FORGOTTEN GENIUS

Nikola Tesla was a largely forgotten genius, until Elon Musk came along to balance the books, calling his company Tesla.

Nikola Tesla - Inventions, Quotes & Facts - Biography

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) invented all the components of the modern electrical power grid – AC power generators; transformers; electric motors.

He was a contemporary of Edison. He was employed by Edison for a short while, but their different personalities, education and skills made collaboration impossible.

Tesla recognized that electricity could come in two forms – DC and AC.

DC is what you get from a battery. This was Edison’s platform, and he did push it hard – deploying city street lights, trams, industrial power. The issue with DC that Edison did not fully understand was the matter of distribution – how do you transport (affordably) the electricity from power station to the consumer? The domestic user wants low voltages – you have a fair survival prospect if you were to brush up against a 110 – 200 V power source; little chance above that. In order to be affordable, the heavy duty electric power line transport needs a high voltage (such as 200,000 Volts) with relatively low currents. To convert 200,000 V to (or from) 210 V you need a transformer – Tesla!

Tesla was a very smart engineer – Not only did he discover/invent all the necessary concepts, but he also held the critical 40 or so patents that covered the essentials of AC generators and motors. He joined up with the Westinghouse company and became very rich. (Apparently, he got a fraction of every electricity bill).

His later years were a disappointment, with projects too ambitious to work. He aimed to Inspired by Marconi’s success with the long distance (trans-atlantic) radio transport of messages, he wanted to send power via electro-magnetic waves. Power, not messages, in effect. The physics was correct, but the technical issues were beyond the ability of the engineers of the time. There is more detail Margaret Cheney’s book Tesla.

What a genius Tesla was!

MICHAEL KESTEVEN

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