Even very early during childhood it became apparent that Tesla possessed extraordinary talents. He increasingly saw unusual flashes of lightning and similar things. He also had often visions that mixed in his perception with current reality. Sometimes he couldn’t distinguish between his imagination and reality. In his mind he traveled, exchanged with people and even made friends there.
He benefited from these extraordinary qualities when, at the age of 17, he began to deal with inventions. Tesla himself said it didn’t really matter to him whether he was building an experiment in reality or letting the experiment go through his mind. One could say that Tesla had a simulation software in his brain at that time! It allowed him to arrange certain attempts for tests in different arrangements and let them run through for testing. Similar to what many engineers do today: First plan everything on the computer, design a model and test it. So he usually improved his equipment before he actually constructed it for the first time.
During his scholarship at the University of Graz, he realized that electricity was the area he should pay the most attention to. His interest in the possible uses of alternating current (AC), which was not yet ready for the market at the time, was also awakened quite early on. At first, he could not really prove the usefulness of his research. It was his intuition that drove him further to think, research and to stick to his idea. It took seven years for Tesla to come up with a solution to his problem. After he constructed his first simple AC motor, quickly other types of AC-based motors (e.g. dynamos and transformers) followed.
Tesla quickly recognized one of the main advantages of his invention: Alternating current can be sent over long distances without great problems.
Tesla then quit his job and left for New York in 1884 to apply with his inventions and ideas to Thomas Edison. Tesla was definitely in the right place, because Edison had built the world’s first public power plant in New York. However, due to the inefficient direct current, this was only able to illuminate a few street lamps in the immediate vicinity. Edison already planned to flood the city with generators before Tesla’s visit. So Edison was not amused by Teslas ideas of disturbing his plans. He made clear to him that direct current (DC) is the only way of electricity which he will support. Nevertheless, Edison realized Tesla’s talents and promised a bonus of $50,000 if he could improve his direct current efficiency. After one year of hard work Tesla could show significant improvement but Edison didn’t pay him. “You don’t get the American humor” he said.
After this incident, Tesla left his employer Edison and founded his own company with the help of investors. However, Tesla was also betrayed by his investors for his wages after differences and after that was finally faced with the financial void. He then worked in road construction until by chance contact wass made with the “Western Union Telegraph Company”. In the vicinity of his old employer Edison, Tesla could now finally continue to work on the development of alternating current. Through numerous patent publications and lectures he finally won the interest of George Westinghouse.
He was an engineer, inventor himself and also a new investor for Tesla. Westinghouse and Tesla agreed on a price of $2.50 for each “horsepower of Tesla electricity” sold. Due to the large range of alternating current, the power plants were built outside the cities. The additional use of thinner cables also helped to keep electricity costs for customers lower than those of Edison. Due to the economic advantage it didn’t take long until Westinghose, together with Tesla, had more customers than Edison.
What follows is truly unbelievable given that Edison still has a decent reputation in textbooks today! In order to defeat its competitors, Edison used not only very unfair, but also cruel means. He had cats and dogs caught and strapped them to metal plates during public demonstrations. He then tortured these animals with electric shocks from an alternating current source in order to derive from it absurdly and to propagate that there is a danger from alternating current.
When the first murderer was to be punished with a death sentence on the electric chair, Edison also pleaded for alternating current and was successful. But this didn’t help and further negative campaigns by Edison didn’t show the desired effect he was looking for. So Westinghouse was able to extend the success of him and Tesla. At first the success of Westinghouse and Tesla couldn’t be stopped! At the end of 1896, cities around the world only purchased alternating current systems for their electricity supply. Thanks to the contract signed by Tesla, which assured him that he would earn money from every installed alternating current system, after all these years Tesla was now on the verge of reaping the fruits of his hard work.
But once again donors, this time from Westinghouse’s company, complicated the matter. Westinghouse felt compelled to make it clear to Tesla that he should forgo the royalty on his patents in order not to jeopardize the future of the company. But Tesla was primarily concerned with his inventions. He just wanted to make sure that his inventions were used. In addition, he trusted Westinghouse and therefore selflessly voluntarily renounced a potentially incredibly large sum of money for a one-time payment of $216,000 (at that time his royalty would have been worth about $12 million. Future revenues were estimated to would have been worth several billion dollars). For Tesla, it’s more important at this time that his technology spreads. He wanted everyone on Earth to have access to free and unlimited energy (if you read this today it reminds you a little of the attempt to establish the “unconditional basic income” – only that Tesla was much closer to reaching his goal!).
Did you know that Tesla developed the first remote control in 1898? Following up on this he successfully transmitted radio waves over a distance of about 1000 kilometers. He then planned a radio tower in New York Long Island to shoot highly energized waves into the atmosphere from there. Through this process, the energy should be accessible to everyone. But when the financier learned about Tesla’s goals he asks himself how he could make money from his planned investment and realizes he probably won’t. Then he jumped off at short notice which was too much for Tesla! With his meanwhile 60 years this caused a lot of stress for him and recovered only very slowly from these problems.
It is also somewhat ironic that Tesla was awarded the Edison Medal, which is “respected” by all the others, in the same year. At first, he understandably didn’t want to accept it, but in the end he is persuaded to do so.
Although Tesla is known worldwide for his inventions and had several hundred patents in his life, he finally died in 1943 very poor in a hotel room in New York.
What happened back then – now over 100 years ago – is one thing. However, it’s still a good example of how our world functions then and still today: Even today, the “history” of Edison is still written in all textbooks without even a rudimentary fair report about the fight Edison led against Tesla, Westinghouse and against “free energy” in general. Most children (and unfortunately also adults) today know the name Tesla only from electric cars and don’t even know who Nikola Tesla was. Concerning what he wanted, almost did achieve and how things developed that’s sad. Also not very fair and honorable regarding to all of his works and inventions.
Exploding energy prices and the disproportionately expensive electricity costs for the mining of Bitcoins & Co. are example current consequences of the fact that at that time the economically more skillfully acting one prevailed – but unfortunately not the best technology for mankind.