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“Science is but a perversion of itself unless it has as its ultimate goal the betterment of humanity.”
- NIKOLA TESLA                    
Nikola Tesla
Inventor, 1856 - 1943

Nikola Tesla was born at midnight on July 9, 1856, in the village of Smiljan, in the province of Lika, Croatia—then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a Serbian Orthodox priest. His mother descended from eight generations of Serbian Orthodox priests. Tesla was the genius who ushered in the age of alternating-current electrical power.

Tesla had a vivid imagination and an intuitive way of developing scientific hypotheses. After seeing a demonstration of the "Gramme dynamo" (a machine that when operated in one direction is a generator, and when reversed is an electric motor), Tesla visualized a rotating magnetic field and developed plans for an induction motor applying the concept. This electric motor was the first step toward the successful application of alternating-current. Tesla used his imagination to prove and apply his hypotheses. Here is how he explained his creative process:

“Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop. The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My first electric motor, the vacuum wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way.”

Tesla completed his elementary education in Croatia. He continued his schooling in the Polytechnic School in Graz and finished at University of Prague. He worked as an electrical engineer in Germany, Hungary and France before emigrating to the United States in 1884.

Arriving in New York City with four cents in his pocket, Tesla found employment with Thomas Edison in New Jersey. Differences in style between the two men soon led to their separation. In 1885, George Westinghouse, founder of the Westinghouse Electric Company, bought patent rights to Tesla's system of alternating-current. The advantages of alternating-current over Edison's system of direct-current became apparent when Westinghouse successfully used Tesla's system to light the World Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893.

Tesla established a laboratory in New York City in 1887. His experiments ranged from an exploration of electrical resonance to studies of various lighting systems. To counter fears of alternating-current, Tesla gave exhibitions in his laboratory in which he lighted lamps without wires by allowing electricity to flow through his body.

When Tesla became a United States citizen in 1891, he was at the peak of his creative powers. He developed in rapid succession the induction motor, new types of generators and transformers, a system of alternating-current power transmission, fluorescent lights, and a new type of steam turbine. He also became intrigued with wireless transmission of power.

In 1900, Tesla began construction on Long Island of a wireless broadcasting tower. The project was funded with $150,000 capital from financier J. Pierpont Morgan. The project was abandoned when Morgan withdrew his financial support. Tesla's work shifted to turbines and other projects, but his ideas remained on the drawing board due to a lack of funds. Tesla's notebooks are still examined by engineers in search of unexploited ideas.

Tesla allowed himself few close friends, although one was humorist and author, Mark Twain. However, when he died in New York City on January 7, 1943, hundreds of admirers attended his funeral services, mourning the loss of a great genius. At the time of his death Tesla held over 700 patents.

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Nikola Tesla or related subjects, or if you would like to comment, please contact us.

Resource Menu
Books By/About Nikola Tesla

My Inventions My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla
by Nikola Tesla

Tesla autobiography originally printed as a series of six magazine articles in The Electrical Experimenter magazine. Complete with illustrations.

Purchase this hardcover edition of My Inventions

The Nikola Tesla Treasury The Nikola Tesla Treasury
by Nikola Tesla

Here's the Tesla collection you've been waiting for: 214 figures; 668 pages; and 107 articles, letters to editors, and lectures.

Purchase this hardcover edition of The Nikola Tesla Treasury

Colorado Springs Notes Colorado Springs Notes 1899-1900
by Nikola Tesla

His 'autobiography' does not tell much about the man. This reprint of his working journal during the period of his Colarado experiements provides insight into his thought processess and methods of working.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Colorado Springs Notes

The Problem of Increasing Human Energy The Problem of Increasing Human Energy
by Nikola Tesla

Written by Tesla for Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1900. A fascinating read. Brilliant!!

Purchase this paperback edition of The Problem of Increasing Human Energy

Tesla: Man Out of Time Tesla: Man Out of Time
by Margaret Cheney

Cheney explores the brilliant and prescient mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest scientists and inventors. Click Here to read my review of "Tesla: Man Out of Time"

Purchase this hardcover edition of Tesla: Man Out of Time

Prodigal Genius Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla
by John J. O'Neill

Written from the point of view of someone who knew Tesla, Prodigal Genius gives an amazing glimpse into the personality of this remarkable inventor.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Prodigal Genius

Wizard Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius
by Marc J. Seifer

The author does an admirable job of explaining Tesla's technical feats and analyzing his psychological idiosyncrasies. This meticulously researched biography deserves attention from all who would understand the triumph and tragedy Nikola Tesla's life.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Wizard

DVDs About Nikola Tesla

Tesla: Master of Lightning Tesla: Master of Lightning
Tesla's inventions are revealed in his autobiographical and scientific writings, supplemented by rare photographs and re-creations. Narrated by Stacy Keach

Purchase this DVD edition of Tesla: Master of Lightning

Genius Who Lit the World Genius Who Lit the World
This video will whet your appetitie to learn more about Tesla.

Purchase this DVD edition of Genius Who Lit the World

Secret of Nikola Tesla Secret of Nikola Tesla
This video portrays Tesla as a man so far beyond his time that scientists today are just beginning to understand the impact of his genius. You will get a feel for Tesla's passion and incredible intellect.

Purchase this DVD edition of Secret of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla Online Videos

The True Story of Nikola Tesla from ColdFusion TV—PART 1 and PART 2

Nikola Tesla - The Forgotten Wizard

Nikola Tesla, J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison
This rare film stars Orson Welles and features a dramatic recreation of a meeting between Tesla, Morgan and Edison, that would decide the fate and future of today's Electric Power Industry in America and the world. An excerpt from Secret of Nikola Tesla

New York Mayor LaGuardia's January 10, 1943 eulogy to Nikola Tesla
Written by Louis Adamic

Related Websites

My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla
HTML version

8 Things You Didn't Know About Nikola Tesla from PBS Newshour

Tesla Memorial Society of New York

Tesla Coil Page by Bill Beaty

The Complete Patents of Nikola Tesla

Tesla Chronology

One Story of Nikola Tesla

Dr. Nikola Tesla — The Play

Lucidcafe's Tesla profile in Polish

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