‘First photograph ever taken by phosphorescent light. The face is that of Mr. Tesla, and the source of light is one of his phosphorescent bulbs. Time of exposure, eight minutes. Date of photograph January, 1894.’ —Century Magazine
Born in Smiljan, Croatia, July 10, 1856, Tesla emigrated to United States in 1884
and became a naturalized citizen in 1891.
Italicized type excerpts (followed by / Auto chapter #) from My Inventions, The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, published in the Electrical Experimenter magazine, 1919; and, The Problem of Increasing Human Energy by Nikola Tesla / Century Magazine, 1900 (here indicated as HE). Other newspaper & magazine excerpts (non-Italic) from various sources. Tesla quotes from these other sources in red Italics.
The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs. This is the difficult task of the inventor who is often misunderstood and unrewarded. But he finds ample compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers and in the knowledge of being one of that exceptionally privileged class without whom the race would have long ago perished in the bitter struggle against pitiless elements / Auto 1.
My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind / Auto 1.
I was fascinated by a description of Niagara Falls I had perused, and pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by the Falls. I told my uncle that I would go to America and carry out this scheme. Thirty years later I saw my ideas carried out at Niagara and marveled at the unfathomable mystery of the mind / Auto 2.
First Alternating Current Induction Motor of Nikola Tesla, prior to 1884.
[Suffering a severe illness] One day I was handed a few volumes of new literature unlike anything I had ever read before and so captivating as to make me utterly forget my hopeless state. They were the earlier works of Mark Twain and to them might have been due the miraculous recovery which followed. Twenty-five years later, when I met Mr. Clemens and we formed a friendship between us, I told him of the experience and was amazed to see that great man of laughter burst into tears / Auto 3.
I devoted myself chiefly to physics, mechanics and mathematical studies, spending the hours of leisure in the libraries. I had a veritable mania for finishing whatever I began, which often got me into difficulties. On one occasion I started to read the works of Voltaire when I learned, to my dismay, that there were close on one hundred large volumes in small print which that monster had written while drinking seventy-two cups of black coffee per diem. It had to be done, but when I laid aside the last book I was very glad, and said, “Never more!” / Auto 3.
(1884)….when Mr. Batchellor [an assistant of Edison, working in Paris] pressed me to go to America with a view of redesigning the Edison machines, I determined to try my fortunes in the Land of Golden Promise / Auto 4.
The meeting with Edison was a memorable event in my life. I was amazed at this wonderful man who, without early advantages and scientific training, had accomplished so much / Auto 3.
1885 — For nearly a year my regular hours were from 10:30 a.m. until 5:00 a.m. the next morning without a day’s exception. Edison said to me, “I have had many hard-working assistants but you take the cake.” During this period I designed twenty-four different types of standard machines with short cores and of uniform pattern which replaced the old ones. The Manager had promised me $50,000 on the completion of this task but it turned out to be a practical joke. This gave me a painful shock and I resigned my position / Auto 4.
In 1886 my system of arc lighting was perfected and adopted for factory and municipal lighting, and I was free, but with no other possession than a beautifully engraved certificate of stock of hypothetical value / Auto 4.
…. in April, 1887, the Tesla Electric Company was organized, providing a laboratory and facilities. The motors I built there were exactly as I had 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 / Auto 4.
In the early part of 1888 an arrangement was made with the Westinghouse Company for the manufacture of the motors on a large scale / Auto 4.
“The subject which I now have the pleasure of bringing to your notice is a novel system of electric distribution and transmission of power by means of alternate currents, affording peculiar advantage, particularly in the way of motors, which I am confident will at once establish the superior adaptability of these currents to the transmission of power, and will show that many results heretofore unattainable can be reached by their use; results which are very much desired in the practical operation of such systems, and which cannot be accomplished by means of continuous currents.
“If a delicately pivoted disc of steel or other magnetic metal is approached to the ring, it is set in rapid rotation, the direction of rotation varying with the position of the disc….Obviously, the rotation of the poles produces corresponding inductive effects, and may be utilized to generate currents in a closed conductor placed within the influence of the poles….transformers present an additional advantage in their capability of operating motors. They are capable of similar modifications in construction, and will facilitate the introduction of motors and their adaptation to practical demands….In producing a shifting of the poles in the transformer, and thereby inducing currents, the induction is of the ideal character, being always maintained at its maximum action. — Nikola Tesla / “A New System of Alternate Current Motors and Transformers,” / The Electrical Engineer, June 15, 1888.
