July 10 marks the birth of one of the most important people ever interested in the field of electricity: Nikola Tesla. In honor of this ingenious figure, let’s take a quick look at his life.
Tesla was born in 1856 in what is today known as Croatia. His inventive mind was inspired early by his mother, Djuka, who had a penchant for inventing household appliances.
In the 1870s, he studied engineering in Austria and the Czech Republic and developed his idea for the alternating current (AC) electric motor, which few showed interest in. Frustrated, he packed up his things at age 28 and made for America.
When he arrived, he found work with famed inventor Thomas Edison. Tesla’s genius proved invaluable to Edison, and he helped refine many of Edison’s own inventions. But Tesla’s ideas about alternating current didn’t sit well with Edison, who was much more inclined to push his own direct current (DC) systems.
Edison had invested heavily in his own ideas, setting up early DC powerhouses along the coast. It didn’t take long for Tesla to realize he wasn’t going to convince Edison, and the two parted ways.
But Tesla kept at it, soon teaming up with George Westinghouse, who, like Edison, was also keen on supplying the nation with electricity. A bitter rivalry ensued between Edison and Westinghouse—commonly referred to as the War of the Currents (AC versus DC). It was a war Edison would lose.
The public realized the superiority of alternating current. And Westinghouse went on to set up the beginnings of the electric systems we’ve all come to know and depend on in modern times.
Throughout his life, Tesla filed more than 300 patents. He paved the way for radios, electric motors, lasers, remote controls and fluorescent lights. He did early work on x rays, robotics and wireless communication, among many other things.
It’s said he started to lose his mind later in life, becoming more and more eccentric in his pursuits. He died penniless at the age of 86 in New York City. Today, he’s remembered for his many contributions to the world. And he continues to inspire new generations of scientists.
At Infinite Energy, we’re so thankful for the innovative spirit of people like Nikola Tesla and the imaginings that have helped shine a light toward the future.