Nikola Tesla: The Father of Wireless

Nikola Tesla: The Father of Wireless

Table of Contents

Let me guess; never a day will pass by without you browsing the net, right?

Watching videos on YouTube, surfing the net, engaging through social media, buying online. Either for work or personal reasons, IoT has become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Today, enjoying what IoT has to offer is such commonplace for our generation that we don't think back on how it came to be.

Thanks to a mathematician, physicist, and genius and his devotion to invention and innovation, we are at the age of such technological advancement that he started over a century ago.

Genes of a Genius and Childhood Influence

Nikola Tesla was born to Milutin Tesla, a priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Đuka Mandić in present-day Croatia on July 10, 1856.

Nikola's mother never received any formal education, yet, she was known to be talented in making home crafts and mechanical appliances. She also possessed the ability to memorize long Serbian poems. Nikolas Tesla credited his eidetic memory and creative nature to his mother's genetics and influence.

While in college, Tesla became deeply interested in electricity while watching the demonstrations of his physics professor. He later wrote that this "mysterious phenomena made him crave to know more of this wonderful force.

Tesla can perform integral calculus in his head. He earned the highest grades. He was so advanced with his studies he finished in three years, a four-year term. He graduated in 1873.

The dean of the technical faculty wrote a letter of recommendation to Nikola's father stating, "Your son is a star of the first rank."

Early Years of the Wizard Inventor

In 1881, Tesla lived in Budapest, Hungary to work under Tivadar Puskás at the Budapest Telephone Exchange. In his short time there, Tesla improved the central station equipment and claimed to have perfected the telephone repeater and amplifier. It was never patented nor publicly described though.

In 1882, Tivadar Puskás recommended Tesla for another job in Paris with the Continental Edison Company. There he gained a great deal of practical experience in electrical engineering. Management took notice of his advanced knowledge in engineering and physics and soon had him designing and building improved versions of generating dynamos and motors. 

Tesla arrived in New York in 1884 and was hired as an engineer at Thomas Edison’s Manhattan headquarters. He worked there for a year, impressing Edison with his diligence and ingenuity.

At one point Edison told Tesla he would pay $50,000 for an improved design for his DC dynamos. After months of experimentation, Tesla presented a solution and asked for the money. Edison demurred, saying, “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” Tesla quit soon after.

In March 1885, he met with patent attorney Lemuel W. Serrell, the same attorney used by Edison, to obtain help with submitting the patents. Thus, in 1886, Nikola Tesla was awarded his very first US patent for a Commutator for Dynamo Electric Machines under his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing.

From then on until the early part of the 21st century, Tesla’s accomplishments were astonishing. Imagine, more than 900 patents all over the world!

Let us pay homage to his greatest inventions that continue to penetrate our modern lives.

Overarching Influence and Legacy: Nikola Tesla’s Greatest Inventions

1. POLYPHASE ALTERNATING CURRENT INDUCTION MOTOR

Exalted as one of the most valuable inventions of modern times, Tesla's induction motor revolutionized the possibilities in the appliance industry. It used electrical energy to produce mechanical energy and replaced manual labor in factories. 

Exalted as one of the most valuable inventions of modern times, Tesla's induction motor revolutionized the possibilities in the appliance industry. It used electrical energy to produce mechanical energy and replaced manual labor in factories. 

Tesla's three-phase induction motor continues to be used extensively in industry, households, and electrical machines worldwide.

Tesla's AC Induction Motor is hailed as one of the 10 greatest discoveries of all time

2. ALTERNATING CURRENT (AC)

3. A TESLA COIL

It is an electrical resonant transformer circuit designed by inventor Nikola Tesla in 1891.[1] It is used to produce high-voltage, low-current, high frequency alternating-current electricity.

During the 'battle of the currents' waged between Edison and Westinghouse between the 1890s to the 1990s, Westinghouse emerged the winner because of Nikola Tesla. To prove the safety of alternating current, Tesla reportedly used a Tesla coil and sent electricity over himself to produce light at the World Columbian Exposition in 1893.

