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Nikola Tesla – Fast Facts You Didn’t Know About This Inventor

Nikola Tesla was an Austrian-American engineer and scientist whose inventions include the Tesla coil, alternating-current (AC) electricity, and the discovery of the rotating magnetic field.

His contributions to technology today have been praised far and wide.

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Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, on July 10, 1856, to Djuka Mandic and Milutin. He was one of five children, including siblings Dane, Angelina, Milka, and Marica.

Tesla’s father, Milutin, was a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church. 

He was also a writer and tried pushing Tesla to join the Priesthood. He inevitably drew career inspiration from his mother.

Tesla’s interest in electrical invention was spurred by his mother, Djuka Mandic, who invented small household appliances in her spare time while her son was growing up.

Nikola Tesla – Education

As Tesla grew up, he displayed remarkable imagination and creativity as well as a poetic touch. He was able to memorize entire books and store logarithmic tables in his brain.

He worked almost like a robot as he could stay long hours without food. He also picked up different languages quite easily compared to most people.

At just 19, Tesla attended the Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague for his electrical engineering training.  

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Rather than finish his studies, Tesla became a gambling addict, lost all his tuition money, dropped out of school and suffered a nervous breakdown.

Tesla came to the United States in 1884 and with very little money and a letter of recommendation to Thomas Edison. The letter written by Edison’s former employer Charles Batchelor read “My Dear Edison: I know two great men and you are one of them.

The other is this young man!” According to Tesla, Edison offered him $50,000 if he could improve upon the DC generation plants Edison favored.

Within a few months, Tesla informed the American inventor that he had indeed improved upon Edison’s motors.

Edison, Tesla noted, refused to pay up. “When you become a full-fledged American, you will appreciate an American joke,” Edison told him.

Several months later, the two parted ways due to a conflicting business-scientific relationship, attributed by historians to their incredibly different personalities.

Where Edison was a businessman, Tesla was an inventor.

Nikola Tesla – Career

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Tesla worked as a manual laborer for a while before his next deal came through. Tesla designed the alternating-current (AC) electrical system, which would quickly become the preeminent power system of the 20th century and has remained the worldwide standard ever since. 

“The motors I built there,” Tesla said, “were exactly as I imagined them. I made no attempt to improve the design, but merely reproduced the pictures as they appeared to my vision, and the operation was always as I expected.”

In 1895, Tesla designed what was among the first AC hydroelectric power plants in the United States, at Niagara Falls. 

George Westinghouse recognized that Tesla’s designs were what he needed to defeat Edison’s DC current.

He, therefore, licensed his patents for $60,000 in stocks and cash and royalties based on how much electricity Westinghouse could sell.

Towards the end of the 19th century, Tesla patented the Tesla coil, which laid the foundation for wireless technologies and is still used in radio technology today.

The heart of an electrical circuit, the Tesla coil is an inductor used in many early radio transmission antennas.

Nikola Tesla Corner

Despite all his great ideas, Tesla died a poor man at 86 years old on January 7, 1943, in New York City. In his final days, Tesla lived in hotel rooms and spent a lot of time feeding pigeons at the park. His memory still lives on. 

In 1994, a street sign identifying “Nikola Tesla Corner” was installed near the site of his former New York City laboratory, at the intersection of 40th Street and 6th Avenue.

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