At the close of 1889, however, my services in Pittsburg [at Westinghouse] being no longer essential, I returned to New York and resumed experimental work in a laboratory on Grand Street, where I began immediately the design of high frequency machines / Auto 4.
Tesla Tube in which light is obtained without filament or combustion (photographed by its own light) — The Century, April 1895: Tesla’s Oscillator and other Inventions / Thomas Commerford Martin.
If my memory serves me right, it was in November, 1890, that I performed a laboratory experiment which was one of the most extraordinary and spectacular ever recorded in the annals of science. In investigating the behaviour of high frequency currents I had satisfied myself that an electric field of sufficient intensity could be produced in a room to light up electrodeless vacuum tubes. Accordingly, a transformer was built to test the theory and the first trial proved a marvelous success. It is difficult to appreciate what those strange phenomena meant at that time. We crave for new sensations but soon become indifferent to them. The wonders of yesterday are today common occurrences. When my tubes were first publicly exhibited they were viewed with amazement impossible to describe. From all parts of the world I received urgent invitations and numerous honors and other flattering inducements were offered to me, which I declined / Auto 4.
Detail of February, 1919, Cover of Electrical Experimenter.
“Mr. Tesla … appears today as the discoverer of phenomena so novel and revolutionary as to have absolutely no rivals in the field, and to have cut out for himself a path in a field of observation in which he stands alone….His discoveries have thrown a beam of light so far into the darkness which has hitherto obscured the vision of science, that the near future may reveal applications of the most novel and astonishing nature in connection with the production of light by electric method, so original, in fact, that the present methods of electric lighting, scarcely a decade old, may be entirely superseded by others bearing no relation to them in general principle.” / Manufacture & Builder, July 1891.
It is now practically assured, almost with the force of demonstration, that the clue to the great secret of producing light without the accompaniment of heat, is in the hands of Tesla, and that either through him, or other investigators following the way he has pointed out, mankind will shortly be endowed with another splendid gift of science the record of which in the years to come, must make the closing years of the nineteenth century remarkable in the annals of civilization. / Manufacturer and Builder, 1891.
With continuous current we have learned the rudiments of lighting and power distribution. With the alternating current, manipulated and coaxed to yield its highest efficience, we may solve the problems of aerial and marine navigation by electricity, operate large railway systems, transmit the energy of Niagara hundreds of miles, and, in Mr. Tesla’s own phrase, “hook our machinery directly to that of Nature.” / Manufacturer and Builder, 1891.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A SYSTEM OF TELEGRAPHY / 1893 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
DIAGRAM c. “WIRELESS” TELEGRAPHY MECHANICALLY ILLUSTRATED.
A system of telegraphy without wires I described in two scientific lectures in February and March, 1893. It is mechanically illustrated in diagram c, the upper part of which shows the electrical arrangement as I described it then, while the lower part illustrates its mechanical analogue. The system is extremely simple in principle. Imagine two tuning-forks F, F1, one at the sending- and the other at the receiving-station respectively, each having attached to its lower prong a minute piston p, fitting in a cylinder. Both the cylinders communicate with a large reservoir R, with elastic walls, which is supposed to be closed and filled with a light and incompressible fluid. By striking repeatedly one of the prongs of the tuning-fork F, the small piston p below would be vibrated, and its vibrations, transmitted through the fluid, would reach the distant fork F1, which is “tuned” to the fork F, or, stated otherwise, of exactly the same note as the latter. The fork F1 would now be set vibrating, and its vibration would be intensified by the continued action of the distant fork F until its upper prong, swinging far out, would make an electrical connection with a stationary contact c”, starting in this manner some electrical or other appliances which may be used for recording the signals. In this simple way messages could be exchanged between the two stations, a similar contact c’ being provided for this purpose, close to the upper prong of the fork F, so that the apparatus at each station could be employed in turn as receiver and transmitter. / HE.
