Nikola Tesla; More than a “Mad Scientist”

Nikolas Tesla

Nikolas Tesla

Designer, creator, inventor, problem solver, solution finder, all of those/us, and even more, can find great inspiration in the life and works of Nikola Tesla. We aren’t the genius he is-me especially, but there is a kernel of truth, or two, for all of us to take away.

It’s absolutely amazing to try and comprehend the power and genius of Tesla. Even more so when you find out he had very few notes on anything. His mind would go to work and the ideas would apparently ferment and then come to life in experimentation and application. No idea was too crazy-apparently.

I meant to post this yesterday but I went a little deeper than I thought I would, and kept finding even more interesting stuff and pics. I even put together a few photo essays over on my Tumblr, what a great vehicle for visual blogging by the way. So here we go.

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10th, 1856 and for every year that goes by Tesla gets more and more recognition for his tremendous accomplishments to the betterment of the world.

Here are a lot of them from various sources on the internet, and including the Tesla Society.

The 10 Inventions of Nikola Tesla That Changed The World

1. Alternating Current – This is where it all began, and what ultimately caused such a stir at the 1893 World’s Expo in Chicago.  A war was leveled ever-after between the vision of Edison and the vision of Tesla for how electricity would be produced and distributed.  The division can be summarized as one of cost and safety: The DC current that Edison (backed by General Electric) had been working on was costly over long distances, and produced dangerous sparking from the required converter (called a commutator).  Regardless, Edison and his backers utilized the general “dangers” of electric current to instill fear in Tesla’s alternative: Alternating Current.  As proof, Edison sometimes electrocuted animals at demonstrations.  Consequently, Edison gave the world the electric chair, while simultaneously maligning Tesla’s attempt to offer safety at a lower cost.  Tesla responded by demonstrating that AC was perfectly safe by famously shooting current through his own body to produce light.  This Edison-Tesla (GE-Westinghouse) feud in 1893 was the culmination of over a decade of shady business deals, stolen ideas, and patent suppression that Edison and his moneyed interests wielded over Tesla’s inventions. Yet, despite it all, it is Tesla’s system that provides power generation and distribution to North America in our modern era.

Tesla Greeting Card

Tesla Greeting Card

2. Light – Of course he didn’t invent light itself, but he did invent how light can be harnessed and distributed.  Tesla developed and used florescent bulbs in his lab some 40 years before industry “invented” them. At the World’s Fair, Tesla took glass tubes and bent them into famous scientists’ names, in effect creating the first neon signs.  However, it is his Tesla Coil that might be the most impressive, and controversial.  The Tesla Coil is certainly something that big industry would have liked to suppress: the concept that the Earth itself is a magnet that can generate electricity (electromagnetism) utilizing frequencies as a transmitter.  All that is needed on the other end is the receiver — much like a radio.

3. X-rays – Electromagnetic and ionizing radiation was heavily researched in the late 1800s, but Tesla researched the entire gamut. Everything from a precursor to Kirlian photography, which has the ability to document life force, to what we now use in medical diagnostics, this was a transformative invention of which Tesla played a central role.  X-rays, like so many of Tesla’s contributions, stemmed from his belief that everything we need to understand the universe is virtually around us at all times, but we need to use our minds to develop real-world devices to augment our innate perception of existence.

The Invention of the X-Ray

4. Radio – Guglielmo Marconi was initially credited, and most believe him to be the inventor of radio to this day.  However, the Supreme Court overturned Marconi’s patent in 1943, when it was proven that Tesla invented the radio years previous to Marconi.  Radio signals are just another frequency that needs a transmitter and receiver, which Tesla also demonstrated in 1893 during a presentation before The National Electric Light Association.  In 1897 Tesla applied for two patents US 645576, and US 649621. In 1904, however, The U.S. Patent Office reversed its decision, awarding Marconi a patent for the invention of radio, possibly influenced by Marconi’s financial backers in the States, who included Thomas Edison and Andrew Carnegie. This also allowed the U.S. government (among others) to avoid having to pay the royalties that were being claimed by Tesla.

