The Man Who Invented the 20th Century: Why We Love Nikola Tesla, Part 3

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

Tesla was born in Croatia, on July 10, 1856 during a severe lightning storm. According to the legend, the obstetrician called Nikola a child of darkness, but his mother, Djuka Mandic, replied: “No, of light.” Although Mandic had a lack of education, she was very creative and had an impressive memory, inherited by her son.

From the early childhood, Tesla was showing remarkable aptitude in learning new languages and solving math problems. Later at the age of nineteen, while studying in Austrian Polytechnic School in Graz, Tesla dreamed about a way to use AC power for the distribution of electrical energy. Due to financial difficulties after the first year at school, Tesla continued his education on his own. In 1881, he moved to Hungary to work in the Central Telegraph Office. One day in February 1882, Tesla was walking and enjoying the sunset in Budapest when suddenly the solution of a rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind. “At this very moment he saw clearly in his mind an iron rotor spinning rapidly in a rotating magnetic field produced by the interaction of two alternating currents out of step with each other” (Tesla Society). However, that was neither the time nor the place to build the machine that Tesla could clearly visualize.

Two years later, Tesla moved to New York and started working with Thomas Edison’s company, Edison Machine Works, as an Electrical Engineer. Tesla resigned when Edison did not keep his promise to pay Tesla $50,000 for improving the performance of Edison’s DC dynamo. In 1885, Tesla got a job in an arc light business in New Jersey, where he built an improved arc lightning system and applied for his first patent. Tesla was broke after returning money to his backers. Despite his expectations to continue researching AC, his main duty became to run the arc lightning system. Due to disagreement, Tesla was forced out of the company and left with nothing but worthless stock certificates. Tesla later referred to this as “the hardest blow he’d ever received”, ( Depressed, Tesla got a ditch digger job and almost committed suicide right before his thirtieth birthday.

In 1886, his luck changed and he had established his own company, Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing Company. Here, Tesla’s creativity was given free rein and he started experimenting with early X-ray technology, electrical resonance, arc lamps and other ideas. In 1887, Tesla filed seven patents for AC motors and power systems, which were probably the most valuable inventions of that time.

By 1888, Tesla was granted 30 patents for his inventions and invited to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. One of Tesla’s lectures interested Westinghouse Electric Company founder, George Westinghouse, who had a strong belief in the AC system and opposed the DC system supported by Edison Machine Works. Westinghouse hired Tesla, licensed his patents for the AC motor and gave him his own lab. During his time at Westinghouse, Tesla experimented with X-rays, described the principle of radio broadcasting, piloted a radio-controlled boat around a pool in Madison Square Garden, pioneered the basic principles of radar, invented the high-voltage transformer known as the Tesla coil, electric oscillators and meters. Together, Tesla and Westinghouse won the “Battle of Currents” over Edison Machine Works by lighting the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago. With General Electric, he created the first modern power station at Niagara Falls, having dream of harnessing the natural wonder since childhood.. Later, Tesla moved to Colorado Springs to build a laboratory to develop his vision of a worldwide broadcasting system. In this laboratory Tesla built a twelve-million-volt Tesla coil that was capable of producing artificial lightning that soared up to 135 feet in the air.

Tesla4-1-300x132In 1900, Tesla returned to New York and started to work on a global wireless communication system that was to work via Wardenclyffe tower and was intended to share information and provide free electricity throughout the world, a project that showed that Tesla was far ahead of his time and had a clear idea of what the modern world will look like.

“When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket”, (Tesla, 1926). Sounds like he was talking about the internet, smart phones and Skype.

PCTI Tesla Conference Room

Today it’s hard to imagine life without the visionary inventions and concepts of Nikola Tesla. PCTI believes that Tesla was the greatest inventor of twentieth century! We dedicated our conference room to this great man. Read more about Tesla’s life and inventions in our preceding blogs: Why We Love Tesla I and Why We Love Tesla II.

Power Conversion Technologies, Inc. is a certified DBE woman-owned business. PCTI designs and manufactures leading edge power electronic equipment in the highest power ranges. PCTI’s engineering staff has in-depth knowledge in the key areas of power conversion such as power semiconductor analysis and application, thermal exchange, magnetic design, packaging, DSP (digital signal processor) control for inverters, frequency converters, DC power supplies, battery chargers and dischargers. Contact us for more information.

Nikola Tesla
PCTI is a proud friend of Nikola Tesla Coloring Book founded by Niffer Desmond. Click on image above or visit for more information.
Pittsburgh Tesla Club
PCTI recently became friends with Pittsburgh's Tesla High Voltage Electronics Club. Click on the image above to learn more or visit