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Meet Nikola Tesla

Nikola TeslaNikola Tesla was born in Coroatia in 1856. He is best known for being a future-thinking electrical engineer and was one of the creators of the alternating current (AC) electric system that we still use today to power our homes and businesses.

He came to the United States in 1884 to work with famed inventor Thomas Edison, but he didn't agree with Edison's plan for providing electricty to cities and decided to build his own laboratory and work on his own experiments. He had labs in both New York City and Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Tesla and his hands of flame

Tesla experimented with wireless communication and built the first "cell tower" in an attempt to send messages across the country. He also experimented with light bulbs that were wireless. He once filled an entire field with lightbulbs and lit them all at once without any wires connecting them.

Tesla loved showing off his experiments and was quite a showman. He demonstrated some of his electrical devices at the World Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. The AC electrical system that he helped invent was used to light the fair's grounds and buildings.

Another project that the inventor worked on was the improvement of X-ray machines. His notes indicate that he was aware that the rays could be dangerous to a person's skin.

In 1896 he demonstrated a radio-controlled model boat. People who saw it wondered if it was a magic trick. Others thought he had a trained monkey inside steering the boat.

When Tesla was experimenting at his Colorado lab, he sometimes created artifical lightening that caused thunder so loud it could be heard 15 miles away, adding to people's thinking that he was a mad scientist. In his later years he invented a charged particle beam weapon sometimes referred to as a death-ray gun. He thought it would be so powerful that it could end all wars and refered to it as a "peace ray," but he couldn't interest the military in adopting it.

There were reports that Tesla was interested in and experimented with time travel and that he talked about building a camera that could record a person's thoughts.

As an old man, Tesla loved to walk in the park and feed the pigeons. When he came across a bird that was injured, he would bring it back to the hotel room where he lived and nurse it back to health. Nikola Tesla died alone in his room of heart failure in 1943 at the age of 86.

Tesla in his lab
This picture, of Tesla in his lab was published in New Century Magazine. The lightening looks so large because this is a time-exposure photo.

Read more about Nikola Tesla:

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Who was Nikola Tesla?

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Pullmann Palace Cars What's a Carrom Game? What's the World Columbian Exhibition? Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Published by Planert Creek Press

Page updated: 10/29/2015