Biography of Famous Scientist Nikola Tesla Part 2

About the famous scientist Nikola Tesla, history and biography of the man and his achievements in energy and power.

NIKOLA TESLA (1856-1943).

Tesla told Thomas Edison that he had perfected--at least, in theory--an alternating-current power system. Edison, however, pooh-poohed Tesla's ideas and told him that "fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody'll use it, ever. It's too dangerous. An alternating-current high-voltage wire gets loose and it could kill a man as quick as a bolt of lightning. Direct current is safe."

But Edison hired Tesla, and the young European did exactly what he had done for Continental Edison in Paris--he came up with a plan whereby many thousands of dollars could be saved, both in the construction and in the operation of the Edison dynamos and motors. He worked from 10 o'clock in the morning straight through to 5 o'clock in the morning the next day, 7 days a week. Tesla soon left Edison, however, and after a number of varied jobs, found backers who were willing to invest in him, and the Tesla Electric Company was formed.

Tesla's work to develop alternating current for practical application began now in earnest, and he achieved his goal. At the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 all the elaborate and painstakingly created exhibits were supplied with alternating current by the Westinghouse motors and dynamos, invented by Tesla. His equipment would later be used in the system that generated power from Niagara Falls. Tesla, now in a New York City laboratory, devoted all his time to further research.

The great scientist grew more paranoid with advancing years, a mental defect traceable to the traumas that had occurred during his youth. In 1917, informed that he was to be guest of honor at a dinner given by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and would receive the Edison Merit of Achievement medal, Tesla refused saying, "Every time the institute awards an Edison medal, Edison is glorified more than the recipient. If I had the money to spend for such nonsense, I would gladly pay to have a Tesla medal awarded to Mr. Edison." He was prevailed upon to accept the honor, but he did not show up for the dinner. Friends found him feeding pigeons in a park behind the New York Public Library.

Tesla spent the later years of his life as a lonely, uncommunicative egotist, engrossed in thoughts and feelings that alienated him both from the world and from other people. He was unwilling to shake hands for fear of germ contamination; he was frightened by round surfaces like billiard balls and pearl necklaces; he remained intensely jealous of Edison and loved only the pigeons he fed daily. His tremendous talent was dissipated by attempts to invent death rays and devices for photographing thoughts on the retina of the eye.

In 1943, Tesla died of heart attack. Scientific institutions throughout the world commemorated the 100th anniversary of his birth in 1956. As a final tribute, the unit of magnetic flux density in the MKS system was named tesla in his honor.

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