Zagreb

A Master of Lightning

09 Feb 2017

2016 marked the 160th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla. Born July 10th 1856 in the small village of Smiljan, near Gospić, in Lika County. His affinity for mathematics as well as an eidetic memory led him to flourish in school. Although he failed to graduate from university, Tesla eventually moved to New York City in 1884 and was hired by Thomas Edison.
Working as an electrical engineer for the Edison Company, Tesla was given the task of redesigning their direct current (DC) generators. The two men soon had a falling out however, after Edison reneged on allegedly having promised fifty thousand dollars to Tesla if he could complete the job; which, after months of work, Tesla did. When told by Edison that, “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humour,” Tesla immediately resigned.
A few years later, in 1887, Tesla developed a functional induction motor that ran on alternating current (AC), a system with many advantages over DC because of its long-distance, high voltage transmission. This caught the attention of George Westinghouse, an American entrepreneur and engineer, who hired Tesla to work for him in Pittsburgh and help create an AC system for the cities streetcars. Tesla was soon sucked into the “War of Currents,” waged between Edison and Westinghouse, a rivalry over which system was the best for distributing electricity. Edison, with his patents, was on the side of DC, while Westinghouse, having now acquired the patent to Tesla’s induction motor, advocated the use of AC. This competition between the two men led to a multitude of developments in both technologies, and eventually even led to Edison pursuing AC development also.
In summer of 1891, Nikola Tesla became a naturalised citizen of the United States at the age of 35. He established his laboratory in New York City on 5th Avenue.

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