Nikola Tesla, 1856 - 1943
Born: 10 July 1856, Smiljan, Lika, Austrian Empire
Died: 7 January 1943, New York City
Tesla's father was a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church, his mother never learned to read but memorized poetry and devised and crafted household tools. After completing gymnasium at Karlovac he studied electrical engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic at Graz through 1875, but probably never graduated. He held an engineering assistant's post in Maribor (now known as Slovenia), suffered a nervous breakdown, and briefly attended school at Prague. He read widely and had the ability to memorize full books, possibly what is known as a photographic memory. He experienced visions, many of which included extremely detailed images of working equipment, including the ability to give exact dimensions for parts so they could be made. In 1880 he moved to Budapest and worked for the national telephone company, becoming chief electrician in 1881. In 1882 he went to work for Continental Edison, improving electrical equipment earlier built in the US by Edison's labs. Here he conceived the induction motor and his concept of rotating electrical fields. His supervisor there gave him a letter for Thomas Edison saying, "I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man.".
Edison offered him $50,000 (over $1 million in today's dollars) to improve Edison's motor and generators. Tesla left when Edison dismissed his offer as "American humor". Tesla began refining his concept of the alternating current polyphase system, still in use today, although he had to resort to manual labor to support himself. He founded his own firm, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing, but soon differed with investors and was discharged. In 1887 he built the first brushless AC induction motor and devised the Tesla coil, the next year he started working with George Westinghouse. The "War of the Currents" between Edison's DC and Tesla's AC left both Edison and Westinghouse close to bankruptcy, and Tesla released Westinghouse from future payments on his patents which left him destitute later in life. World War I meant the end of his income from his European patents. In radio, Marconi filed a number of patents on the development of radio and Tesla's prior claims were ignored until the US Supreme Court ruled Marconi's work to be based on Tesla's - later in the year of Tesla's death. He died alone in his hotel room, from heart failure, vast quantities of notes and lab work were promptly taken over by the FBI and classified. In addition to creating the system of electrical generation and distribution, practical electric motors, and radio transmission, his other work is far too great to record here.
Additional quotes from Wikiquote. Wikiquote entries are "sourced" and may include items longer than those included here, particularly for poets, lyricists, and dramatists.
Nikola Tesla quotes:
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- All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle. permalink
- 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. permalink
- But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Woman will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress. permalink
- Einstein's relativity work is a magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors. The theory is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king... its exponents are brilliant men but they are metaphysicists rather than scientists. permalink
New York Times (11 July 1935)
- Hardly is there a nation which has met with a sadder fate than the Serbians. From the height of its splendor, when the empire embraced almost the entire northern part of the Balkan peninsula and a large portion of what is now Austria, the Serbian nation was plunged into abject slavery, after the fateful battle of 1389 at the Kosovo Polje, against the overwhelming Asian hordes. Europe can never repay the great debt it owes to the Serbians for checking, by the sacrifice of its own liberty, that barbarian influx. permalink
- I am credited with being one of the hardest workers and perhaps I am, if thought is the equivalent of labour, for I have devoted to it almost all of my waking hours. But if work is interpreted to be a definite performance in a specified time according to a rigid rule, then I may be the worst of idlers. permalink
"My Inventions" Electrical Experimenter (1919)
- I am equally proud of my Serbian origin and my Croatian fatherland. permalink
Telegram to Croatian Leader Dr. Vlatko Macek (25 May 1936)
- I come from a very wiry and long-lived race. Some of my ancestors have been centenarians, and one of them lived 129 years. I am determined to keep up the record and please myself with prospects of great promise. Then again, nature has given me a vivid imagination. permalink
- I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success.... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything. permalink
- I have had but little time to devote to the fulfillment of a duty which, next to that of turning his best efforts to diligent inquiry in the fields he has chosen, is the most important to a scientific man; namely, that of giving an exact record of the results obtained. permalink
- I have harnessed the cosmic rays and caused them to operate a motive device. permalink
Brooklyn Eagle (10 July 1931)
- I have thrived on my thoughts. permalink
"My Inventions" Electrical Experimenter (1919)
- If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor. permalink
New York Times (19 October 1931)
- It has cost me years of thought to arrive at certain results, by many believed to be unattainable, for which there are now numerous claimants, and the number of these is rapidly increasing, like that of the colonels in the South after the war. permalink
- It was the artist, too, who awakened that broad philanthropic spirit which, even in old ages, shone in the teachings of noble reformers and philosophers, that spirit which makes men in all departments and positions work not as much for any material benefit or compensation — though reason may command this also — but chiefly for the sake of success, for the pleasure there is in achieving it and for the good they might be able to do thereby to their fellow-men. permalink
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