Nikola Tesla: the forgotten genius who challenged Marconi and Edison arrives in Madrid

Tesla had already been born, invented and passed into oblivion when Elon Musk He decided to rescue his name to put it on the first electric car on the world market.

Musk did not do it by chance. He knew that the inventor born in the Austro-Hungarian Empiretoday Croatia, and deceased at the age of 87, was a person who made essential contributions to life and to the way of understanding energy, as much as now we press a switch and a light comes on.


The famous war of the currents, which gave rise to a film, with Thomas AlvaEdison It was one of the most controversial episodes due to its defense of alternating current, on the one hand, and direct current, on the other.

To pay homage to this genius, CaixaForum of Madrid hosts from September 30 to January 2023 the exhibition Nicholas Tesla. The genius of modern electricitya sample that has been made in collaboration with the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgradewhere the scientific and personal legacy of the great inventor is preserved.

Portrait of Nikola TeslaRoger Violett via Getty Images

Born in the town of Smiljan, Tesla was called to revolutionize electricity. He was born in the midst of a great electrical storm in the summer of 1856.

Throughout his life, Tesla recorded more than 300 patentsalthough some attribute up to 700 to him. His are some of the most important inventions of modern life, such as the induction motorthe development of alternating current as a source of energy or wireless transmission of energy and information.

Nikola Tesla in his Palm Springs labBettmann Archive

Tesla had such a passionate dedication to inventing that he hardly spent any time protecting his creations. The plagiarism It was a constant in his life. She suffered it to such an extent that it led to her death, alone, in a hotel in New York in 1943 and without any recognition.

War of the currents

One of his first inventions was magnetic induction motordevised at the beginning of his career, in 1883, when he was working in one of Edison’s subsidiaries in Europe, but unable to obtain financing to manufacture it, he headed for the United States and moved to New York, where he began to work for Edison himself. Edisonwith whom he had a great scientific and economic rivalry.

Sonada was the “war of currents” in which Tesla tried to demonstrate the benefits of alternating current and Edison clung to continuous, which until then had been a lucrative way to illuminate cities.

The experiments with one of the two Tesla coils are one of the great attractions of the exhibitionMGP

With the financial support of the tycoon George WestinghouseTesla achieved great successes such as the Chicago World’s Columbian Expositionwith which the inventor managed to generate three times more energy than that consumed by the entire city of Chicago or show the phosphorescent lamps.

Niagara Falls

In that same golden age, and with funding from Westinghouse, Tesla built a two-phase alternating current generation system in the Niagara Falls that supplied electricity to the city of Buffalo, resounding successes that put an end to the war with Edison and gave free rein to his imagination and his future inventions.

The experiments with alternating current that he carried out at that time, allowed Tesla to carry out in 1892 the first x-rays of history, or shadowgraphs as he called them, although a fire in his lab wiped out all the evidence. Shortly after, Wilhelm Rontgen announced the discovery that would earn him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.

The construction of the Wardenclyffe Tower (a giant generator) on Long Island was one of the causes of the ruin of TeslaMGP

With Marconi and the radio did the same thing. Although the Italian inventor filed the patent in 1904, the truth is that he used until seven patents of the Croatian genius who, once again, lost the Nobel Prize that Marconi would obtain for his contribution to wireless telegraphy.


In recent years, Tesla studied the electromagnetic phenomena of the atmosphere and worked to develop a global free energy system, which he called the “Global Transmission System,” in effect a proto-internet.

Over time, his inventions were less immediate and investors stopped supporting him. His last big project was the Wardenclyffe Towera transmitter of gigantic proportions financed by the banker John P. Morgan that never gave the expected results.

We would like to thank the author of this post for this remarkable material

Nikola Tesla: the forgotten genius who challenged Marconi and Edison arrives in Madrid