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One of the greatest inventers of modern times died living in poverty and was forgotten by society for years after his death. When we think of the greatest minds of this world, we immediately think of the brilliance of people like Albers Einstein, who sorted out and laid the foundation for physicists today; Or Stephen Hawking, the man who studied General relativity and Quantum gravity. But neither of those men had as great of an impact on your day to day life like Nikola Tesla. Nikola Tesla was able to memorize entire books, and visualize inventions with exact accuracy. Once he had his plan memorized, he went out and made it a reality. This made his mind truly unique.
Let’s start from the beginning. Nikola Tesla was born in 1846 in a small village within modern day Croatia. Tesla’s birth was during a particularly violent lightning storm; reading this as a bad omen, the doctor told Tesla’s mother that her son was going to be a child of darkness. Tesla’s mom told the doctor that he was wrong, and that he is a child of light. As we see later, Tesla proves his mom right.
During his high school carrier, it started to become clear that Tesla was a bit different when compared to his classmates. He was able to perform Integral Calculus in his head all by himself. He ended up doing so well on his exams that his teachers accused him of cheating. Not surprisingly, Tesla was able to graduate early. Unfortunately soon after, he contracted Cholera. A life threatening virus that can kill you within hours if left untreated. He had a talk with his dad and begged his father to let him study engineering, for it was the only way he could continue to live, instead of choosing the already planned path of becoming a priest. Luckily, his Father agreed. Tesla spent day bed ridden and crippled form the severity of his illness, but managed to make a surprising recovery when the odds were stacked against him. Tesla’s father stayed true to his word, and let Tesla go to university in Austria.
At university, Tesla exceeded expectations when he got the highest grades possible, was able to speak eight different languages, and called a star student of the highest degree by the universities dean. Tesla clamed to have worked from three in the morning, to eleven at night. Because of this, his professors wrote multiple letters to his father that his son might be killed from over working. During his second year, Tesla got addicted to gambling. He ended up losing all of his money for scholarships, along with the money from his parents. Shortly after, he was able to pay his parents for the losses, but unfortunately fell short when it came to his exams. He requested an extended study period but was denied. Tesla failed his exams and was forced to drop out of college.
To hide the fact that he failed out of college, Tesla abandoned his family, and escaped to Budapest. This came so sudden, that rumor spread to his friends that he had drowned. From Budapest, he moved to America with only four cents to his name. After working a few random jobs, Tesla was able to work for Thomas Edison at one of his first power plants. During his time working there, Tesla said that he had an idea to improve apron the DC motors and generators that Edison had designed. He asked in return one million USD for his improvements, which Edison accepted. Tesla’s improvements on the motors was so significant, that the technology is used in our everyday appliances such as washing machines, for the vibration on our smartphones, and even a main component for the Tesla cars! After Tesla brought the finished product to Edison, he was laughed at. Edison told Tesla that he doesn’t understand our American humor and that he wasn’t getting any money.
At this period of time, around 1890, the electrical revolution was just about to begin. This was a change that is thought of to be even bigger than the introduction of the internet during the 90’s. Soon, the world switched from having oil lamps to electric lightbulbs. Electricity created the biggest investment bubble we had ever seen. Billion dollar companies appeared out of seemingly nowhere, and the American economy was put into an enhanced growth period that would last for decades after. Work, along with life itself was just made easier from this big change.
After being cheated by Edison, Tesla decided to join the electric revolution by studying the inner workings of AC Voltage. While searching for financial backers for his low AC powered world, Tesla took up a job digging ditches for two dollars a day, equal to about fifty dollars in today’s economy. In his autobiography, Tesla describes this time in his life as the most painful. Luckily, Tesla was able to agree to a partnership with George Westinghouse, an entrepreneur and engineer who invented the railway break; which put Tesla in direct competition to Edison, and his company General Electric.
Fortunately, Edison never used Tesla original plan for more efficient motors. So this means that Edison was using his old system that created dangerous sparks, couldn’t transmit electricity very far, required a power plant almost every mile, and had cables as thick as an arm. On the other hand, Tesla’s AC system used thinner wires, had higher voltages, and could transmit electricity over long distances. Edison knew that Tesla’s system was superior so he started to block every chance Tesla got for expansion. His special interest companies started stealing Tesla’s ideas and patenting them so Tesla couldn’t claim ownership of them. Not only that, but Edison started to paying school boys twenty five cents for any pets they could catch around Tesla’s home. He would the go and make a public display of him using Tesla’s AC current to shock the animals and scare the public into thinking what Tesla was making is dangerous. This lead to the invention of the electric chair. You can believe that Edison made sure it was using Tesla’s AC current to shock its victims.
This string of events lead Tesla to prove to the public the safety of his invention by famously shooting a current through is body to power a light bulb at the 1893 world fair. Obviously this lead to the skyrocketing serge of AC usage around the world. Tesla quickly became a celebrity simply for making everyone’s life easier with his one invention. This lead to the public to despise Edison and shortly after he lost control of his company, General Electric. To give Edison some credit, he is responsible for inventing the first motion picture camera; so he had also contributed greatly to society.
What I believe lead Tesla to his decline was his love for humanity. In his autobiography, Tesla said this, “Money doesn’t mean as much to me as it does to others. All my money has gone into inventions that aim to make life easier.” As you can probably tell by now, Tesla wasn’t exactly a normal person on a mental level. It is thought that he may have Obsessive implosive disorder because he said that he needed to clean his dining room with exactly eighteen napkins before eating. Along with that, he may have been an insomniac; Tesla claimed to have only needed two hours of sleep per night.
Denial of his first failure, The Tesla Tower, lead to further failure of his future projects. This lead to Tesla having a mental breakdown and by the later part of his life, he was determined to be clinically insane. He was having so severe hallucinations that the boundary between reality and his imagination began to fade, which lead to him spending days in his lab alone, working on his projects. He stated that his lab was the only place left for him to go that made him truly happy.
Over Tesla’s lifetime, he had obtained more than one hundred patents and seven hundred inventions including the plans for the first Hydro-Electric Power Plant, X-Ray machine, Proof of Radio waves, and the discovery of the Resident frequency of the Earth 50 years before scientists could prove it. Despite this, he spent the rest of his days poor at the New Yorker hotel, where he died living on a diet of milk and crackers.
Tesla was the frontrunner to American innovation and is responsible for all of the electric devices we use every single day, it is a shame his is not a more well known for his amazing work. Many of Tesla’s fans believed that he was a man way ahead of his time due to his fascinating mind; but it was his mind that lead to his inevitable downfall. He focused far more on others than himself which lead to his unfortunate demise. It is important that we remember and respect Tesla’s enthusiasm for inventing because someone of such a high value deserves all the recognition he can get even today, almost a century later.
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