5. Remote Control – This invention was a natural outcropping of radio. Patent No.613809 was the first remote controlled model boat, demonstrated in 1898.  Utilizing several large batteries; radio signals controlled switches, which then energized the boat’s propeller, rudder, and scaled-down running lights. While this exact technology was not widely used for some time, we now can see the power that was appropriated by the military in its pursuit of remote controlled war. Radio controlled tanks were introduced by the Germans in WWII, and developments in this realm have since slid quickly away from the direction of human freedom.

6. Electric Motor – Tesla’s invention of the electric motor has finally been popularized by a carbrandishing his name.  While the technical specifications are beyond the scope of this summary, suffice to say that Tesla’s invention of a motor with rotating magnetic fields could have freed mankind much sooner from the stranglehold of Big Oil.  However, his invention in 1930 succumbed to the economic crisis and the world war that followed. Nevertheless, this invention has fundamentally changed the landscape of what we now take for granted: industrial fans, household applicances, water pumps, machine tools, power tools, disk drives, electric wristwatches and compressors.

7. Robotics – Tesla’s overly enhanced scientific mind led him to the idea that all living beings are merely driven by external impulses.  He stated: “I have by every thought and act of mine, demonstrated, and does so daily, to my absolute satisfaction that I am an automaton endowed with power of movement, which merely responds to external stimuli.”  Thus, the concept of the robot was born.  However, an element of the human remained present, as Tesla asserted that these human replicas should have limitations — namely growth and propagation. Nevertheless, Tesla unabashedly embraced all of what intelligence could produce.  His visions for a future filled with intelligent cars, robotic human companions, and the use of sensors, and autonomous systems are detailed in a must-read entry in the Serbian Journal of Electrical Engineering, 2006 (PDF).

8. Laser – Tesla’s invention of the laser may be one of the best examples of the good and evil bound up together within the mind of man.  Lasers have transformed surgical applications in an undeniably beneficial way, and they have given rise to much of our current digital media. However, with this leap in innovation we have also crossed into the land of science fiction.  From Reagan’s “Star Wars” laser defense system to today’s Orwellian “non-lethal” weapons’ arsenal, which includes laser rifles and directed energy “death rays,” there is great potential for development in both directions.

Einstein, on Tesla

Einstein, on Tesla

9 and 10. Wireless Communications and Limitless Free Energy – These two are inextricably linked, as they were the last straw for the power elite — what good is energy if it can’t be metered and controlled?  Free?  Never.  J.P. Morgan backed Tesla with $150,000 to build a tower that would use the natural frequencies of our universe to transmit data, including a wide range of information communicated through images, voice messages, and text.  This represented the world’s first wireless communications, but it also meant that aside from the cost of the tower itself, the universe was filled with free energy that could be utilized to form a world wide web connecting all people in all places, as well as allow people to harness the free energy around them.  Essentially, the 0′s and 1′s of the universe are embedded in the fabric of existence for each of us to access as needed.  Nikola Tesla was dedicated to empowering the individual to receive and transmit this data virtually free of charge.  But we know the ending to that story . . . until now?

“If Nikola Tesla had not been censured, we could have been traveling between the stars by now…” - Nassim Haramein

Another article worth a look on this site about Nikola Tesla and free thinking.

Quotes from Nikola Tesla:

“One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”  – Nikola Tesla

… “It will soon be possible to transmit wireless messages so simply that an individual can carry his own apparatus.”  - Nikola Tesla, 1909

“If you wish to undersatand the universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration.”  – Nikola Tesla

“Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors.”  – Nikola Tesla

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creatio  of the brain unfolding to success . . . Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, love, friends, love, everything.”  – Nikola Tesla

“Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine.” – Nikola Tesla

“I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”  – Nikola Tesla

“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”  – Nikola Tesla

“Today’s scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality.”  – Nikola Tesla

“All people everywhere should have free energy sources.”…”Electric Power is everywhere present in unlimited quantities and can drive the world’s machinery without the need for coal, oil or gas.” -Nikola Tesla

Of course there’s the story of Tesla and a death ray. Death ray???