War of the Currents: DC versus AC
— Chicago World’s Fair aka Columbian Exposition, 1893 —
General Electric (using Edison’s direct current) bid $ 554,00 for contract to light the Exposition.
Westinghouse (using Tesla’s alternating current) bid $ 399,000 and won the contract.
The Illumination, Chicago Day, October 9, 1893. World’s Columbian Exposition. Benjamin West Kilburn, Photographer. Stereoscopic view. Robert n. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views. The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs — Photography Collection, New York Public Library.
~~~~~~~~ ‘Egg of Columbus’ Demonstration at Columbian Exposition ~~~~~~~~
A rotating field magnet was fastened under the top board of a wooden table and Mr. Tesla provided a copper-plated egg and several brass balls and pivoted iron discs for convincing his prospective associates. He placed the egg on the table and, to their astonishment, it stood on end, but when they found that it was rapidly spinning their stupefaction was complete. The brass balls and pivoted iron discs in turn were set spinning rapidly by the rotating field, to the amazement of the spectators. / Electrical Experimenter, March, 1919.
Sic itur ad astra! And thus we reach celestial heights of contemplation, even as we search for higher forms of incandescence, to light the murky nights of this little planet withal. This is to have the insight of the poet joined to the tireless patience of the seeker after exact truth, to have a philosophic mind quickened by imagination, and a penetrating intelligence directed by the enthusiasm of humanity. This is to be advancing without haste, but without rest, with a serene and modest certainty toward the goal of achievements which will give the next century its characteristic distinction, as surely as the triumphs of steam have stamped their influence on the one now drawing to a close. This is to be a scientist, inventor, and seer in one, to be one of the most remarkable men of this or any other time—to be Nikola Tesla. / The Manufacturer and Builder, September 1894.
The High-Tension Current being passed through the body before it brings the lamps to incandescence. The loop is held over the resonating coil by Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain). From a flash-light photograph.
Strange as it may seem, these currents, of a voltage one or two hundred times as high as that employed in electrocution, do not inconvenience the experimenter in the slightest. The extremely high tension of the currents which Mr. Clemens is seen receiving prevents them from doing any harm to him. / Century Magazine, Tesla’s Oscillator and other Inventions by Thomas Commerford Martin, April, 1895.
In 1893 he delivered lectures in Philadelphia and Europe which served to intensify public interest in him. One of his experiments on these two occasions was spectacular in the extreme. Facing an audience of some five thousand persons, he passed through his body a current of two hundred thousand volts, causing streams of light to pour from his body and break forth from his finger tips, whereas a current of a hundredth part of that energy would have killed him instantly thus proving that the amount of electric energy that may be passed into the human body depends on the strength and frequency of the current, and that the higher they are the less harm they do the body.
“[At] some time electricity will be taken from all about us and used for light, heat and motive power. We will reach down to the earth and tap the current anywhere, getting all we want without expense….
“It is reasonable to suppose that the earth’s electricity is generated by the atoms of which all things are composed. We and our world are not only whirling through space with terrific speed, but every little atom in the world is whirling, too. Now, there is good reason to believe that the molecules and their atoms are really little worlds that revolve and move in their orbits like the stars, causing the ether abut them to spin with them, thus generating electricity, or affording the conditions suitable to its generation.
“While electricity could hardly be called the ether itself, it is probable that the effects of dynamic electricity and electro-magneticism are the effects of ether in motion, and the effects of static electricity are the effects of ether under a strain. The discovery of a method of utilizing this practically exhaustless force that lies so close at hand would uncover some of the greatest secrets of the universe. It would be the greatest discovery since the creation and would bring about a total revolution in all life.” — Nikola Tesla / ‘Man of the Future’ article, Wichita Daily Eagle, Tuesday, October 23, 1894.
Edwards D. Adams Power Plant — the world’s first hydroelectric power plant. McKim, Mead & White Architects — Historic American Buildings Survey.
Powerhouse No. 1 on Goat Island, 1895: “Electric power, its generation by water turbines, its transmission in commercial quantities to remote distances, the design and building of the first large electrical equipment — all started with the completion of the Adams Station in 1895 at Niagara Falls.” — Plaque on Goat Island. The Edwards D. Adams Power Plant was the world’s first hydroelectric power plant. Historic American Buildings Survey.
