla was never one for material wealth, even though he was offered a contract by Westinghouse that would have made him the world’s first ever billionaire. In January 1943 Tesla died alone and destitute at the age of 86, a sad end for such a brilliant mind.
In recent years Tesla’s work has achieved much overdue worldwide recognition. His portrait is on the Serbian 100 dinar note and the Belgrade airport was renamed the Nikola Tesla Airport in recognition of his 150th birthday. One of the newest companies to use the Tesla namesake is Tesla Motors, which manufactures an electric car that is taking the automotive industry by storm.
The Nikola Tesla Museum is located at 51 Krunska St. and is an easy walk from the Saint Slava Temple. The museum has an extensive display of Tesla’s exhibits and very knowledge guides who speak excellent English, ensuring that you won’t miss out on any details about this amazing inventor who lived far ahead of his time.