When you think about the greatest inventors of all time,
there are a few names that come to mind.
The Wright brothers.
But there’s one name that is not as recognizable.
When you plug your phone in, turn on the lights, or use the refrigerator,
但当你给手机充电 开灯 或使用冰箱时
you have Nikola Tesla to thank.
This is the story of the forgotten genius
and the story begins at the end.
On January 7, 1943
a maid working at the New Yorker Hotel walked into room 3327
where she found the body of an 86–year-old man
who called the hotel home for the past decade.
Tesla died alone and broke.
He lived off a diet of warm milk and crackers and was obsessed with
feeding the pigeons outside.
One of the greatest inventors of all time faded into obscurity
and died penniless.
There is a reason why this happened which will become clear by the end of the story.
Tesla was born in the town of Smiljan in present-day Croatia on July 10, 1856.
He was born during a lightning storm.
According to family legend, the midwife said halfway through the birth:
this child will be a child of darkness
to which his mother replied, no, he will be a child of light.
Little did she know how prophetic those words would be.
When Tesla was five he witnessed his older brother fall from a horse and later die.
This would haunt him for the rest of his life.
As a child, he began seeing visions accompanied by flashes of light,
confusing what was real and what was imaginary.
This never went away.
The vision spurred his ability to conceive inventions in his head
in such detail that he didn’t even need to draw them out.
he explained how the designs were perfected
in his mind in an article in 1919.
“Invariably, my device works as I conceived that it should
and the experiment comes out exactly as I planned it.
In 20 years there has not been a single exception”
Tesla credits his mom for his interest in invention.
Đuka Mandić invented small household appliances in her spare time.
She had an eidetic memory –
the ability to recall an image from memory with high precision
and she passed this on to her son.
Tesla’s father was a priest and wanted him to become one too
but Tesla was interested in engineering.
When he contracted cholera as a teen and nearly died
his father promised to send him to engineering school if he survived
and miraculously, he did.
He went to study in Austria at the Technical College of Graz
where he is said to have worked from 3 am until 11 pm every day.
Professors were worried that he would die from exhaustion.
Tesla had a beautiful mind.
He could perform calculus in his head and spoke eight languages.
He was a good student at the start but would not finish school.
He dropped out after becoming addicted to gambling
and cut ties with his family so they wouldn’t find out.
His friends didn’t know what happened to him either.
They thought he drowned in a river.
Tesla moved around Europe and eventually ended up in Budapest
working as an electrician at a telephone company.
While walking around a park in the city one day,
he had an epiphany about developing a new way of generating electricity
using alternating current.
It would be his greatest invention that would change the world.
I’ll explain more about AC a little later.
In 1882, he settled in Paris
to work for the French branch of Thomas Edison’s electric company.
He started off installing indoor lighting but the managers noticed his talents
and had him doing more complicated work,
designing and building dynamos and motors.
He was soon traveling throughout Europe fixing problems at other Edison branches.
Two years later, in 1884, Tesla’s manager offered him
两年后 在1884年 特拉斯的主管雇他
a job at Edison Machine Works in New York City.
He agreed and arrived in America with only four cents in his pocket
because his money was stolen on the boat ride over.
Tesla initially had a good impression on Edison
Edison was also impressed by Tesla,
later saying: “I have had many hard-working assistants but you take the cake.”
This mutual admiration didn’t last. They would become bitter rivals.
The two men disagreed over how electricity should be contained and delivered.
Edison preferred direct current which is a system
where the electric charge only flows in one direction.
Tesla was a fan of alternating current in which
the electric charge changes direction periodically.
Changing directions is crucial to maintaining a steady supply of electricity
because it does not overpower outlets.
This means it can provide more power and transmit power over longer distances.
It’s the reason AC powers our homes and other large appliances
whereas DC powers smaller items like flashlights.
But Edison didn’t care about AC
because it could have hurt the sales of direct current
since he owned all the patents for DC.
According to Tesla,
a manager at Edison’s company offered him a $50,000 bonus
if he could improve some machines that ran on DC.
When he did, the manager refused to pay up.
Another account of the story has Edison telling Tesla:
“You don’t understand our American humor.”
Regardless of how it played out, Tesla quit
and set off to form his own electric company the following year in 1885
But his investors showed little interest
and decided to take the company and all of Tesla’s patents which they could do.
because Tesla had assigned patents to the company.
in exchange for stock which was now worthless.
After losing his company,Tesla had to take a job
digging ditches for two dollars a day just to survive.
But his fortunes would change.
In 1887, Tesla invented an induction motor that ran on alternating current.
The motor was the most efficient way to convert electricity to mechanical power.
A version of it powers Tesla’s vehicles which took its name from the inventor.
He patented the motor and showed it off the following year
at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers
that caught the attention of George Westinghouse,
a major player in the electric market
who realized Tesla’s AC motor might just be what he needed
to complete his alternating current system
and compete against Edison’s DC system.
So Tesla licensed the patents for the AC motor to Westinghouse
for 60,000 dollars and also receive stock and royalties.
Westinghouse hired him as a consultant for $2,000 a month
which is the equivalent of over $50,000 a month today.
The war of the currents began.
Edison tried hard to try to discredit Westinghouse and Tesla.