….the destruction of my laboratory by fire in 1895…..set me back in many ways and most of that year had to be devoted to planning and reconstruction / Auto 5.
“The projectors of the Niagara plant were unable to carry out any part of their great scheme without the use of the machinery that Tesla had invented. His generating machinery, his devices for transmission of current and his motors were necessary to the carrying out of the Niagara project. He was in constant consultation with the men who were interested in that enterprise and in all his later studies has kept in mine the chance for a great improvement in the methods of transmitting electricity. The principle on which his system is founded has been adapted and perfected by engineers all over the world until there is little room for improvement in the generating apparatus of the motor,” said one of the country’s noted electricians, as quoted in The Sun, August 31, 1900. Illustration from Westinghouse Electric Company ad.
View of model transformer, or “oscillator,” photographed in action. Actual width of space traversed by the luminous streams issuing from a circular single terminal, over 16 feet. Area covered by the streamers, approximately 200 square feet. Estimated effective electrical pressure, 2.5 million volts. — Tesla’s System Of Electric Power Transmission Through Natural Media.
1898 — A machine having all the bodily or transitory movements and the operations of the interior mechanism controlled from a distance without wires. The crewless boat shown in the photograph contains its own motive power, propelling and steering machinery, and numerous other accessories, all of which are controlled by transmitting from a distance, without wires, electrical oscillations to a circuit carried by the boat and adjusted to respond only to these oscillations.
…. I attained the result aimed at by means of an electric circuit placed within the boat, and adjusted, or “tuned,” exactly to electrical vibrations of the proper kind transmitted to it from a distant “electrical oscillator.” This circuit, in responding, however feebly, to the transmitted vibrations, affected magnets and other contrivances, through the medium of which were controlled the movements of the propeller and rudder, and also the operations of numerous other appliances….I propose to show that, however, impossible it may now seem, an automaton may be contrived which will have its “own mind,” and by this I mean that it will be able, independent of any operator, left entirely to itself, to perform, in response to external influences affecting its sensitive organs, a great variety of acts and operations as if it had intelligence. It will be able to follow a course laid out or to obey orders given far in advance; it will be capable of distinguishing between what it ought and what it ought not to do, and of making experiences or, otherwise stated, of recording impressions which will definitely affect its subsequent actions / HE.
The idea of constructing an automaton, to bear out my theory, presented itself to me early but I did not begin active work until 1893, when I started my wireless investigations. During the succeeding 2 or 3 years a number of automatic mechanisms, to be actuated from a distance, were constructed by me and exhibited to visitors in my laboratory. In 1896, however, I designed a complete machine capable of a multitude of operations, but the consummation of my labors was delayed until late in 1897…..When first shown in the beginning of 1898, it created a sensation such as no other invention of mine has ever produced. In November, 1898, a basic patent on the novel art was granted to me, but only after the Examiner-in-Chief had come to New York and witnessed the performance, for what I claimed seemed unbelievable. I remember that when later I called on an official in Washington, with a view of offering the invention to the Government, he burst out in laughter upon my telling him what I had accomplished. Nobody thought then that there was the faintest prospect of perfecting such a device / Auto 6.
As early as 1898 I proposed to representatives of a large manufacturing concern the construction and public exhibition of an automotive carriage which, left to itself, would perform a great variety of operations involving something akin to judgement. But my proposal was deemed chimerical at that time and nothing came from it / Auto 6.
Nikola Tesla Opines
from The Problem of Increasing Human Energy, 1900 / Century Magazine
Every one should consider his body as a priceless gift from one whom he loves above all, as a marvelous work of art, of undescribable beauty and mastery beyond human conception, and so delicate and frail that a word, a breath, a look, nay, a thought, may injure it.
Of all the endless variety of phenomena which nature presents to our senses, there is none that fills our minds with greater wonder than that inconceivably complex movement which, in its entirety, we designate as human life. Its mysterious origin is veiled in the forever impenetrable mist of the past, its character is rendered incomprehensible by its infinite intricacy, and its destination is hidden in the unfathomable depths of the future.
Every effort should be made to stop the wanton and cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.
Will the dream of universal peace ever be realized? Let us hope that it will. When all darkness shall be dissipated by the light of science, when all nations shall be merged into one, and patriotism shall be identical with religion, when there shall be one language, one country, one end, then the dream will have become reality….
