Nikola Tesla, who discovered the rotating magnetic field, which is the
     basis of practically all alternating-current machinery, has been
     called the genius who ushered in the power age.


     Nikola Tesla was born at precisely midnight between July 9/10, 1856,
     in the village of Smiljan, province of Lika (Austria-Hungary, now
     Croatia). His father, the Reverend Milutin Tesla, was a
     Serbian-Orthodox priest; his mother, Djuka (Mandich), was unschooled
     but highly intelligent. Both families came originally from western
     Serbia and for generations had sent their sons to serve Church or Army
     and their daughters to marry ministers or officers. A dreamer with a
     poetic touch, as he matured, Tesla added to these earlier qualities
     those of self-discipline and a desire for precision.

     Training for an engineering career, he attended the Technical
     University of Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague (1879-1880).
     At Graz he first saw the Gramme dynamo, which operated as a generator
     and, when reversed, became an electric motor; and he conceived a way
     to use alternating current to advantage. His first employment was in a
     government telegraph engineering office in Budapest, where he made his
     first invention, a telephone repeater. Later, he visualized the
     principle of the rotating magnetic field and developed plans for an
     induction motor, that would become his first step toward the
     successful utilization of alternating current. In 1882 Tesla went to
     work in Paris for the Continental Edison Company, and while on
     assignment to Strasbourg in 1883, he constructed, in after-work hours,
     his first induction motor. Tesla sailed to America in 1884, arriving
     in New York City with four cents in his pocket, a few of his own
     poems, and calculations for a flying machine. He first found
     employment with Thomas Edison in New Jersey, but the two inventors,
     were far apart in background and methods, and their separation was

     In May 1885, George Westinghouse, head of the Westinghouse Electric
     Company in Pittsburgh, bought the patent rights to Tesla's polyphase
     system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors. The
     transaction precipitated a titanic power struggle between Edison's
     direct-current systems and the Tesla-Westinghouse alternating-current
     approach, which eventually won out.

     After a difficult period, during which Tesla invented but lost his
     rights to an arc-lighting system, he established his own laboratory in
     New York City in 1887, where his inventive mind could be given free
     rein. He experimented with shadowgraphs similar to those that later
     were to be used by Wilhelm Röntgen when he discovered X-rays in 1895.
     Tesla's countless experiments included work on a carbon button lamp,
     on the power of electrical resonance, and on various types of

     Tesla gave exhibitions in his laboratory in which he lighted lamps
     without wires by allowing electricity to flow through his body, to
     allay fears of alternating current. He was often invited to lecture at
     home and abroad.

     The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in
     radio and television sets and other electronic equipment for wireless
     communication. That year also marked the date of Tesla's United States

     Brilliant and eccentric, Tesla was then at the peak of his inventive
     powers. He produced in rapid succession the induction motor (utilizing
     his rotating magnetic field principle) and other electrical motors,
     new forms of generators and tranformers, and a system of
     alternating-current power transmission. Tesla also invented
     fluorescent lights and a new type of steam turbine, and he became
     increasingly intrigued with the wireless transmission of power.

     A controversy between alternating-current and direct-current advocates
     raged in 1880s and 1890s, featuring Tesla and Edison as leaders in the
     rival camps. The advantages of the polyphase alternating-current
     system, as developed by Tesla, soon became apparent, however,
     particularly for long-distance power transmission. Westinghouse used
     Tesla's system to light the World Columbian Exposition at Chicago in
     1893. His success was a factor in winning him the contract to install
     the first power machinery at Niagara Falls, which bore Tesla's name
     and pattent numbers. The project carried power to Buffalo by 1896.

     In 1898 Tesla announced his invention of a teleautomatic boat guided
     by remote control. When skepticism was voiced, Tesla proved his claims
     for it before a crowd in Madison Square Garden.

     In Colorado Springs, where he stayed from May 1899 until early 1900,
     Tesla made what he regarded as his most important discovery -
     terrestrial stationary waves. By this discovery he proved that the
     earth could be used as a conductor and would be as responsive as a
     tuning fork to electrical vibrations of a certain pitch. He also
     lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles (40
     kilometres) and created man-made lightning, producing flashes
     measuring 135 feet (41 metres). At one time he was certain he had
     received signals from another planet in his Colorado laboratory, a
     claim that was met with derision in some scientific journals.

     Returning to New York in 1900, Tesla began construction on Long Island
     of a wireless world broadcasting tower, with $150,000 capital from the
     U.S. financier J. Pierpont Morgan. Tesla claimed he secured the loan
     by assigning 51 percent of his patent rights of telephony and
     telegraphy to Morgan. He expected to provide worldwide communication
     and to furnish facilities for sending pictures, messages, weather
     warnings, and stock reports. The project was abandoned because of a
     financial panic, labour troubles, and Morgan's withdrawal of support.
     It was Tesla's greatest defeat.

     Tesla's work shifted to turbines and other projects. Because of a lack
     of funds, his ideas remained in his notebooks, which are still
     examined by engineers for unexploited clues. In 1915 he was severely
     disappointed when a report that he and Edison were to share the Nobel
     Prize proved erroneous. Tesla was the recipient of the Edison Medal in
     1917, the highest honour that the American Institute of Electrical
     Engineers could bestow.

     Tesla allowed himself only a few close friends. Among them were the
     writers Robert Underwood Johnson, Mark Twain, and Francis Marion
     Crawford. He was quite impractical in financial matters. An eccentric,
     driven by compulsions and a progressive germ phobia, Tesla had a way
     of intuitively sensing hidden scientific secrets and employing his
     inventive talent to prove his hypotheses. He was a godsend to
     reporters who sought sensational copy, but a problem to editors who
     were uncertain how seriously his futuristic prophecies should be
     regarded. Caustic criticism greeted his speculations concerning
     communication with other planets, his assertions that he could split
     the earth like an apple, and his claim to having invented a death ray
     capable of destroying 10,000 airplanes, 250 miles (400 kilometres)

     Tesla demanded much of his employees but inspired their loyalty.
     Though he admired intellectual and beautiful women, he had no time to
     become involved.

     Tesla died in New York City on January 7, 1943, the holder of more
     than 700 patents. The Custodian of Alien Property impounded his
     trunks, which held his papers, his diplomas and other honours, his
     letters, and his laboratory notes. These were eventually inherited by
     Tesla's nephew, Sava Kosanovich, and later housed in the Nikola Tesla
     Museum, Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Hundreds filed into New York City's
     Cathedral of St. John the Divine for his funeral services, and a flood
     of messages acknowledged the loss of a great genius. Three Nobel Prize
     recipients addressed their tribute to: ... one of the outstanding
     intellects of the world who paved the way for many of the
     technological developments of modern times.


     Based on "The New Encyclopaedia Britannica", 15th edition, "The
     McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of World Biography", and "Tesla: Man out of
     time" by Margaret Cheney