January 7, 1943: Nikola Tesla, physicist, inventor and electrical engineer dies

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in the Croatian town of Smiljan, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in a family of Serbian origin. His mother’s talent for build mechanical devices his curiosity would soon be piqued. As a child, his fascination with electricity began when he stroked his cat sparks flew and his father explained that it was the same phenomenon that occurred in trees during a storm.

His formative stage was spent between Graz (Austria) and Prague, where studied mechanical engineering and physics and became familiar with electromagnetism. In 1882 he moved to Paris to work in a lighting company of the well-known inventor of the light bulb, Thomas alva edison, and two years later he emigrated to New York to be employed under his orders. After a life dedicated to studying electricity already inventions of all kinds, Tesla died in 1943 at the age of 86.

The war of the currents

Nikola Tesla worked for a year in an Edison company improving its DC motor. Their bosses will they promised a bonus for targets of $ 50,000, but when they refused to pay himHe decided to leave and start his own way.

From that moment on, Tesla devoted himself to shaping the ideas he had conceived in Graz. The main one was the ac motor, which he considered more useful and efficient than the continuous one, in clear opposition to Edison. With this, the “War of the currents” Between both. In 1888, the Tesla engine caught the attention of the businessman George Westinghouse, which acquired the patent to apply it in the transmission of electricity. The main advantage of alternating current was the ease of transforming the voltage, which allowed transport electricity long distances no energy losses along the way. Also, maintaining their engines was simpler and cheaper, and facilitated conversion into direct current.

In an attempt to instill distrust in alternating current, Edison launched a campaign denouncing the dangers of its use. Tesla, however, prevailed by leaning in his charismatic character and in the shows he performed to demonstrate the safety of alternating current. As early as 1893, the Chicago International Fair accepted Westinghouse’s proposal to employ the Tesla system to illuminate the event. But the confirmation of his achievements would come in 1895 when he won the contest to build the Niagara Falls hydroelectric power station. As a consequence, alternating current became popular and would end up spreading to most of the world’s electrical systems.

Inventions to change the world

Beyond alternating current, Tesla revolutionized other fields. In 1895 he developed a system for radio broadcast, but the credit would go to the Italian Guillermo Marconi, who created radio with patents from Tesla and would win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909. Tesla also advanced in the creation of first fluorescent lamps, which would replace Edison’s incandescent bulb, and in the X-ray study. Moreover, inclined by the spectacle, he demonstrated in 1899 that he could pilot a ship at remote control.

He also conceived an electrical transformer known as Tesla coil, which allowed transmitting high voltage loads without the need for cables. Tesla would try to take this principle to its fullest expression with the Wardenclyffe Tower, a telecommunications station that used the earth as a wireless transmission system. To do this, he convinced the American investor JP Morgan to finance it, but the lack of results would shut off the tap.

Still, Tesla’s inventions laid the foundation for twentieth-century technology and, in honor of his work, he was curiously awarded the Edison Medal in 1916, the highest distinction bestowed by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. Towards the end of his life, Tesla would be consumed by debt and his eccentric predictions and inventions —He claimed that he had built a death ray, for example—, until died on January 7, 1943 in his room at the New Yorker hotel, where he had lived his last years.

From oblivion to Tesla Motors

After his death, Tesla fell into oblivion. Unlike Marconi or Edison, he did not seek to create a business that would produce his inventions, and the Cold War did not play in his favor either, since did not embody American values, as Edison did. His eccentric characterHowever, it drew circles from the New age in the 1970s or conspiracy theories like the motion by free energy, who claimed that his inventions could generate clean and free energy, but the power groups hid it. Already in the 21st century, Tesla’s legacy was rescued by inspiring films about his life and naming the electric car company run by tycoon Elon Musk: Tesla Motors.

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January 7, 1943: Nikola Tesla, physicist, inventor and electrical engineer dies