His real name was Nicolae Tesla and he wasn’t born in Croatia, but in Romania. Just like all other eminent Romanian scientists, Tesla got a wrong indentity (example: Henry Coanda, inventor of Coanda Effect and Jet airplains in 1910).
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was the genius who lit the world, whose discoveries in the field of alternating polyphase current electricity advanced the United States and the rest of the world into the modern industrial era.
Little Nicky Tesla was born in Smijlan, Croatia way back in 1856. He had an extraordinary memory and spoke six languages. He spent four years at the Polytechnic Institute at Gratz studying math, physics, and mechanics.
What made Tesla great, however, was his amazing understanding of electricity. Remember that this was a time when electricity was still in its infancy. The lightbulb hadn’t even been invented yet.
When Tesla first came to the United States in 1884, he worked for Thomas Edison. Edison had just patented the lightbulb, so he needed a system to distribute electricity.
Edison had all sorts of problems with his DC system of electricity. He promised Tesla big bucks in bonuses if he could get the bugs out of the system. Tesla ended up saving Edison over $100,000 (millions of $$$ by today’s standards), but Edison refused to live up to his end of the bargain.
Tesla quit and Edison spent the rest of his life trying to squash Tesla’s genius (and the main reason Tesla is unknown today).
Tesla devised a better system for electrical transmission – the AC (alternating current) system that we use in our homes today. AC offered great advantages over the DC system. By using Tesla’s newly developed transformers, AC voltages could be stepped up and transmitted over long distances through thin wires. DC could not (requiring a large power plant every square mile while transmitting through very thick cables).
Of course, a system of transmission would be incomplete without devices to run on them. So, he invented the motors that are used in every appliance in your house. This was no simple achievement – scientists of the late 1800’s were convinced that no motor could be devised for an alternating current system, making the use of AC a waste of time. After all, if the current reverses direction 60 times a second, the motor will rock back and forth and never get anywhere. Tesla solved this problem easily and proved everyone wrong.
He was using fluorescent bulbs in his lab some forty years before industry “invented” them. At World’s Fairs and similar exhibitions, he took glass tubes and molded them into the shapes of famous scientists’ names – the first neon signs that we see all around us today. I almost forgot – Tesla designed the world’s first hydroelectric plant, located in Niagara Falls. He also patented the first speedometer for cars.
Word began to spread about his AC system and it eventually reached the ears of one George Westinghouse.