As a pioneer and inventor, Nikola Tesla is one of the most important inventors in history. Known now as the “genius who lit the world,” Tesla’s story is one of both innovation and tragedy.
This is the man who created the Tesla coil – the concept that laid the foundations for today’s wireless technology. Tesla also improved the functionality of the Alternating-Current system for modern electricity.
So, what is Nikola Tesla famous for? The answers to that question are limitless. Throughout his lifetime, Nikola Tesla accomplished more than many of us could ever hope to achieve.
Not only did he hold more than 300 unique patents for his works, but Tesla also contributed to many of the things that we rely on today, including remote control, wireless communications, and more.
Tesla was a dreamer and an eccentric – his work went on to inspire thousands of engineers and inventors after him, transforming the world as we knew it.
Here’s the electrifying story of a man who was decades ahead of his time.
The biography of Nikola Tesla:
Who Is Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia in 1856 amid a summer lightning storm. According to the official biography of Nikola Tesla, the inclement weather worried the midwife, who thought it was a bad omen.
However, Tesla’s mother claimed that her baby would be a child of “light” – a descriptor that turned out to be more accurate than she knew.
As he grew into a young student, Tesla displayed remarkable intelligence. He was so good at calculating mathematical problems that his teachers often thought he was cheating.
In his teenage years, Tesla fell incredibly ill – a problem caused in part by how much he had been overworking himself.
When he recovered, Tesla abandoned schooling to become a priest – despite his father’s wishes and focused on electrical engineering instead.
The Early Years of Nikola Tesla
Tesla’s early years played an essential role in shaping him into the great inventor he would become. He encountered some of the most enduring challenges that affected his well-being.
For instance, his elder brother, Daniel, was killed in a riding accident. His brother’s death shocked him to the extent that he started seeing visions. To many, this was the beginning of Tesla’s lifelong mental illness, as will be covered later.
Nikola attended the Technical University of Graz, where he studied math and physics. He also studied philosophy at the University of Prague.
Tesla envisioned a brushless AC system in 1882 while on a walk. He made the first sketches of the motor’s rotating electromagnets in the sand.
Eventually, with the help of other bright minds, Tesla moved to Paris and began working for the Continental Edison Company. There, he dreamed of one day meeting the inventor.
Tesla moved to the United States in 1884, and according to some Nikola Tesla Facts, was offered $50,000 if he proved he could solve some of the engineering problems that Thomas Edison’s business faced.
When Nikola achieved this feat, the other electrical engineers told him that the offer had been a joke. Tesla then left the company in the following six months.
During this time, he also applied for several patents that were assigned to the business rather than himself.
When his partners decided that they wanted to concentrate on supplying electricity instead of inventing new ideas, they took the intellectual property of the business and founded their firm, leaving Tesla alone and penniless.
At that time, Tesla worked as a ditch digger for only $2 per day.
In 1887, Nikola met a pair of investors who backed the formation of his new electric company. From a laboratory in Manhattan, Tesla was able to begin working on the alternate current induction motor.
This creation solved many of the technical problems that the AC system had faced until then. The George Westinghouse company licensed the technology, and the fantastic inventions of Nikola Tesla began to grow.
What is Nikola Tesla famous for?
So, why is Nikola Tesla famous? That often depends on who you ask.
Nikola Tesla was an amazing person. According to the biography of Nikola Tesla, he had a photographic memory, which meant he learned how to speak 8 languages over the years and memorized entire books.
He was also an interesting figure, to say the least. At 6 foot 2, Tesla was a dashing and attractive man who was popular with the ladies. However, he remained celibate throughout his life, claiming that he needed to abstain to maintain his creativity.
Perhaps due to the illness in his early years, Tesla was also terribly afraid of germs and was deathly afraid of pearls – which led him to avoid any woman wearing them.
In some ways, Tesla is just as famous for being an incredible inventor as he is for being a terrible businessman. He was unable to see the commercial value in many of his ideas and often struggled to protect himself from others.