If every country, even the smallest, could surround itself with a wall absolutely impenetrable, and could defy the rest of the world, a state of things would surely be brought on which would be extremely unfavorable to human progress. It is by abolishing all the barriers which separate nations and countries that civilization is best furthered.
It is doubtful whether men who would not be ready to fight for a high principle would be good for anything at all. It is not the mind which makes man, nor is it the body; it is mind and body.
That we can send a message to a planet is certain, that we can get an answer is probable: man is not the only being in the Infinite gifted with a mind.
We cannot apodictically deny the existence of organized beings on a planet merely because the conditions on the same are unsuitable for the existence of life as we conceive it.
In the morning, when we rise, we cannot fail to note that all the objects about us are manufactured by machinery: the water we use is lifted by steam-power; the trains bring our breakfast from distant localities; the elevators in our dwelling and our office building, the cars that carry us there, are all driven by power; in all our daily errands, and in our very life-pursuit, we depend upon it; all the objects we see tell us of it; and when we return to our machine-made dwelling at night, lest we should forget it, all the material comforts of our home, our cheering stove and lamp, remind us of how much we depend on power. And when there is an accidental stoppage of the machinery, when the city is snow-bound, or the life-sustaining movement otherwise temporarily arrested, we are affrighted to realize how impossible it would be for us to live the life we live without motive power.
“I went to Colorado early in May, 1899, and stayed there about eight months. I believe that during that time I did more work than I could have done in the city in three years, on account of the marvelously invigorating climate. I was compelled to go either to Colorado or to California, as only in these two states could I obtain power at a high altitude, which was necessary for certain investigations….I had tested the conditions at sea level thoroughly, and wanted to know how far my laboratory observations would agree with practical tests at high altitudes….A laboratory was erected on an elevation at a distance of about ten miles from Pike’s Peak. I set out to carry on my experiments along three different lines: First, to ascertain the best conditions for transmitting power without wires; second, to develop apparatus for the transmission of messages across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans…and, third, to work on another problem which involves a still greater mastery of electrical forces and which, with my present knowledge, I consider of still greater importance than even the transmission of power without wires, and which I shall make known in due course….In my laboratory in New York I was able to go only to electrical discharges of 16 feet in length, and I had only reached effective electrical pressure of about 8,000,000 volts. To carry the problems on which I was working further I had to master electrical pressure of at least 50,000,000 volts, and electrical discharges were necessary for some purproses measuring at least 50 or 100 feet. The results I attained were far beyond any I had expected to reach, and this has forcibly brought to my mind the stimulating influence of nature in scientific research….One of the first observations I made in Colorado was of great scientific importance and confirmatory of a result I had already obtained in New York. I refer to my discovery of the stationary electrical waves in the earth. The significance of this phenomenon has not yet been grasped by technical men, but it virtually amounts to a positive proof that with proper apparatus, such as I have perfected, a wireless transmission of signals to any point on the globe is practicable….” – Nikola Tesla / Audubon County Journal, January 10, 1901.
Nikola Tesla, the famous electrician, has closed a contract for the erection of a building and plant at Wardenclyffe on the Sound, nine miles east of Port Jefferson for the principal station of his wireless telegraphic system. The purchase includes 200 acres of land and Mr. Tesla says he will put up the largest building of its kind in the world for his experiments. The main building will be 100 feet square and other buildings will also be erected. A 350 horse power electrical plant will be located in the building and the total cost of the plant and furnishings will be about $ 150,000. Mr. Tesla says he expects to converse by electricity with all countries of the world from Wardenclyffe, which will be his main station. / Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 7, 1901.
