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Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American scientist famous for his work on electricity. Tesla was a proponent of an electrical grid based on alternating current and worked on the wireless distribution of electricity. He invented the modern alternating current motor and the Tesla coil.

Nikola Tesla: Serbian-American Scientist Make Your Own

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, (what is now) Croatia. He is known for being extremely eccentric and a prolific inventor. He never graduated college after becoming addicted to gambling, despite being an excellent student with excellent grades. Tesla’s first job after college was working at the Budapest Telephone exchange. In 1882 he found a job in Paris with the Edison company, installing incandescent light bulbs as part of a city-wide lighting project. Tesla moved to New York in 1884 to continue working for Edison in the manufacturing division. After six months, he quit and set up his own company creating arc lights.

Alternating current (AC) as a method of generating and distributing electricity was being backed by George Westinghouse’s company because it was a more efficient way of transporting electricity over large distances. Unlike direct current (DC), which was being put forward by Edison, AC voltage could be easily changed, allowing high voltages for long distance transmission and lower voltages in the home. Direct current worked well for lighting, but the issue facing alternating current as the standard for electricity generation was a lack of a suitable motor. Tesla overcame this by creating an AC induction motor. The Edison company tried to convince people that AC wasn’t as safe as their DC system. Testament to Tesla, AC systems are now the international standard and are used all over the world.

Tesla became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1891, the same year he patented his Tesla coil. Tesla became very interested of the idea of wireless electricity transmission. He spent a lot of time during the 1890s using his newly invented Tesla coils experimenting with long distance wireless electrical distribution and communication. Also during this time, Tesla consulted on the creation of the first hydroelectric power plant which was created in 1893 at Niagara Falls.

Tesla died on January 7, 1943, aged 86 in New York City.

The car manufacturer, Tesla Inc., is named after him and they still use his original 1822 plan for the AC motor. The SI unit for magnetic flux density is called the tesla (T), after Nikola.

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Tesla’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Alternating current for power grids
  • Alternating current motor
  • Tesla Coil

Nikola Tesla Quotes

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

“I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.”

“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”

Learn more about people who have influenced history in our Picture Encyclopedia!
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