He secretly financed the electric chair that used alternating current
to prove how dangerous AC was.
Edison’s company also publicly tortured animals to prove its point.
In 1903, they electrocuted a circus elephant named Topsy
and produced a film about it called Electrocuting an Elephant.
Despite Edison’s schemes,
good things were happening for Westinghouse and Tesla.
They underbid Edison and his newly formed company General Electric
to illuminate the World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
The first all-electric fair
celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America.
It was clear to the 27 million people who attended that
AC would power the future.
Their success continued when they beat out Edison’s General Electric again
to build the world’s first alternating current power plant in Niagara Falls.
The hydroelectric power station was a massive success and helped light up Buffalo, New York.
The building of the plant also meant Tesla became a pioneer in renewable energy.
His statue can be found at Niagara Falls today.
Westinghouse and Tesla won the war of the currents
and direct current was being phased out.
But there were problems.
Westinghouse’s company was running out of money
and eventually went $10 million into debt.
In 1897, he went to Tesla
and asked if his royalties could be reduced
in a desperate attempt to save the company.
Tesla was so compelled by compassion for his friend that he ripped up his contract.
He was grateful to Westinghouse for believing in him when no one else would.
Tesla willingly walked away from $12 million in royalties
which in today’s terms would be worth over $300 million.
Had he held on to those royalties over time,
he would have likely become the wealthiest person on the planet
and the first person with a billion dollar net worth.
That act of compassion for his friend
of tearing up his contract saved Westinghouse.
In return, Westinghouse paid Tesla $216,000
for the rights to use as ac patents forever.
This is the equivalent of about six million dollars today.
With that money, Tesla became financially independent
and set up a series of laboratories in New York for new projects
where he was visited by the rich and famous,
including his close friend and one of the greatest American writers of all time, Mark Twain.
This was his period of many inventions.
He held over 300 patents in his lifetime.
He created an early version of neon lighting,
the tesla turbine – a bladeless turbine for vehicles.
He pioneered x-ray technology by experimenting with radiation.
This is an x-ray of his own hand.
Another stand-out invention was one of the first remote controls.
In 1898, he controlled a miniature boat at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It was so far ahead of its time that the crowd thought
he was using magic to make it move.
That would be the ancestor to today’s remote-controlled drones.
One of his most well-known inventions is the Tesla coil
a device that can produce large amounts of high voltage electricity.
Because of the coils, he discovered he could send and receive powerful radio signals
when they resonated at the same frequency.
Tesla was getting ready to broadcast his first radio signal but disaster struck.
A fire destroyed his lab in 1895.
He lost years of research and equipment.
Tesla didn’t apply for a patent for the radio until two years later.
The fire would be the turning point in his life that led to a downhill spiral.
At the same time that he was working on radio,
an Italian entrepreneur, Guglielmo Marconi,
was also working on the radio in England.
He tried to acquire patent rights in the US
but was turned down because it was too similar to Tesla’s.
However, things changed
when Marconi was able to send the world’s first transatlantic radio message in 1901
using 17 of Tesla’s patents.
Edison then threw his financial support behind Marconi.
Tesla had no problem with Marconi’s achievements
but in 1904, the US Patent Office suddenly changed its mind
and awarded Marconi a patent for the invention of the radio.
There has never been a reason given for this decision
but the powerful financial backing Marconi received could explain it.
Marconi went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1911
which was only possible due to Tesla’s work.
Tesla was furious and sued Marconi.
The case dragged on in court for years
and was only settled in Tesla’s favor after his death.
That radio incident negatively impacted the rest of Tesla’s career.
For example, Tesla was obsessed with bringing wireless communication to the world
and built a huge wireless transmission station in Long Island, New York
called Wardenclyffe Tower.
He imagined a world where we could send and receive messages wirelessly
He was, again, well ahead of his time.
But financial backers did not have a faith in his project.
They pulled out and banked on Marconi’s radio invention instead.
This left Tesla in financial ruin.
He had no choice but to abandon his dream project in 1905
and eventually lost Wardenclyffe Tower to foreclosure.
Tesla’s mental health deteriorated.
He lived his last decade in the New Yorker Hotel beginning in 1933.
Westinghouse Corporation hired him as a consultant and paid for his room.
He lived rent-free but died in debt.
So why did one of the greatest inventors of all time
fade into obscurity and die penniless?
You could say Tesla was unlucky at times
like when the fire burned down his New York lab.
But the main reason is because Tesla was not a capitalist.
He made decisions that those with more business acumen would not have made
such as giving up his royalties for the AC motor.
He wasn’t concerned about money.
He was concerned about the pursuit of science for the betterment of humanity.
He wanted to change the world and he did.
Thanks in part to Elon Musk’s company
people are starting to learn more about the man who inspired the company,
a man whose inventions would power our entire planet.
It’s because of Tesla that modern society functions the way it does.
Tesla’s mother called him a child of light and she was quite right.
Thanks for watching the story of Nikola Tesla, I hope you enjoyed it.
I’m Cindy Pom. If you like what you saw, subscribe to my new channel.
我是Cindy Pom 如果你喜欢该视频 欢迎订阅我的新频道
I also started aPatreon where you can make a monthly contribution
and this will go a really long way toward helping this channel grow. See you soon.
When you think about the greatest inventors of all time,