Of all the inventors, Nikola Tesla stands out as one of the greatest of all time. Tesla is a story of incredible commercial failure for himself while a paramount success for many others.
When we think of “inventor” we typically think of Edison and a light bulb. But we should be thinking of Tesla and a lighting bolt.
In the classical sense of the word, Tesla was many times more of an “inventor” than Edison could have ever been. Tesla was responsible for some of the most important inventions of our modern technological era. His impact on modern technology runs deep. Very deep.
Some of his most important contributions are the transport of electricity, the radio and radio controlled apparatus and even the concept of the internet. The list goes on. And, its a long list, I can assure you.
Tesla lived around the same time that Edison did. They knew each other well. In fact for a brief time Tesla worked for Edison. It was Tesla’s first job in the United States. Edison made Tesla work, work very hard for a promised reward that Edison would not provide Tesla with when he successfully completed the task. Tesla would resign. Edison would obstruct Tesla’s work which climaxed during the “War of the Currents”. It was a dirty war but Tesla’s hands were always clean.
Probably the most apparent reasons for Tesla’s failure was in his kindness, generosity, modesty, his passion and most of all, his failure to the subscribe to the political mechanism involved in the commercialization and ownership of his ideas. Tesla was too proud and too much of a gentleman.
His vision was in many cases too far ahead of time. The technology was within his grasp. But the step towards it was too great for others to follow, understand and appreciate.
Tesla was fascinated by technology and the process of creation. A passion. Although a very different person, some similar passion today would be found people like Steve Wozniak. But the similarity ends there.
Tesla could thrill audiences in almost mystical ways that resembled Houdini. But Tesla could not or would not build the perception that would carry his work into success for himself.
Instead, most everyone else profited from his ideas and work, except him.
“Our senses enable us to perceive only a minute portion of the outside world.” -Nikola Tesla 1905
During the late 80’s and early 90’s I intensely studied the life and work of Nikola Tesla. A primary source of information and reference was the incredible work carried out by Margaret Cheney in her book titled Tesla: Man out of Time. Another, older source, was Prodigal Genius.
Information retrieval was a much more labor intensive process back then. Now with the internet things have changed. But during my search I had the privilege to meet and contact some important people such as Dr. Warren Rice who investigated the Tesla Turbine, Mr. Richard Hull of TCBoR and Harry Goldman of TCBA.
There was a rising interest to study Tesla’s work during the 80’s. But my incentive was, in particular, to understand how a person with such incredible aptitude, achievement and potential was so forgotten and so misrepresented in our history. In addition, Tesla’s work contained an almost mystical charge, attracted a conspiracy theory sub-culture and became associated with taboo science and technologies. I was curious to find out what had led to this.
While technology may prove to be the answer to the problem or need it is not always the solution. Truths relating to Belief, Perception and Observation come first. After all, its not technology, its people that make choices.
During Tesla’s early years in the US he was a household name. Something like Steve Jobs is today. But towards the end of his life most had forgotten about him. The reasons are now much more clear to me.
However, what is still surprising to me is the lack of interest from Hollywood. Sure, there have been several small productions about his life. But they are largely unknown.
Recently however, David Bowie played Tesla in The Prestige. A brief but great part and Mr. Bowie played it well. Tesla was portrayed in the movie as an eccentric scientist with a different kind of magic. Yes, he was this. But there is so much more to tell. What is ironic is that again the name Tesla was used to support and provide meaning to something other than Tesla himself.
The Tesla coil technology has also been used in several high ranking movies. But, again, the real Tesla story has yet to be filmed.
The incentive here is not to just popularize Tesla but to inform about him and set the record straight. To build, in a small way, the perception and honor that he did not fully achieve during his life but fully deserved. This towards allowing this great inventor to finally be awarded his rightful place in scientific history. And, a place in our minds when we think of the word “inventor”.
They say you learn more from failures than success. As such, Tesla’s His-Story is probably more important than many of the great people that we do remember. The current focus is Jobs. But the Tesla story should run parallel to that.
Embedded below is a 2 part video of a visit to Mr. Richard Hull in 1995. Mr. Hull of the TCBoR conducted research in many areas of science and technology. The Tesla coil was one of those areas. Mr. Hull was also looking into Water Arc Explosions during that period.
The Water Arc Explosion research rig that Mr. Hull built related to using low energy electrical discharge at incredibly high levels of power to expel a small amount of water from a barrel.
These discharge rigs were not that much different than the rigs used to make camera flashes in the old days. The difference was that Mr. Hull’s rig packed an incredible punch. Similar rigs were built in the past to explode wires.
The basic math and physics regarding the workings of these discharge systems is simple. Releasing a small amount of energy in a certain amount of time results in a particular level of power. Reducing the amount of time it takes to release that energy raises the power level proportionately.
With a well constructed system you could reach power levels that are so high that, for instance, a small projectile could be ejected at supersonic speeds. What’s more, you could achieve this using the same amount of energy needed to turn on a flashlight for just 2-3 seconds (see video part 2 below for proof).
Its common knowledge that by decreasing the time to convert energy from one form to another you raise, not only the power, but also the efficiency of the conversion process. What makes these discharge rigs so interesting is that you can fairly easily attain astoundingly high rates of power.