—————————– “Magnifying Transmitter / World System”———————-
The “Magnifying Transmitter” was the product of labors extending through years, having for their chief object the solution of problems which are infinitely more important to mankind than mere industrial development….It is a resonant transformer with a secondary in which the parts, charged to a high potential, are of considerable area and arranged in space along ideal enveloping surfaces of very large radii of curvature, and at proper distances from one another thereby insuring a small electric surface density everywhere so that no leak can occur even if the conductor is bare. It is suitable for any frequency, from a few to many thousands of cycles per second, and can be used in the production of currents of tremendous volume and moderate pressure, or of smaller amperage and immense electromotive force. The maximum electric tension is merely dependent on the curvature of the surfaces on which the charged elements are situated and the area of the latter….Taken in the narrowest significance of the term, however, it is a resonant transformer which, besides possessing these qualities, is accurately proportioned to fit the globe and its electrical constants and properties, by virtue of which design it becomes highly efficient and effective in the wireless transmission of energy. Distance is then absolutely eliminated, there being no diminution in the intensity of the transmitted impulses….This invention was one of a number comprised in my “World-System” of wireless transmission which I undertook to commercialize on my return to New York in 1900….The “World-System makes possible not only the instantaneous transmission of any kind of signals, messages or characters, to all parts of the world, but also the inter-connection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and other signal stations without any change in their present equipment / Auto 5.
The ‘World-System’ is based on the application of the following important inventions and discoveries:
- The ‘Tesla Transformer.’ This apparatus is in the production of electrical vibrations as revolutionary as gunpowder was in warfare. Currents many times stronger than any ever generated in the usual ways, and sparks over 100 feet long, have been produced by the inventor with an instrument of this kind.
- The ‘Magnifying Transmitter.’ This is Tesla’s best invention, a peculiar transformer specially adapted to excite the Earth, which is in the transmission of electrical energy what the telescope is in astronomical observation. By the use of this marvelous device he has already set up electrical movements of greater intensity than those of lightning and passed a current, sufficient to light more than two hundred incandescent lamps, around the globe.
- The ‘Tesla Wireless System.’ This system comprises a number of improvements and is the only means known for transmitting economically electrical energy to a distance without wires. Careful tests and measurements in connection with an experimental station of great activity, erected by the inventor in Colorado, have demonstrated that power in any desired amount can be conveyed, clear across the globe if necessary, with a loss not exceeding a few percent.
- The ‘Art of Individualization.’ This invention of Tesla’s is to primitive ‘tuning’ what refined language is to unarticulated expression. It makes possible the transmission of signals or messages absolutely secret and exclusive both in the active and passive aspect, that is, non-interfering as well as secure. Each signal is like an individual of unmistakable identity and there is virtually no limit to the number of stations or instruments which can be simultaneously operated without the slightest mutual disturbance.
- ‘The Terrestrial Stationary Waves.’ This wonderful discovery, popularly explained, means that the Earth is responsive to electrical vibrations of definite pitch just as a tuning fork to certain waves of sound. These particular electrical vibrations, capable of powerfully exciting the globe, lend themselves to innumerable uses of great importance commercially and in many other respects.
The first ‘World-System’ power plant can be put in operation in 9 months. With this power plant it will be practicable to attain electrical activities up to ten million horsepower and it is designed to serve for as many technical achievements as are possible without due expense. Among these the following may be mentioned:
- The inter-connection of the existing telegraph exchanges or offices all over the world;
- The establishment of a secret and secure government telegraph service;
- The inter-connection of all the present telephone exchanges or offices on the globe;
- The universal distribution of general news, by telegraph or telephone, in connection with the press;
- The establishment of such a ‘World-System’ of intelligence transmission for exclusive private use;
- The inter-connection and operation of all stock tickers of the world;
- The establishment of a ‘World-System’ of musical distribution, etc.;
- The universal registration of time by cheap clocks indicating the hour with astronomical precision and requiring no attention whatever;
- The world transmission of typed or handwritten characters, letters, checks, etc.;
- The establishment of a universal marine service enabling the navigators of all ships to steer perfectly without compass, to determine the exact location, hour and speed, to prevent collisions and disasters, etc.;
- The inauguration of a system of world-printing on land and sea;
- The world reproduction of photographic pictures and all kinds of drawings or records.
— My Inventions / The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla / Auto 5.
A plant was to be built on Long Island with a tower 187 feet high, having a spherical terminal about 68 feet in diameter. These dimensions were adequate for the transmission of virtually any amount of energy. Originally only from 200 to 300 kW were provided but I intended to employ later several thousand horsepower. The transmitter was to emit a wave complex of special characteristics and I had devised a unique method of telephonic control of any amount of energy / Auto 5.