It is capable, he believes, of destroying an army 200 miles away; it can bring down an airplane like a duck on the wing, and it can penetrate all but the most enormous thicknesses of armor plate. Since it must be generated at stationary power plants by machines which involve four electrical devices of the most revolutionary sort, Dr. Tesla considers it almost wholly a defensive weapon. In peace times, he says, the beam will also be used to transmit immense voltages of power over distances limited only by the curvature of the earth.

Transmitting Tesla Tower and Laboratory built in 1901-1905 (via Tesla Society)

Tesla vs Edison

Tesla vs Edison

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) – Scientist and Inventor. The Genius Who Lit the World

Tesla’s Main Achievements, by Tesla Society:

  • Rotating Magnetic Field - Discovered 1882 in Budapest, Hungary
  • Alternating Current - Lighting the Whole World Today
  • AC Motor - One of the Ten Greatest Discoveries of All Time
  • Tesla Coil
  • Tesla Unit T =W/m²
    All MRI machines are calibrated in Tesla Units
  • Radio
  • Neon Lights
  • Robotics
  • Free Energy
  • Columbian Exposition - 1893 – Chicago, Illinois
    The World’s Fair
    America Celebrates 400 Years Since Discovery
    Victory of Alternating Current Electricity
  • Niagara Falls Power Plant - 1896
  • Colorado Springs Laboratory – 1899
  • Wardenclyffe Tower (Tesla’s Wireless World System) 1901 – 1905
  • Transmission of Electrical Energy without wires
  • Use of Ionosphere for scientific purposes

Links below are from the Tesla Society website —

  1. Wikipedia – Nikola Tesla - An excellent source of information on Tesla.

  2. - Tesla Society from Switzerland (German)




  6. Nikola Tesla and My Thoughts - Website from Branko Jermanis, technical details of Tesla’s inventions.

  7. - Beautiful photos of the Tesla Coils

  8. - Serbian Academy of Sciences, Oct 18-20, 2006, Belgrade.

  9. Inventors Hall of Fame - Nikola Tesla was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 1975 with the Electro-Magnetic Motor and Alternating Current (Patent Number 381,968). 

  10. Energy Planet: Renewable Energy Directory - Web directory of information about Nikola Tesla, the Tesla Coil. and Tesla’s inventions.

  11. Tesla: Master of Lightning is a new multi-media project about the life and legacy of Nikola Tesla. Produced by New Voyage Communications in Washington, D.C., this new PBS documentary brings Nikola Tesla’s remarkable story to a broader audience than ever before. The 90-minute PBS Special premiered nationally on December 12, 2000.  This is by far the best Tesla site on the net, if your interested in Tesla, take a look at this site.  

  12. Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade (new address)
  13. The Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade contains the whole of Nikola Tesla’s inheritance, including his manuscripts, drawings, correspondence, the books he used, and clippings from periodicals and newpapers which published articles about Tesla, or about the scientific and technical problems he was concerned with.
  14. The Nikola Tesla Reprint Page
  15. Happy Birthday Nikola Tesla
  16. - Serbian Academy of Sciences, Oct 18-20, 2006, Belgrade.

  17. Split, Croatia -

  18. Farmingville, New York, October 6-8, 2006

  19. Banja, Luka, Republic of Srpska Sept 22 – 23, 2006 -

  20. Immigrants Hall of Fame

  21. Biographies of Electrical Scientists - includes biographies for many important scientists of our time, including Tesla.

  22. Maison d’Être Bookstore Nikola Tesla - website offers books and informations about Nikola Tesla, very useful.

  23. Nikola Tesla: The Complete Tesla - excellent and very enlightening website on Nikola Tesla and his work.

  24. Twenty First Century Books
    Gary Peterson’s impressive site of Tesla-related books and publications.  Nice layout and content.

  25. ERASED AT THE SMITHSONIAN John W. Wagner’s site that tries to preserve Nikola Tesla place in history. Very interesting.

  26. NTESLA.ORG - Website by John W. Wagner.

  27. - sells and distributes Nikola Tesla videos. 