It wasn’t until Tesla isolated himself in his new laboratory that he was able to start experimenting with electrical resonance, X-ray technology, and other ideas.
Though many organizations have only recently begun to take Tesla seriously, he frequently gave reporters plenty of useful quotes to publish.
Throughout his life, he regularly spoke about fantastic futuristic ideas, often painting himself as the mad scientist or the romantic dreamer.
What did Nikola Tesla invent?
Nikola Tesla’s inventions are plentiful. His career in innovations began early.
When working for the Central Telegraph Office in Budapest at the age of just 26, he sketched out the initial ideas for his rotating magnetic field – a concept that is still used in many electromechanical devices today.
This achievement also laid the groundwork for other inventions, such as the alternating current motor.
It was in the Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing lab where Tesla began experimenting with things like electric resonance and X-ray technology.
In his Colorado and New York City labs, Tesla also achieved a host of incredible feats, advancing turbine science, hydroelectric power stations, and more.
The exact number of patents currently held by Tesla is challenging to define, but many inventors claim that he’s responsible for at least 300 inventions today.
Some of the most famous Nikola Tesla inventions include:
The Alternating Current Motor
Tesla’s most famous and essential creation was a response to Thomas Edison’s inefficient use of direct current electricity. Though DC power stations could send power in a direct line, Tesla’s AC system was able to transmit electricity much further afield.
Though Thomas Edison had more resources to fund his DC technology, Tesla’s AC power grids eventually became the norm.
The Tesla Coil
Named after its inventor, this incredible machine transforms energy into high-voltage charges. The result is electrical fields capable of producing fantastic electrical arcs.
The coils supported the development of wireless radio technology.
The Magnifying Transmitter
The transmitter – though too ambitious for the era of the time, helped to launch the very first ideas of wireless signal technology. This unique idea was established in 1899 but didn’t get truly developed until the mid-2010s.
Tesla was far ahead of his time.
Originally designed for controlling model boats, Nikola Tesla’s inventions around remote control have transformed how we manage many devices today – including your television and remote gaming consoles.
The laser has helped transform surgical applications incredibly in recent years, although they have negative sides, too. When Tesla initially created lasers, there were rumors that he was working on “death rays” with government support.
When did Nikola Tesla invent the radio?
Here’s where things start to get controversial.
Leading up to the 20th century, inventors around the world were churning out constant innovations. Scientific work in radio technology was on the rise, with two men, in particular, leading the way.
If you’re wondering, “What year did Nikola Tesla invent the radio?” then you’ve probably already heard of his battle with Guglielmo Marconi.
After he emigrated to the US in 1884, Tesla began the invention of the Tesla coil, or the induction coil – a device critical in sending radio waves.
However, in 1895, a fire destroyed Tesla’s lab as he was preparing to prove that his coil could send a radio signal across 50 miles.
At the same time, Italian-Irish inventor Guglielmo Marconi had been conducting his experiments with radio waves. In 1986, he sent a coded radio signal over 4 miles in England.
The same year, Marconi was granted the world’s first patent for wireless telegraphy and eventually won the Nobel Prize for his work too.
Although the Nikola Tesla radio invention was arguably more robust, he wasn’t able to apply for a patent until 1897.
In 1900, the patent office in the US granted Tesla patents for his Tesla coils, and this gave Nikola ownership of one of the most crucial features of radio communications.
However, Marconi also filed a patent in 1900 for tuned telegraphy, which was originally denied because it relied too heavily on Tesla’s work.
Unfazed by the initial rejection, Marconi re-applied for his patent a few years later and was granted ownership of tuned telegraphy in 1904. Although Tesla sued the Marconi company for patent infringement in 1915, his case was rejected.
Eventually, in 1943, the Marconi company sued the US government for patent infringement during World War I.
