Nikola Tesla was born on the 10th July, 1856 in what is now modern day Croatia. He was a visionary who was years, possibly decades, ahead of his time. He had a photographic memory and was able to memorize entire books, he was also able to visualise and describe detailed schematics of a device he was yet to invent.
‘The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.’
– Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla may well have been referring to himself whenever he made the above quote. The sad thing is that while he did help to lay the foundations for those who came after him and pointed the way towards a better future, a lot of his ideas have been suppressed and covered up.
Tesla was one of a number of great scientists who believed that it was possible to provide free energy for everyone on this planet by various, ingenious methods. Others included Dr T. Henry Moray and Edwin Gray Sr.
He believed that the Earth was a “vast reservoir of negative electricity” and that the Sun was a huge ball of positive electricity. He believed that if the particles of positive electricity from the Sun – that became trapped in the Earth’s upper atmosphere – and the negative electricity that existed within the Earth, if this ‘radiant energy’ – energy that exists all around us, all the time – could be utilized then free energy would become a reality and in 1901 he patented the Apparatus for the Utilization of Radiant Energy. The patent itself also refers to cosmic rays as another potential provider of radiant energy. This was Tesla’s “big one” (as Doc Brown would call it). His theory was that by using the Schumann-Tesla resonance in order to charge the Earth’s ionosphere that this would enable a simple handheld coil to receive electricity for free anywhere on Planet Earth. His tower at Wardenclyffe (below) was a key component in his worldwide wireless energy system but unfortunately debts mounted and the tower was dismantled before it ever got to be used.
Unfortunately there isn’t much money to be made from free energy and Tesla’s ideas have never been put into practice or used for the betterment of mankind and now that the ionosphere is better understood, physicists believe that Tesla’s concept is in fact unworkable and no-one has ever made any attempt to test it. Investment in Tesla’s projects dried up due to the impact of The Great Depression from 1929 onwards. During the final decade of his life, Tesla was essentially penniless and living in a New York hotel, his genius mind being tortured by what we know today as obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD. It is believed that during these final years he began to talk of one of his more outlandish inventions, a Death Ray which he claimed to have built and tested. In a newspaper interview he claimed that the ray was capable of melting an airplane’s engine at 250 miles. He said that the Death Ray was based on a charged particle beam projector using a principle known as teleforce.
He said that teleforce was based on an entirely new principle of particle physics that no-one had ever dreamt of before, not to mention ever thought possible. However when asked about this supposed Death Ray not one of Tesla’s lab assistants could confirm his claims were valid and there were no notes, prototypes or indeed any evidence has ever came to light. Some people accused Tesla of showmanship in order to bring in some new investment, others believed it to be a legitimate claim but could not confirm how exactly the concept would work, while others believe the claims to be the ramblings of a madman.
A lot of his ideas attracted the interest of the US Government and the FBI was investigating him right up until his death. It is alleged that upon his death the FBI took all of his possessions, including his notes, from his room in the New Yorker and they were never seen again. They were able to do this by using a statute enacted by the US Government during World War I that instructed that an Alien Property Custodian (in this case the FBI) remove all assets of an enemy during wartime, and as the USA were heavily involved in World War II at the time of Tesla’s death they were able to take all of Tesla’s belongings because the law was on their side. It did not matter that by this stage Tesla had been an American citizen for many years, he was born in Serbia and that made him an enemy, for the purposes of this act at least. The notes that were seized were said to have been all that remained of Tesla’s life’s work and even the amount of information they allegedly recovered was minimal because Tesla preferred to keep information in his head rather than writing it down.
In the decade leading up to 1893 Tesla became involved in a bitter feud and rivalry with one of his mentors – Thomas Edison (left). Shortly after Tesla had arrived in the United States, Edison offered him $50,000 dollars if he was able to fix the Direct Current motor that Edison had been working on. Tesla being the genius that he was not only fixed the motor but also found a way to make it work more efficiently. When Tesla went to collect his payment Edison is alleged to have backed out of paying him his reward telling Tesla: “Tesla my boy, you fail to understand the American sense of humour”.
This act caused Tesla to resign from his work for Edison and he went out on his own and developed the Alternating Current motor. It was after Tesla developed the AC motor however that the feud between the two really took off, culminating in 1893 and what has became known as The War of the Currents.
On one side of the feud was Edison who was backed up by wealthy financiers such as JP Morgan and The Vanderbilt family, while on the other side was Nikola Tesla and entrepreneur and engineer George Westinghouse. Edison knew that Tesla’s AC system was far more efficient and money saving than his DC system and he didn’t want to see Tesla’s system succeed because it would hit him where it hurt most – in the pocket! Edison used scare tactics in order to convince the public that the AC system was dangerous, going so far as electrocuting a circus elephant using Tesla’s alternating current system. Ultimately though Tesla won the War of the Currents and although he could have made a lot of money out of it, he chose instead to forego the royalties that he would have been due from Westinghouse because it would have meant the company that stood by him through all the dark days in his argument with Edison and Co. would be in severe financial difficulties. Instead he made do with the few thousand dollars he made from selling his patents.
In addition to being a genius, visionary and pioneer there are a lot of other, somewhat derogatory, words that are sometimes used to describe Nikola Tesla – mad, strange and loner for example. And it is through the extensive use of these three words down through the years that has painted a picture of him being the archetypal mad scientist, one who spends his every waking hour conducting crazy experiments alone in his laboratory. This explains the reason why his name comes up in more than one conspiracy theory. One such theory for example is that the HAARP research facility in Alaska is secretly a test of Tesla’s worldwide power grid, or some sort of super weapon based on it – but perhaps we’ll deal with that another day.
Nikola Tesla died on January 7th, 1943 in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, alone, destitute and penniless. He was 86 years of age. It was such a sad way to go for one of the greatest minds we are ever likely to see and while he perhaps may not be as well known as some of his contemporaries, his legacy lives on through the foundations that he laid down and even now, 70 years after his death, he still continues to point the way.