My belief is firm in a law of compensation. The true rewards are ever in proportion to the labor and sacrifices made. This is one of the reasons why I feel certain that of all my inventions, the “Magnifying Transmitter” will prove most important and valuable to future generations / Auto 6.
….wireless should be given the fullest freedom of development. In the first place it offers prospects immeasurably greater and more vital to the betterment of human life than any other invention or discovery in the history of man. / Auto 6.
“I would have been sending messages across the ocean without the use of wires by this time if the public were not so hard to convince that it could be done. It takes time to assure people of the truth of new discoveries. It was six or eight years before people believed in my system of transmitting electrical power. Now it is used everywhere. I cannot tell you just how far I have advanced in the perfection of my system of telegraph, but I hope soon to be able to show most convincing results.” — Nikola Tesla / New York Tribune, August 7, 1901
Guglielmo Marconi — 1902 — world’s first radio transmission to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
“I do not have to excite public interest in order to float stock and secure cash with which to carry out my plans. All the capital that is required is at hand. The work is progressing. There is no delay, no hesitation. Steadily and carefully we are erecting our plant. It is to be a permanency. Some of the wireless telegraphy plants you may have seen. They are but networks of flimsy wire. The construction is at best temporary. There is no permanency to them. Considered electrically, they are but mere toys–positively ridiculous. We are building for the future. I want my plant to be good for fity years at least, and I expect it to be. It will be some time yet before the preparations at Wardenclyffe will be complete, but when we are ready for business we shall have no trouble in doing our work. By the use of my system you will be able to put an instrucment in your house and talk to any one who has a simialr apparatus anywhere in the country without any metallic or articial connection. It is all very simple. All is covered by my patents in Washington and throughout the world. You will remember that in Colorado in 1898 I succeeded in getting a 100-foot spark. Such a thing had never before been approached. It has not since except with my apparatus. By the use of the principle covered by my patents it is as simple as possible.” — Nikola Tesla / Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 14, 1903.
The architect Stanford White, a friend of Nikola Tesla, designed the laboratory at Wardenclyffe. The tower itself was designed by one of White’s associates.
Archival Image courtesy of Tesla Science Center.
Suspecting that German spies were using the big wireless tower erected at Shoreham, L. I., about twenty years ago by Nikola Tesla, the Federal Government ordered the tower destroyed and it was recently demolished with dynamite. During the past month several strangers had been seen lurking about the place…..Tesla erected the tower, which was about 185 feet high, with a well about 100 feet deep, for use in experimenting with the transmission of electrical energy for power and lighting purposes by wireless. The equipment cost nearly $200,000. / The Electrical Experimenter, September, 1917.
Demolition of the Tower at Wardenclyffe, 1917. Archival images courtesy of Tesla Science Center.
The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of [its] time. But the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success / Auto 5.
Nikola Tesla Opines
from My Inventions, The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla / Electrical Experimenter, 1919.
Most persons are so absorbed in the contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what is passing on within themselves / Auto 2.
Instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile / Auto 3.
If we were to release the energy of atoms or discover some other way of developing cheap and unlimited power at any point of the globe this accomplishment, instead of being a blessing, might bring disaster to mankind in giving rise to dissension and anarchy which would ultimately result in the enthronement of the hated regime of force / Auto 6.
What we now want most is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth, and the elimination of that fanatic devotion to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife / Auto 6.
“I anticipate that any, unprepared for these results, which, though long familiarity, appear to me simple and obvious, will consider them still far from practical application. Such reserve, and even opposition, of some is as useful a quality and as necessary an element in human progress as the quick receptivity and enthusiasm of others. Thus, a mass which resists the force at first, once set in movement, adds to the energy. The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter–for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way. He lives and labors and hopes with the poet who says:
Daily work, my hands’ employment,
To complete is pure enjoyment!
Let, oh, let me never falter!
No! there is no empty dreaming:
Lo! these trees, but bare poles seeming,
Yet will yield both food and shelter!
Translated by William Gibson, Com. U. S. N.”
— “The Problem of Increasing Human Energy”
by Nikola Tesla, Century Magazine, June, 1900
Selected & arranged by Jeff Heatley.
Tesla Science Center
UPDATE: Nikola Tesla / Wardenclyffe / Tesla Science Center / September 10, 2020
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