Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla


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The Complete Patents of Nikola Tesla

Edited by Jim Glenn

( This is a Must Have Book for Inventors ! )
Barnes & Noble Books – New York
ISBN 1–56619–266–8
© 1994 by Barnes & Noble Inc.

Nikola Tesla's Automobile

 Nikola Tesla, the "man who invented the twentieth century," was born July 10, 1856, at Smiljan, Lika province (in modern Croatia), a part of the expiring Empire of Austro–Hungary. His father, Rev. Milutin Tesla of the Serbian Orthodox Church, intended Nikola for the priesthood, but did not insist–it must have been hard to make demands of the high–strung, fragile youth who was his son. On Nikola's evidence we know his mother, Duka Mandic, to have been an inventor, a maker of tools and devices for her weaving, carpentry, and other handiwork.

As a child Nikola manifested a full share of Duka's ingenuity, building among other things a bug–propelled engine. Much later he would mention that he had always the ability to see his ideas constructed in his mind, and in such detail that he could adjust and balance the parts. In school he absorbed languages quickly (English, French, Getman, Italian) and made an impressive showing in mathematics.

He entered the Polytechnic College of Graz in 1875, studied hungrily, but for lack of funds was unable to complete his second year. He took himself to Prague, immersing his restless mind in the university library there (and took up gambling as a means of support-with what success is uncertain); he returned to Smiljan in 1879.

Already at Graz he knew that electricity would be his life's fascination. Indeed, this was the scientific frontier, where mystery and knowledge collided. When he learned in 1881 that a telephone exchange, one of Europe's first, was to be built in Budapest, he left at once. The Edison Tel. Co. (European subsidiary) in Budapest hired him, sent him to Paris in 1882 and to other cities. His standing and repute within the field were sufficient by 1884 that a colleague wrote a letter recommending him to Thomas Edison. Tesla fully appreciated that an inventor's prospects in America–to attract capital, to manufacture and sell, to reap rewards-greatly exceeded his opportunities in Europe.

He did emigrate and he did go to work for Edison, but for less than a year, until the fee promised for a particularly difficult project, redesign of an Edison dynamo, failed to materialize. Edison, it is recorded, made some mention of the Serb's failure to comprehend American humor. (Of course Tesla, who later formed a great friendship with Mark Twain, perfectly well understood American humor and Edison.)

Over the next ten years, free to make his own arrangements, Tesla consulted, invented, invested–forming with his backers a number of companies and producing the forty or so fundamental AC patents that revolutionized the running of industrial America. His name became synonymous in the press with electrical wizardry; he was seldom photographed without megavolt streamers playing around him, the apparatus afire with an eerie glow. All of which is a fair picture of the man: he relished the high voltage drama of his public demonstrations but no less in the lab insisted on being first and closest in any chancy experiment.

Tesla was" in any case, a natural showman. Strikingly thin, six–foot–four, always white gloved and well dressed, he lived at the Waldorf (when he could afford it), ate the best food, with the best people, and infallibly charmed his company. But that problematic, intense youth never disappeared: he counted things compulsively, calculated the volumes of bowls and cups before he could eat from them; his assorted phobias and fetishes perhaps denied him any close relationships. He wrote of recurrent visual sensations, bright and geometric, which occasionally overwhelmed his sight, actually blotting out scenes in front of him.

Among his business investors he would eventually number the likes of J. P. Morgan and John Jacob Astor, but the most important for his aspirations was an early association with George Westinghouse. Westinghouse purchased Tesla's basic AC patents in 1888 for cash and shares amounting to $60,000 and a royalty on electrical horsepower sold. (By agreement the two principals canceled the mostly unpaid royalty in 1897; the lump sum Westinghouse negotiated has never been firmly determined, though a check record for $216,000 does exist.) More importantly Tesla acquired a resourceful and tenacious champion in the Westinghouse Corporation.

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