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Inventors of Radio: Nikola Tesla
April 1963 Radio-Electronics

April 1963 Radio-Electronics

April 1963 Radio-Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Radio-Electronics, published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

This brief biography of Nikola Tesla was printed in a 1963 issue of Radio−Electronics magazine. Tesla was considered an enigmatic and mysterious person. For someone deemed to be a loner and recluse, he sure managed to accomplish a lot for the world of science considering his humble beginnings in Yugoslavia as the son of a clergyman (a lot of Europe's great scientists were in church service to some capacity). Tesla emigrated to America in 1884 "with 4¢ in his pocket," which is the equivalent of about a buck and a half today - basically nothing. Maybe he also had money in his shoe or suitcase ;-)  As was the case with many highly successful inventors, he fought many legal, publicity, and philosophical battles in his lifetime, the most famous of which was "The War of the Currents," where he, in legion with George Westinghouse, had his alternating current (AC) power distribution system pitted against none other than Thomas Edison who promoted a direct current (DC) distribution system - and won.

See Nikola Tesla in 19th Century Newspapers, Nikola Tesla - Master of Lightning, and Inventors of Radio: Nikola Tesla, The War of the Currents

Inventors of Radio: Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla, April 1963 Radio-Electronics - RF CafeBy Dexter S. Bartlett

Nikola Tesla was an extremely visionary person - even bordering on the neurotic - who had the uncanny habit of making most of his visions come true. This is attested to by the more than 900 patents to his credit, many of which were fundamental. His other visions were mostly ahead of his time. Like others who have accomplished things, he preferred his workshop to society.

Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, Lika, in what is now Yugoslavia, in 1856. He was the son of a clergyman and Georgiana Maudic, herself not unknown as an inventor. After completing his primary education, his parents wanted him to enter the church but he prevailed upon them to send him to the Polytechnic at Gratz. There he studied mathematics for four years, followed by two years of philosophical studies at the University of Prague. He died in New York on Jan. 7, 1943.

He developed his first invention, a telephone repeater, in 1881, and conceived his idea of the rotating magnetic field which was to be the basis of his famous AC transmission of power. He then traveled in France and Germany, and finally settled down in the United States. He was attracted to America by the remarkable progress of the electrical industry, and with 4 cents in his pocket, stepped off the boat at New York City's Battery in 1884. America as a land of opportunity was soon apparent, for as he walked up Broadway he met a group of men trying to repair an electric motor. They paid him for fixing it. He proceeded with high hopes of finding work with Edison. His luck continued; Edison gave him a job in his laboratory at Orange, N.J., designing motors and generators.

The Tesla coil, source of extremely high voltage - RF Cafe

The Tesla coil, source of extremely high voltage.

After some time with Edison, designing motors and generators, Tesla began to have visions of high-voltage AC transmission lines covering the nation, while Edison still claimed that DC power was the only logical way. So in 1887 Tesla started his Tesla Electric Co. This was not much of a success and he soon sold his patents to Westinghouse for a good sum. His polyphase AC transmission system was the first used between Niagara Falls and Buffalo - the great granddaddy of all power networks of this day.

Among his many wireless telegraph patents are a rotary spark gap; a coherer in which filings were placed in a chamber exhausted of air, decohered by revolving it constantly; a tikker or loose contact detector; filament-less lamps or neon-like tubes, and suggestions for the instigation of the first time ticks from the Eiffel Tower, made by General Ferrie in 1909.

In 1891, he showed that it was possible to transmit energy through a single wire, without return. In the same year he invented his justly famous Tesla transformer (Tesla coil) which demonstrated the effects and phenomena connected with high-frequency oscillators. Although this transformer has remained mostly a scientific toy, it is still used to demonstrate RF action.

But his giant intellect went much further. It was he who was the first to transmit wireless power - not just signals - over a distance in his historic experiments in Colorado in the early 1890's, which caused a world-wide furor. In 1890 he also built a huge Tesla oscillator which produced 12,000,000 volts at 100 kc. The primary used over 300 kw. Lightning in huge sparks was thrown as far as 22 feet and created such powerful electrical disturbances in the surrounding earth that 1-inch sparks could be drawn from grounded metal plates 300 feet distant. A little later Tesla was able to obtain lightning-like discharges over 100 feet long. Then, in 1898, at Colorado Springs, he succeeded in lighting lamps at a distance of over 1/2 mile without wires.

In an 1893 lecture before the Franklin Institute and Electric Light Association, Tesla suggested the possibility of wireless telegraphy and the distribution of electrical energy by stationary waves on the surface of the earth, using the entire globe as a conductor. Here we see the first modern radio diagram, identical with fundamental radio and TV circuits today.

In this age of guided missiles, we should never forget that Tesla again was first when he invented and demonstrated his radio-controlled submarine in 1898. He even constructed large-scale operating models. The vessel, which could take the form of a guided torpedo or of other mobile bodies, was steered and controlled by wireless. It was probably the earliest telemechanical radio-controlled model in existence.

Tesla had, before Poulsen, clearly described the use of a direct-current arc burning in the flame of an alcohol-fed lamp for wireless telegraph CW transmission. In conjunction with John Stone Stone, Tesla invented a 4-circuit tuner and received a patent on Feb. 2, 1902, a year before Marconi's.

Dr. Lee de Forest stated that Tesla was his greatest inspiration in the early days. He once applied for a job, but Tesla had visions of de Forest going on to greater things and turned him down. His vision was soon vindicated.

References

Radio-Electronics, June 1956

Radio-Craft, Feb. 1943 (several articles)

G. G. Blake, History of Radio T. & T., 1928

Lee deForest, Father of Radio, 1950

Mary Texanna Loomis, Radio Theory and Operating, 1926

Orrin E. Dunlap, Radio's 100 Men of Science, 1944

J. J. Fahie, History of Wireless Telegraphy, 1902

Donald McNicol, Radio's Conquest of Space, 1946

Scientific American, Feb. 23, 1901

 - See Full List - 

Nikola Tesla (Radio-Electronics image) - RF CafeNikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, and physicist who is best known for his contributions to the development of the modern alternating current (AC) electrical system. Tesla was born in the town of Smiljan in modern-day Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Tesla attended the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz and later studied at the University of Prague. He immigrated to the United States in 1884 and began working for Thomas Edison's company, where he developed and improved a number of electrical devices. However, Tesla and Edison had a falling out, with Tesla resigning in 1885 due to a disagreement over payment.

Tesla went on to work for several other companies and eventually established his own laboratory, where he worked on developing his own ideas for electrical devices. In 1891, he invented the Tesla coil, a high-voltage transformer that is still used in radio and television technology today.

Tesla also contributed to the development of the AC electrical system, which is now used to power homes and businesses around the world. He was a fierce competitor of Edison, who advocated for the use of direct current (DC) electricity instead of AC. Tesla's AC system won out in the end due to its greater efficiency and the ability to transmit power over long distances. It epic challenge has been called "The War of the Currents" or "The Battle of the Currents."

Tesla held over 300 patents for his inventions, which included the Tesla coil, the Tesla turbine, and the Tesla oscillator. He was also interested in wireless communication and developed a system for transmitting messages and power wirelessly over long distances, but he was unable to secure sufficient funding to continue developing the technology.

Despite his many contributions to science and technology, Tesla struggled financially for much of his life and died in relative obscurity in a hotel room in New York City in 1943. However, his legacy has lived on, and he is now recognized as one of the most important inventors and scientists of the modern era.

 

Posted March 3, 2023

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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