Nikola Tesla (10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) was an inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer. He was one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.
Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries are of groundbreaking importance. The International System of Units unit measuring magnetic field B (also referred to as the magnetic flux density and magnetic induction), the tesla, was named in his honor, as well as the Tesla effect of wireless energy transfer to wireless powered electronic devices. In 1882 he moved to
Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company, designing improvements to electric equipment brought overseas from Edison's ideas. According to his autobiography, in the same year he conceived the induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields for which he received patents in 1888. Thomas Edison hired Tesla to work for his Edison Machine Works. Tesla's work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving some of the company's most difficult problems. Tesla was even offered the task of completely redesigning the Edison company's direct current generators.
In 1887, he constructed the initial brushless alternating current induction motor, which he demonstrated to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE) in 1888. In the same year, he developed the principles of his Tesla coil, and began working with George Westinghouse at Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company's Pittsburgh labs. Westinghouse listened to his ideas for polyphase systems which would allow transmission of alternating current electricity over long distances. Tesla demonstrated "the transmission of electrical energy without wires" as early as 1891. The Tesla effect (named in honor of Tesla) is a term for an application of this type of electrical conduction (that is, the movement of energy through space and matter, not just the production of voltage across a conductor).
When Tesla was 36 years old, the first patents concerning the polyphase power system were granted. He continued research of the system and rotating magnetic field principles. Tesla served, from 1892 to 1894, as the vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the forerunner (along with the Institute of Radio Engineers) of the modern-day IEEE. From 1893 to 1895, he investigated high frequency alternating currents. He generated AC of one million volts using a conical Tesla coil and investigated the skin effect in conductors, designed tuned circuits, invented a machine for inducing sleep, cordless gas discharge lamps, and transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, building the first radio transmitter. Tesla also investigated harvesting energy that is present throughout space. He believed that it was merely a question of time when men would succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.
Thomas Edison and Tesla were mentioned as potential laureates to share the Nobel Prize of 1915 in a press dispatch, leading to one of several Nobel Prize controversies. Some sources have claimed that because of their animosity toward each other neither was given the award, despite their scientific contributions, and that each sought to minimize the other's achievements and right to win the award, that both refused to ever accept the award if the other received it first, and that both rejected any possibility of sharing it.
Electromechanical devices and principles developed by Nikola Tesla:
- Various devices that use rotating magnetic fields (1882).
- The Induction motor, rotary transformers, and "high" frequency alternators.
- The Tesla coil, his magnifying transmitter, and other means for increasing the intensity of electrical oscillations (including condenser discharge transformations and the Tesla oscillators).
- Alternating current long-distance electrical transmission system (1888) and other methods and devices for power transmission.
- Systems for wireless communication (prior art for the invention of radio) and radio frequency oscillators.
- Robotics and the electronic logic gate.
- Electrotherapy Tesla currents.
- Wireless transfer of electricity and the Tesla effect.
- Tesla impedance phenonomena.
- Tesla electro-static field.
- Tesla principle.
- Bifilar coil.
- Tesla insulation.
- Tesla impulses.
- Tesla frequencies.
- Tesla discharge.
- Forms of commutators and methods of regulating third brushes.
- Tesla turbines (eg., bladeless turbines) for water, steam and gas and the Tesla pumps.
- Tesla igniter.
- Corona discharge ozone generator.
- Tesla compressor.
- X-rays Tubes using the Bremsstrahlung process.
- Devices for ionized gases and "Hot Saint Elmo's Fire".
- Devices for high field emission.
- Devices for charged particle beams.
- Phantom streaming devices.
- Arc light systems.
- Methods for providing extremely low level of resistance to the passage of electrical current (predecessor to superconductivity).
- Voltage multiplication circuitry.
- Devices for high voltage discharges.
- Devices for lightning protection.
- VTOL aircraft.
- Dynamic theory of gravity.
- Concepts for electric vehicles.
- Polyphase systems.