Welcome to the Tesla Memorial Society of New York Website
THE GENIUS WHO LIT
Tesla symbolizes a unifying force and inspiration for all nations in the
name of peace and science. He was a true visionary far ahead of his
contemporaries in the field of scientific development.
New York State and many other states in the USA proclaimed July
10, Tesla’s birthday- Nikola Tesla Day.
United States Congressmen gave speeches in the House of Representatives
on July 10, 1990 celebrating the 134th anniversary of scientist-inventor
Nikola Tesla. Senator Levine from Michigan spoke in the US Senate on the
street sign “Nikola Tesla Corner” was recently placed on the corner
of the 40th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. There is a large photo
of Tesla in the Statue of Liberty Museum. The Liberty Science Center in
Jersey City, New Jersey has a daily science demonstration of the Tesla
Coil creating a million volts of electricity before the spectators eyes.
Many books were written about Tesla : Prodigal
Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O’Neill
and Margaret Cheney’s book Tesla:
Man out of Time has contributed significantly to his fame. A
documentary film Nikola Tesla, The Genius Who Lit the World, produced by the Tesla
Memorial Society and the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, The Secret of Nikola Tesla (Orson Welles), BBC Film Masters
of the Ionosphere are other tributes to the great genius.
Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika,
which was then part of
the Austo-Hungarian Empire, region of Croatia. His father, Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and
his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor in her own right of household
appliances. Tesla studied at the Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the
Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. At
first, he intended to specialize in physics and mathematics, but soon he
became fascinated with electricity. He began his career as an electrical
engineer with a telephone company in Budapest in 1881. It was there, as
Tesla was walking with a friend through the city park that the elusive
solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind. With a
stick, he drew a diagram in the sand explaining to his friend the
principle of the induction motor. Before going to America, Tesla joined
Continental Edison Company in Paris where he designed dynamos. While in
Strassbourg in 1883, he privately built a prototype of the induction
motor and ran it successfully. Unable to interest anyone in Europe in
promoting this radical device, Tesla accepted an offer to work for
Thomas Edison in New York. His childhood dream was to come to America to
harness the power of Niagara Falls.
Nikola Tesla came to the United States in 1884 with an introduction
letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison: “I know two great
men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is you and the other is this young
man.” Tesla spent the next 59 years of his productive life living in
New York. Tesla set about improving Edison’s line of dynamos while
working in Edison’s lab in New Jersey.
It was here that his divergence of opinion with Edison over
direct current versus alternating current began. This disagreement
climaxed in the war of the currents as Edison fought a losing battle to
protect his investment in direct current equipment and facilities.
pointed out the inefficiency of Edison’s direct current electrical
powerhouses that have been
build up and down the Atlantic seaboard. The secret, he felt, lay in the
use of alternating current ,because to him all energies were cyclic. Why
not build generators that would send
electrical energy along distribution lines first one way, than another, in multiple waves using the
lamps were weak and inefficient when
supplied by direct current. This system had a severe disadvantage in
that it could not be transported more than two miles due to its
inability to step up to high voltage levels necessary for long distance
transmission. Consequently, a direct current power station was required
at two mile intervals.
current flows continuously in one direction; alternating current changes
direction 50 or 60 times per second and can be stepped up to vary high
voltage levels, minimizing power loss across great distances. The future
belongs to alternating current.
Tesla developed polyphase alternating current system of generators,
motors and transformers and held 40 basic U.S. patents on the system,
which George Westinghouse bought, determined to supply America with the
Tesla system. Edison did not want to lose his DC empire, and a bitter
war ensued. This was the war of the currents between AC and DC. Tesla
-Westinghouse ultimately emerged the victor because AC was a superior
technology. It was a war won for the progress
of both America and the world.
introduced his motors and electrical systems in a classic paper, “A
New System of Alternating Current Motors and Transformers” which he
delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1888.
One of the most impressed was the industrialist and inventor George
Westinghouse. One day he visited Tesla’s laboratory and was amazed at
what he saw. Tesla had constructed a model polyphase system consisting
of an alternating current dynamo, step-up and step-down transformers and
A.C. motor at the other end. The perfect partnership between Tesla and
Westinghouse for the nationwide use of electricity in America had begun.
1882, Tesla discovered the rotating magnetic field, a fundamental
principle in physics and the basis of nearly all devices that use
alternating current. Tesla
brilliantly adapted the principle of rotating magnetic field for the
construction of alternating current induction motor and the polyphase
system for the generation, transmission, distribution and use of
Tesla’s A.C. induction motor is widely used throughout the
world in industry
and household appliances. It started the industrial revolution at the
turn of the
century. Electricity today is generated transmitted and converted to
power by means of his inventions. Tesla’s greatest achievement is his
alternating current system, which is today lighting the entire globe.
astonished the world by demonstrating. the wonders of alternating
current electricity at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in
1893. Alternating current became standard power in the 20th Century.
This accomplishment changed the world. He designed the first
hydroelectric powerplant in Niagara Falls in 1895, which was the final
victory of alternating current. The
achievement was covered widely in the world press, and Tesla was praised
as a hero world wide. King
Nikola of Montenegro conferred upon him the Order of Danilo.