The modern electric distribution system as we use it now is based on the pioneering work of Nikola Tesla.

4. THE BUILDING OF ONE OF THE FIRST HYDROELECTRIC PLANTS

Tesla and Westinghouse won a contract to build a hydroelectric power AC power station in Niagara Falls. The machinery is a product of Tesla’s inventions and innovations and bore his name and patent numbers. 

The ambitious project successfully carried electricity to Buffalo, New York, from Niagara Falls by 1896. It is one of the first power stations of its kind in the world.


5. THE ELECTRO-MECHANICAL OSCILLATOR

Tesla developed a reciprocating electricity generator by forcing steam into an oscillator and exiting through a series of ports that would, in turn, push a piston up and down. The piston is attached to an armature causing it to vibrate up and down, producing electricity.

Tesla’s Earthquake Machine

6. THE WORLD’S FIRST WIRELESS REMOTE CONTROLS

Tesla’s remote-controlled boat was a drone ahead of its time.

In 1898, Nikola Tesla mystified audiences at an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden. With a flourish, Tesla controlled a boat from afar using radio waves technology in what is to be known as the first display of remote control.

Radio technology continued to evolve over the years until its extensive use these days, not only for devices like home appliances and security gadgets but also drones and advanced space technologies, and of course the IoT.

A demonstration of Tesla’s wireless to IoT

7. NIKOLA TESLA AND WIRELESS ELECTRICITY

The Artist and the Dreamer - Nikola Tesla's inventions were so far ahead of his time that even today, many could not appreciate the tremendous work that the master inventor accomplished fully. 

One of these is Tesla's dream and obsession with wireless electricity. At the height of Tesla's career, he theorized that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly through the air at long distances—hopping across a system of suspended balloons or via a series of strategically positioned towers.

We know that Tesla's dreams for a wireless global electricity supply were never realized. But the theory was never disproved. Now with 5G, it might be realized after all!

A recent research paper suggested that the 5G network architects may have unintentionally constructed what Tesla failed to build during his lifetime: a "wireless power grid" that could be adapted to charge or power small devices embedded in homes, cars, factories, and workspaces. Isn't this news amazing?!

Honors and Awards

The seeming lack of recognition during Tesla's lifetime cast him as both a tragic and inspirational character. However, Tesla's posthumous citations, awards, honors, and accolades could probably atone for a book.

So many things are named after him. There are streets, an airport, museums, awards, citations, companies (hello, Elon Musk!), and even a minor planet. And of course, the most prestigious National Inventors Hall of Fame could not fail to recognize his genius, and so he was inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015.

Wrap Up

Tragic or extraordinary?

Either point of view, there is no denying the lessons we can learn from Nikola Tesla's life story. 

Lesson 1

He was fearless and unhesitating. Tesla, believing in himself, constantly takes on challenges. When Thomas Edison asked him to improve a system, he took on the challenge and triumph. His inventions even proved to be superior to Edison's!

Key Takeaway: In life as in business, be fearless and take on challenges. There's no reward without taking risks.

Lesson 2

Persistence pays. Nikola never wavered in his belief that he could change the world with his concepts. And he did!

Key Takeaway: Don't stop dreaming. If your ideas don't bear positive results for a time, don't abandon them and lose hope. With hard work and persistence, your time will come.

Lesson 3

Surround yourself with interesting people: Tesla collaborated with the best minds during his time. As a result, Tesla had the opportunity to learn from them and improve what he sees as shortcomings in their systems.

Key Takeaway: Learn from your industry's thought leaders. Collaborate and be open-minded.

Lesson 4

Value your network. Towards the end of his life, he liked to socialize with the greatest of his time: noteworthy scientists, outstanding politicians, great artists, and businessmen. 

Key Takeaway: Your network can be your source of inspiration, guidance, and help in the industry. Value people and appreciate them.

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