Nikola Tesla was born around midnight, between July 9 and July 10, 1856, during a fierce lightning storm, in Smiljan, Croatia, which was then part of Austria-Hungary. After completing the gymnasium at Karlovac (1870–1873), he began his studies in physics and mathematics at Graz Polytechnic (1875–1878), and then took philosophy at the University of Prague. He worked as an electrical engineer in Budapest, Hungary, and subsequently in France and Germany. In 1888, his discovery that a magnetic field could be made to rotate if two coils at right angles are supplied with alternating current (AC) that are 90° out of phase made possible the invention of the AC induction motor. The major advantage of this motor being its brush-less operation, which many at the time believed impossible.
Tesla moved to the USA in 1884, where he worked for Thomas A. Edison (1847 – 1931), who quickly became a rival. Edison being an advocate of the inferior direct current (DC) power transmission system. During this time, Tesla was commissioned with the design of the AC generators installed at Niagara Falls. George Westinghouse purchased the patents to his induction motor, and made it the basis of the Westinghouse power system which still underlies the modern electrical power industry today. He also did notable research on high-voltage electricity and wireless communication; at one point creating an earthquake which shook the ground for several miles around his New York laboratory. He also devised a system which anticipated worldwide wireless communications, fax machines, radar, radio- guided missiles and aircraft.
In 1901, Nikola Tesla purchased 200 acres on Long Island’s north shore from James Warden. These 200 acres were part of an 1,800 acre potato farm along what is today Route 25A in Shoreham, New York, USA. The site became known as Wardenclyffe, after the former owner. Here, Tesla established what would become his only remaining laboratory building. The purpose of the Wardenclyffe laboratory was the establishment of a wireless telegraphy plant. The transmitter tower was 187 feet high above ground and 120 feet deep below ground level.
Tesla’s plan had the initial backing of the financier John Pierpont Morgan (1837 – 1913). The red brick laboratory building can still be seen on the north side of Route 25A between the intersection of Randall Road and the Shoreham Fire Department.
During the last week of July 1903, residents around the Shoreham site experienced what was to be the only testing of Tesla’s equipment at this facility. Several days after these tests, his dream was destroyed when creditors from Westinghouse confiscated his heavier equipment for nonpayment for services rendered. In addition, James Warden sued Tesla for nonpayment of back taxes. In 1917, the 187-foot tower was destroyed by dynamite explosion as ordered by the USA government.
The main title of Nikola Tesla’s autobiography is “My Inventions“. It contains Tesla’s reflections on his early years. This book of 49 pages consists of six chapters. In 1919, these chapters were originally published consecutively in Electrical Experimenter magazine.
The 86-years old Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943 in Manhattan, New York City. In 2001, his professional credentials were summarized in a short paper.
Key to understand Tesla’s work is the paper that he wrote for The Electrical Engineer (VOL. XIV, No. 242, pp. 22-23) of December 21, 1892, entiteld “On the Dissipation of the Electrical Energy of the Hertz Resonator“.
His most well-known paper was read before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in New York City on May 16, 1888, entitled “A New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers“.