However, the court decided to uphold Tesla’s patents for the Tesla coil, which overturned the Marconi patent and once again made Tesla the original inventor of radio.
Technically, the answer to “when did Nikola Tesla invent the radio?” is 1884. However, many people still regard Marconi to be the father of radio.
The challenges facing Nikola Tesla’s inventions
Tesla’s battle for ownership of radio wasn’t the only issue he faced in his life.
Over the years, Nikola Tesla encountered various challenges, making it increasingly difficult for him to accomplish his goals and share his incredible inventions with the world.
For instance, in 1895, his Manhattan laboratory was destroyed by a fire, completely eradicating his prototypes and notes.
In 1898, he demonstrated the wireless control of a boat in Madison Square Garden, but the media branded his accomplishment as a hoax.
Despite the suspicion of the public, Tesla kept working on his inventions. He began to focus on the wireless transmission of electric power, building a lab in Colorado Springs to test his ideas.
However, he ended up drawing so much energy from the grid that he caused the power to go out for the entire region.
By 1901, Tesla convinced the J.P. Morgan company to invest in constructing an electrical tower on Long Island that he believed would help him electrify the world. Suspicious of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, Morgan eventually withdrew funding – leaving him with nothing.
For much of his life, Tesla was either ignored or treated as a joke by his peers. In the popular community, Tesla was something like a mad scientist, experimenting with bizarre physics and concepts that the average person simply couldn’t comprehend.
He missed his chance at a Nobel Prize and struggled to gain recognition for his work because of his poor business practices.
By the time he reached his final years, Tesla was penniless, moving from place to place to avoid paying his bills.
Eventually, he settled into a hotel in New York, where the Westinghouse company handled his rent.
Finally, on the morning of the 7th of January 1943, a hotel maid discovered him dead in his room.
Nikola Tesla facts: Why is Nikola Tesla famous?
The tragedies throughout the biography of Nikola Tesla don’t make this man any less incredible.
The Serbian-American engineer was a man ahead of his time and a person many consider a hero today.
Over the years, he proposed several incredible and outlandish ideas. Here are some of the most amazing Nikola Tesla facts that you may not know:
1. He wanted to use the Niagara Falls to power the world
You might be surprised to learn that there are statues on both sides of Niagara Falls in Canada and America. These statues were built in recognition of Tesla’s incredible breakthroughs in renewable energy.
When Tesla saw the natural wonder, he commented that he would like to put a wheel under the falls to help create clean energy for everyone. This dream never came to fruition – but it did inspire a lot of later work in hydro electronics.
2. Tesla was plagued by “visions”
Tesla always had a talent for visualizing incredible inventions. However, he also had other “visions” too, according to some reports.
When he was very young, Tesla explained that he often saw flashes of light before he came up with a solution to a problem.
3. He claimed to have created an earthquake machine
Tesla was responsible for building a machine called an “electro-mechanical oscillator.” This steam-powered device was intended as a replacement for inefficient steam engines.
According to the biography of Nikola Tesla, his experiments with the machine caused an earthquake in Manhattan at one point.
Tesla ended up smashing the device with a sledgehammer after he realized that it was capable of potentially causing natural disasters.
4. Tesla was an environmentalist
According to some reports, Tesla was very nervous about the fact that human beings were quickly using up the Earth’s resources.
He was one of the few scientists of his time interested in creating a renewable fuel source.
Unfortunately, this aim to create something more sustainable lost him the funding of J.P. Morgan, who claimed they weren’t interested in funding an electrical energy source they couldn’t charge for.
For this cause, the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade was created in Tesla’s memory.
5. Tesla had many famous friends
While Tesla never married or got involved in any romantic relationships, he had a lot of famous friends, including French actress Sarah Bernhardt and Mark Twain.
Unfortunately, he always seemed to struggle financially despite his standing in society.
6. He tried to create a flying saucer
Some of the fantastic inventions of Nikola Tesla never actually came to light.