Tesla was a
pioneer in many fields. The
Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and
television sets and other electronic equipment.
That year also marked the date of Tesla's United States
alternating current induction motor is considered one of the ten
greatest discoveries of all time. Among
his discoveries are the fluorescent light , laser beam, wireless
communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote
control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft.
Tesla is the father of the radio and the modern electrical transmissions
systems. He registered over 700 patents worldwide. His vision included
exploration of solar energy and the power of the sea. He foresaw
interplanetary communications and satellites.
Century Magazine published
Tesla's principles of telegraphy without wires, popularizing scientific
lectures given before Franklin Institute in February 1893.
Review in 1896 published X-rays of a man, made by Tesla, with X-ray
tubes of his own design. They
appeared at the same time as when Roentgen announced his discovery of
X-rays. Tesla never
attempted to proclaim priority. Roentgen congratulated Tesla on his sophisticated X-ray
pictures, and Tesla even
wrote Roentgen's name on one of his films.
He experimented with shadowgraphs similar to those that later
were to be used by Wilhelm Rontgen when he discovered X-rays in 1895.
Tesla's countless experiments included work on a carbon button
lamp, on the power of electrical resonance, and on various types of
lightning. Tesla invented
the special vacuum tube which emitted light to be used in photography.
The breadth of
his inventions is demonstrated by his patents for a bladeless steam
turbine based on a spiral flow principle.
Tesla also patented a pump design to operate at extremely high
patented the basic system of radio in 1896.
His published schematic diagrams describing all the basic
elements of the radio transmitter which was later used by Marconi.
In 1896 Tesla
constructed an instrument to receive radio waves. He experimented with this device and transmitted radio waves
from his laboratory on South 5th Avenue. to the Gerlach Hotel
at 27th Street in Manhattan.
The device had a magnet which gave off intense magnetic fields up
to 20,000 lines per centimeter. The
radio device clearly establishes his piority in the discovery of radio.
quench-spark transmitter produced by the Lowenstein Radio Company and
licensed under Nikola Tesla Company patents, was installed on the U.S.
Naval vessels prior to World War I.
1901, Marconi established wireless communication between Britain and the
Newfoundland, Canada, earning him the Nobel prize in 1909.
But much of Marconi's work was not original. In 1864, James Maxwell theorized electromagnetic waves.
In 1887, Heinrich Hertz proved Maxwell's theories.
Later, Sir Oliver Logde extended the Hertz prototype system.
The Brandley coherer increased the distance messages could be
transmitted. The coherer
was perfected by Marconi.
heart of radio transmission is based upon four tuned circuits for
transmitting and receiving. It
is Tesla's original concept demonstrated in his famous lecture at the
Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1893.
The four circuits, used in two pairs, are still a fundamental
part of all radio and television equipment.
States Supreme Court, in 1943 held Marconi's most important patent
invalid, recognizing Tesla's more significant contribution as the
inventor of radio technology.
Tesla built an
experimental station in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1899, to
experiment with high voltage, high frequency electricity and other
Colorado Springs Tesla Coil magnifying transmitter was energized,
it created sparks 30 feet long.
From the outside antenna, these sparks could be seen from a
distance of ten miles. From
this laboratory, Tesla generated and sent out wireless waves which
mediated energy, without wires for miles.
Colorado Springs, where he stayed from May 1899 until 1900, Tesla made
what he regarded as his most important discovery-- terrestrial
stationary waves. By this
discovery he proved that the Earth could be used as a conductor and
would be as responsive as a tuning fork to electrical vibrations of a
certain frequency. He also
lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles( 40
kilometers) and created man-made lightning.
At one time he was certain he had received signals from another
planet in his Colorado laboratory, a claim that was met with disbelief
in some scientific journals.
The old Waldorf
Astoria was the residence of Nikola Tesla for many years.
He lived there when he was at the height of financial and
intellectual power. Tesla
organized elaborate dinners, inviting famous people who later
witnessed spectacular electrical experiments in his laboratory.
supported by J. Pierpont Morgan, Tesla built the Wardenclyffe laboratory
and its famous transmitting tower in Shoreham, Long Island between 1901
and 1905. This huge landmark was 187 feet high, capped by a 68-foot
copper dome which housed the magnifying transmitter.
It was planned to be the first broadcast system, transmitting
both signals and power without wires to any point on the globe.
The huge magnifying transmitter, discharging high frequency
electricity, would turn the earth into a gigantic dynamo which would
project its electricity in unlimited amounts anywhere in the world.
of wireless electricity was used to power ocean liners, destroy
warships, run industry and transportation and send communications
instantaneously all over the globe.
To stimulate the public's imagination, Tesla suggested that this
wireless power could even be used for interplanetary communication.
