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  • When you think about the greatest inventors  of all time, there are a few names that come to  

  • mind. Henry Ford. The Wright brothers. Thomas EdisonBut there's one name that is not as recognizable.  

  • When you plug your phone in, turn on the  lights, or use the refrigerator, 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 this 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  

  • 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 of 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 maintainingsteady 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 the 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. Aversion 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 and also received 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 energyHis 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 $60 million 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 inventionsHe 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 entrepreneurGuglielmo 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 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 deathThat 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 enough  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 T esla 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.

  • I also startedPatreon 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, there are a few names that come to  

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The Tragic Story of Nikola Tesla

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    Amy.Lin posted on 2021/01/22
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