During an exciting period of invention at the end of the 19th century, Nikola Tesla stumbled upon cosmic radio signals for the first time. He thought they were signs of intelligent life from Venus or Mars. He later said of the experience, “The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another.”
“Brethren! We have a message from another world, unknown and remote. It reads: one… two… three…” – Nikola Tesla, 1900.
David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla in the movie The Prestige.
Nine Inventions by Tesla That Changed the World
Lets get right into the meat of a feud that was driven by money and prestige. At its centre at the end of the 19th century was Thomas Edison backed by GE and Tesla backed by Westinghouse. Edison’s DC current emphasised the dangers of electricity. His vision gave rise to the electric chair. Whereas Tesla’s vision for electricity used Alternating Current or AC. Tesla demonstrated the safety of AC by shooting current through his own body to produce light. After a decade of feuds, stealing of ideas and underhand patent suppression, in 1893 Thomas Edison won the battle. However despite this, Tesla won the war. It is his system that provides power to America in the modern era.
Although he can’t be credited with creating the light globe, he did invent how light is harnessed and distributed. At the World’s Fair in 1893 in Chicago, Tesla took glass tubes and bent them into scientists names, creating the first neon signs.
Tesla believed that all we needed to understand existed all around us. He researched electromagnetic and ionising radiation in the late 19th century. We owe our modern day X-rays and other medical diagnostics tools to his research.
In another David and Goliath battle, Guglielmo Marconi was originally credited with the invention of the radio. However the Supreme Court overturned this patent in 1943, when it was proved that it was Nikola Tesla who invented the radio. Tesla applied for two patents in 1893 (US 645576, and US 649621). However at that time the patent office awarded them to Marconi instead, influenced by the heavy-weight financial backing of Thomas Edison and others. This meant that the US government avoided paying royalties to Tesla.
Remote control was a natural follow on from radio. Patent No. 613809 was the first remote controlled model boat, demonstrated in 1898. This technology has since been used for many nefarious applications. In WWII the Germans used it for radio controlled tanks.
Tesla invented an electric motor with rotating magnetic fields. This has given rise to loads of appliances that we take for granted like industrial fans, household appliances, water pumps, machine tools, power tools, disk drives, electric watches and compressors.
Tesla the amazing, crazy animal that he was, saw himself more akin to a robot rather than a traditional human being with consciousness. His scientific mind led him to the idea of all living beings are merely driven by external impulses.
“I have by every thought and act of mine demonstrated daily, to my absolute satisfaction, that I am an automaton, endowed with power of movement. Which merely responds to external stimuli.”
As a visionary, he saw a brave new world populated with intelligent cars, robotic human companions, sensors and autonomous systems. Akin to the world we live in today!
As the inventor of the laser, Tesla set off a shit storm of applications, both good and evil. These lasers are used for everything from laser defence systems and death rays, to microscopic surgery and digital media.
Tesla backed by big wigs J.P Morgan built a tower to harness natural frequencies in the universe that are able to transmit data. The discovery that the world was full of free energy that could be harnessed to form a world wide web was revolutionary. This was the dawn of a new age and the very essence of the digital technology we see today.
Tesla never really got to have his time to shine, at least not in his lifetime. He died in 1943 alone in the Hotel New Yorker. It’s only now Nikola Tesla is beginning to come out of the shadow of Thomas Edison and shine as the real hero of the age.