  28. Tesla Purple Plates (in English and German) - Phillip Stul, Switzerland, excellent and educational website.

  29. Tesla Technology Research excellent website on Tesla.

  30. Nikola Tesla in Flash - new website that is 100% flash.  Has a great deal of information on Nikola Tesla and his work.  Very educational.
  31. Jasmina L. Vujic - Associate Professor, Director, ANECL and DECF at the University of California, Berkeley.
  32. Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla - Marc J. Seifer’s (a Tesla biographer)  website on Nikola Tesla.  It’s a very well designed website.
  33. The Tesla Wardenclyffe Project is working in partnership with the Friends of Science East and the Science Museum of Shoreham, New York to acquire Nikola Tesla’s historic Long Island laboratory building and create a multifaceted institution to be known as the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.
  34. - excellent website.
  35. Television Poland, Director Maciej Trojanowski - Nikola Tesla website written in Polish.
  37. Tesla Symposiums and Conferences Worldwide in 2006
The First Power Plant

The First Power Plant

This post below from Badass of the Week was too goo to pass up. He flips a pretty good yarn on the Nikolas Tesla story

Good Stuff:

Pretty much everybody even remotely associated with real-time strategy games has heard the name Tesla before – the Serbian God of Lightning’s omnipresent, ever-zapping coils have been ruining the lives of digital Allied soldiers and gibbing U.S. war machines into spare parts since the release of Command & Conquer: Red Alert in 1996 – but surprisingly few people these days are familiar with the life and times of one of humankind’s most eccentric, badass, and volumetrically-insane scientific super-geniuses.

First off, Nikola Tesla was brilliant.  And not just like Ken Jennings brilliant, either – I mean like, “holy crap my head just exploded (from all the awesome)” brilliant.  The Croatian-born engineer spoke eight languages, almost single-handedly developed technology that harnessed the power of electricity for household use, and invented things like electrical generators, FM radio, remote control, robots, spark plugs, fluorescent lights, and giant-ass machines that shoot enormous, brain-frying lightning bolts all over the place like crazy.  He had an unyielding, steel-trap photographic memory and an insane ability to visualize even the most complex pieces of machinery – the guy did advanced calculus and physics equations in his damn head, memorized entire books at a time, and successfully pulled off scientific experiments that modern-day technology STILL can’t replicate.  For instance, in 2007 a group of lesser geniuses at MIT got all pumped up out of their minds because they wirelessly transmitted energy a distance seven feet through the air. Nikola Tesla once lit 200 lightbulbs from a power source 26 miles away, and he did it in 1899 with a machine he built from spare parts in the middle of the god-forsaken desert.  To this day, nobody can really figure out how the hell he pulled that shit off, because two-thirds of the schematics only existed in the darkest recesses of Tesla’s all-powerful brain.

Of course, much like many other eccentric giga-geniuses and diabolical masterminds, Tesla was also completely insane.  He was prone to nervous breakdowns, claimed to receive weird visions in the middle of the night, spoke to pigeons, and occasionally thought he was receiving electromagnetic signals from extraterrestrials on Mars.  He was also obsessive-compulsive and hated round objects, human hair, jewelry, and anything that wasn’t divisible by three. He was also asexual and celibate for his entire life.  Basically, Nikola Tesla was the ultimate mad scientist, which is seriously awesome.

Another sweet thing about Tesla is that he conducted the sort of crazy experiments that generally result in hordes of angry villagers breaking down the door to your lab with torches and pitchforks.  One time, while he was working on magnetic resonance, he discovered the resonant frequency of the Earth and caused an earthquake so powerful that it almost obliterated the 5th Avenue New York building that housed his Frankenstein Castle of a laboratory.  Stuff was flying off the walls, the drywall was breaking apart, the cops were coming after him, and Tesla had to smash his device with a sledge hammer to keep it from demolishing an entire city block.  Later, he boasted that he could have built a device powerful enough to split the Earth in two.  Nobody dared him to prove it.

Tesla also ordered the construction of the Wardenclyffe Tesla Tower, a giant building shaped like an erect penis that would have housed the largest Tesla coil ever built.  The massive structure, ostensibly designed to wirelessly transmit power, has been cited as a potential cause of the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Event – a ten-megaton blast that detonated in the wastelands above central Russia that completely obliterated and deforested everything unlucky enough to be located within a several hundred mile radius.  While nothing has ever successfully proven Tesla’s involvement in the ass-destroyingly huge explosion, it’s pretty awesome that this guy could potentially have detonated a weapon 1,000 times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, and have done it back before they’d even invented the submachine gun.