For instance, in 1911, Tesla told the New York Herald that he was working on a flying machine that worked against gravity without propellers or wings.
He wanted to create a hovering object that could simply hang in the air, seemingly moving by itself.
7. Tesla strongly believed in aliens
Considering that Tesla once tried to create his own UFO, it’s not surprising to hear that Tesla believed in aliens. He even claimed that he had received messages from alien beings while working on his radio inventions.
He once wrote that he might have been one of the first people on the planet to hear a greeting from another world.
8. Tesla is the grandfather of smartphones
Perhaps one of the reasons Nikola Tesla is so popular today is that without him, we would never have been able to create the smartphones we use today.
Tesla came up with the idea of Wi-Fi-powered smartphones back in 1901 when he spoke to his business partner, J.P. Morgan, about an instant messaging device that could send encoded frequencies to hand-held devices.
9. His best friend was a pigeon
During the later years of his life, after swearing off intimate relationships, Tesla spent a lot of time interacting with pigeons.
He kept the birds in his hotel in New York and had a particularly close friendship with a white female that he claimed to “love.”
Tesla said that in a vision, the bird came to him one night and told him that she was dying. Soon after, the pigeon did pass away in Nikola’s arms.
10. Tesla had many compulsive habits
Tesla was quite the eccentric in his day. Throughout his life, he had a strong work ethic and stuck to an often unhealthy schedule – sleeping only for two hours per night.
Thanks to his overwhelming fear of germs, Nikola often held himself to a rigorous schedule to protect himself from the things he feared. He needed a stack of at least 18 napkins when he ate and was obsessed with the number 3.
Nikola Tesla quick facts: FAQ
Q: When was Nikola Tesla born?
A: Nikola Tesla was born on the 10th of July in 1856. His birth during a lightning storm caused the midwife to say that he would be a “child of the storm.” However, Tesla’s mother disagreed, stating that her son would be a child of light.
Q: Where was Nikola Tesla born?
A: Nikola Tesla was born in a town called Smiljan in Croatia. His father was Milutin Tesla, who was a priest for the Serbian Orthodox Church. Tesla’s mother was a housewife who also came from Serbia.
Tesla was the fourth child of five, with one older brother, one younger sister, and two older sisters.
Q: What year did Nikola Tesla invent the radio?
A: Arguably, Nikola Tesla invented the radio in 1884, when he first came up with the idea of the Tesla coil – the technology that was crucial for receiving and transmitting radio waves.
However, when his files, patents, and laboratory were burned down in 1885, he lost his chance to prove his invention and file for a license. It wasn’t until 1943 that the US patent office accepted Tesla’s claim to the invention of the radio.
Q: What did Nikola Tesla invent?
A: Tesla obtained around 300 patents over the years for his inventions, many of which are related in some way. Scientists mostly agree that many of Tesla’s inventions may yet be discovered, as a lot of his work was in secret.
Some of his most famous designs include the Tesla coil, the remote control, the induction motor, and the violet ray.
Q: When did Nikola Tesla die?
A: Despite his incredible achievements, Tesla eventually died alone and penniless in a hotel room (number 3327) in New York. At age 86, he was found by a maid on the 7th of January 1943.
According to the coroner, the cause of death was coronary thrombosis.
Why is Nikola Tesla important to the world we live in?
The name Nikola Tesla is very well-known today. The world’s best-known electric car is named after this inventor, and the magnetic strength of MRI machines is measured in “Teslas.”
In the eyes of many, Tesla was a Prometheus for the modern age. He helped unlock countless innovations for humanity and changed the world forever.
Although he didn’t create the AC, he adapted it in such a way that allowed us to use electricity more effectively than ever before.
Tesla also pioneered the work that went into countless innovations, including remote controls, x-rays, turbine devices, and even wireless technology. Arguably, the world as we know it today would be a very different place without Nikola Tesla’s inventions throughout history.
Radio Fidelity: For the love of radio.