If Tesla were confident to reach Mars, how much less difficult to
reach Paris. Many
newspapers and periodicals interviewed Tesla and described his new
system for supplying wireless power to run all of the earth's industry.
Because of a
dispute between Morgan and Tesla as to the final use of the tower.
Morgan withdrew his funds. The
financier's classic comment was, "If anyone can draw on the power,
where do we put the meter?"
but incomplete tower was demolished in 1917 for wartime security
reasons. The site where the
Wardenclyffe tower stood still exists with its 100 feet deep foundation
still intact. Tesla's
laboratory designed by Stanford White in 1901 is today still in good
condition and is graced with a bicentennial plaque.
to the scientific community on his inventions in New York, Philadelphia
and St. Louis and before scientific organizations in both England and
France in 1892. Tesla’s lectures and writings of the 1890s aroused
wide admiration among contemporaries popularized his inventions and
inspired untold numbers of younger men to enter the new field of radio
and electrical science.
Tesla was one of the most celebrated personalities in the American
press, in this century. According
to Life Magazine's special
issue of September, 1997, Tesla is among the 100 most famous people of
the last 1,000 years. He is
one of the great men who divert the stream of human history. Tesla's celebrity was in its height at the turn of the
century. His discoveries,
inventions and vision had widespread acceptance by the public, the
scientific community and American press.
Tesla's discoveries had extensive coverage in the scientific
journals, the daily and weekly press as well as in the foremost literary
and intellectual publications of the day.
He was the Super Star.
many autobiographical articles for the prominent journal Electrical Experimenter, collected in the book, My
Inventions. Tesla was gifted with intense powers of visualization and
exceptional memory from early youth on.
He was able to fully construct, develop and perfect his
inventions completely in his mind before committing them to paper.
Hugo Gernsback, Tesla was possessed of a striking physical appearance
over six feet tall with deep set eyes and a stately manner. His impressions of Tesla, were of a man endowed with
remarkable physical and mental freshness, ready to surprise the world
with more and more
inventions as he grew older. A
lifelong bachelor he led a somewhat isolated existence, devoting his
full energies to science.
In 1894, he was
given honorary doctoral degrees by Columbia and Yale University and the
Elliot Cresson medal by the
Franklin Institute. In
1934, the city of Philadelphia awarded him the John Scott medal for his
polyphase power system. He was an honorary member of the National
Electric Light Association and a fellow of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science. On one occasion, he turned down an
invitation from Kaiser Wilhelm II to come to Germany to demonstrate his
experiments and to receive a high decoration.
In 1915, a New York Times article announced that Tesla and Edison were to share the Nobel Prize for physics. Oddly, neither man received the prize, the reason being unclear. It was rumored that Tesla refused the prize because he would not share with Edison, and because Marconi had already received his.
On his 75th
birthday in 1931, the inventor appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. On this occasion, Tesla received congratulatory
letters from more than 70 pioneers in science and engineering including
Albert Einstein. These letters were mounted and presented to Tesla in
the form of a testimonial volume.
died on January 7th, 1943 in the Hotel New Yorker, where he had lived
for the last ten years of his life.
Room 3327 on the 33rd floor is the two-room suites
state funeral was held at St. John the Divine Cathedral in New York City. Telegrams of
condolence were received from many notables, including the first lady
Eleanor Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace. Over 2000 people attended,
including several Nobel Laureates. He was cremated in Ardsley on the
Hudson, New York. His ashes were interned in a golden sphere, Tesla’s
favorite shape, on permanent display at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade
along with his death mask.
his speech presenting Tesla with the Edison medal, Vice President
Behrend of the Institute of Electrical Engineers eloquently expressed
the following: "Were
we to seize and eliminate from our industrial world the result of Mr.
Tesla's work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric
cars and trains would stop, our towns would be dark and our mills would
be idle and dead. His name
marks an epoch in the advance of electrical science."
Mr. Behrend ended his speech with a paraphrase of Pope's lines on
Newton: "Nature and
nature's laws lay hid by night. God
said 'Let Tesla be' and all was light."
“The world will wait a
long time for Nikola Tesla’s equal in
achievement and imagination.”
Nikola Tesla’s Awards and Recognition
1917, Tesla was awarded the Edison Medal, the most coveted electrical
prize in the United States.
Tesla’s name has been honored with an International Unit of Magnetic
Flux Density called “Tesla."
United States Postal Service honored Tesla with a commemorative stamp in
was inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame in 1975.
Nikola Tesla Award is one of the most distinguished honors presented by
the Institute of Electrical Engineers. The award has been given annually
Nikola Tesla Statue is located on Goat Island to honor the man whose
inventions were incorporated into the Niagara Falls Power Station
in 1895. Tesla is known as the inventor of polyphase alternating
Nikola Tesla Corner Sign, located at the intersection of 40th Street and
6th Avenue in Manhattan, is a constant reminder to all New Yorkers of
the greatness of this genius.
York, July 10, 1998
-Dr. Ljubo Vujovic
General, New York
Tesla Memorial Society