Tesla wall mural in Lincoln, Nebraska (via Imgur)

During his adventures blinding half of the world with science, Nikola Tesla harnessed the power of Niagara Falls into the first hydroelectric power plant, constructed a bath designed to cleanse the human body of germs using nothing but electricity, and created a 130-foot long bolt of lightning from one of his massive coils (a feat which to this day remains the world record for man-made lightning), but perhaps his most badass invention was his face-melting, tank-destroying, super-secret Atomic Death Ray.  In the 1920s he claimed to be working on a tower that could potentially have spewed forth a gigantic beam of ionized particles capable of disintegrating aircraft from 200 miles away and blinking most men out of existence like something out of a Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers comic.  His weapon, known as the “Teleforce Beam”, allegedly shot ball lightning at 60 million volts, liquefying its targets with enough power to vaporize steel, and, while it could shoot further than 200 miles, its effectiveness beyond that range was limited only by the curvature of the Earth.  Luckily for all humans, this crazy insanity never came to fruition – most of the schematics and plans existed only in Tesla’s head, and when he died of heart failure in 1943, little hard data on the project existed.  Still, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI confiscated all his personal stuff and locked it away anyways, just to be safe.

Despite being incredibly popular during his day, now Tesla remains largely overlooked among lists of the greatest inventors and scientists of the modern era.  Thomas Edison gets all the glory for discovering the lightbulb, but it was his one-time assistant and life-long arch-nemesis, Nikola Tesla, who made the breakthroughs in alternating-current technology that allowed for people to cheaply use electricity to power appliances and lighting in their homes.  They constantly fought about whether to use alternating or direct-currents (their bitter blood feud resulted in both men being snubbed by the Nobel Prize committee), but ultimately Tesla was the one who delivered the fatal kick-to-the-crotch that ended the battle – at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, his AC generators illuminated the entire experience, marking the first time that an event of that magnitude had ever taken place under the glow of artificial light.  Today, all homes and applicances run on Tesla’s AC current.

Nikola Tesla was one of those super-genius badasses whose intellect placed him dangerously on the precipice between “great scientific mind” and “utter madness”.  He held 700 patents at the time of his death, made groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of physics, robotics, steam turbine engineering, and magnetism, and once melted one of his assistants’ hands by overloading it with X-rays – which isn’t really scientific, but is still pretty cool.  And honestly, if there were one man on this planet who was ever capable of single-handedly destroying the entire planet through his insane scientific discoveries, it was Tesla.  That alone should qualify him as a pretty righteous badass. The End

Tesla 18_TunguskaEffect

The Tunguska Event, for the “tin-foil hat” crowd. Was Tesla responsible???

The Tunguska event was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near thePodkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk KraiRussia, at about 07:14KRAT (00:14 UT) on June 30 [O.S. June 17], 1908.[1][2][3] The explosion, having the epicentre(60.886°N, 101.894°E), is believed to have been caused by the air burst of a small asteroid orcomet at an altitude of 5–10 kilometres (3–6 mi) above Earth‘s surface. Different studies have yielded widely varying estimates of the object’s size, on the order of 60 m (200 ft) to 190 m (620 ft).[4] It is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history.[5]

. . . The Tunguska explosion knocked down an estimated 80 million trees over an area covering 2,150 square kilometres (830 sq mi). It is estimated that the shock wave from the blast would have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale. An explosion of this magnitude is capable of destroying a largemetropolitan area.[12] This possibility has helped to spark discussion of asteroid deflection strategies.

Tunguska Event

Finally I’d like to add the entire Tesla cartoon from Oatmeal who has much appreciation for Tesla the nerd/geek and not the “Mad-Scientist” he has been portrayed in the past. Oatmeal also gets into the conflict between Tesla and Edison.

This is not only funny stuff but highly informative and great story-telling. Something we all could learn a little from. The power of words and graphics to tell the entire story, well done. Clicking on the images will allow you to enlarge the panel and make reading easier-enjoy.

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