Nikola Tesla...the man, the myth, the engineer. If you don't know who Tesla was or what he did (that's probably why you are here) you are not alone. It never ceases to amaze me how such a brilliant inventor--who arguably had more impact on our everyday lives than most engineers in the past century--has gone so underappreciated and unrecongnized.

Let me begin by posing a simple question: Who is responsible for the power system we know and use today? Most people respond "I don't know/care". Less apathetic people respond "Thomas Edison" (Especially in California where the power company is Southern California Edison). And finally some of the more educated (that is educated with respect to American History) might respond "Westinghouse". Well, as I am sure you can imagine they are all wrong (why else would I be asking?). Tesla invented the polyphase A.C. power system we know today. In addition to inventing our power system he invented a hundred other things including the A.C. induction motor, radio transmission, arc lamps, and of course the Tesla Coil.

I'll keep it brief, if you are interested in learning more about Tesla visit www.neuronet.pitt.edu/~bogdan/tesla/.

Tesla was born on July 9/10, 1856 in  Smiljan, Croatia. He studied electrical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute at Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. After studying at both institutions Tesla took a job in Paris with the Continental Edison Company in 1882. In 1884 he emigrated to America and began working for Thomas Edison in his Menlow Park Laboratories. Tesla and Edison were not compatible individuals and Tesla soon left Menlow Park for greener pastures at the Westinghouse Electric Co. There he developed his polyphase system and later sold his patents to Westinghouse for $1-million.

After leaving Westinghouse Tesla started his own company and was free to work on the things that interested him. Unfortunately the Tesla Electric Co. wasn't much of a success primarily because Tesla was more interested in research than development. In spite of losing the company Tesla continued his research. He no longer had a stable income and the money from the polyphase patents was long gone. His later work would be funded by tycoons like J.P. Morgan. Morgan in particualr was interested in Tesla's research in radio and wireless power transmission. Morgan's investment funded tesla's research at his Colorado Springs Laboratory (Right) and Wardenclyffe (Left, during construction).

The Colorado Springs Laboratory was where Tesla made breakthroughs in wireless power transmission.  During his short stay at Colorado Springs Tesla constructed the largest working coil ever built. It was capable of generating lightning bolts that were 135 feet long. It could further more illuminate light bulbs at distances of 25 miles. After leaving Colorado Springs in 1900 Tesla returned to New York where he began work on his most ambitious project: the Wardenclyffe Tower. When completed the Wardenclyffe Tower was supposed to be capable of transmitting power to any point on the globe. Unfortunately, Morgan didn't have the same vision for the use of this technology and pulled his finacial support for the project.

After losing Wardenclyffe to Morgan, Tesla was unabale to convince any other investors to invest in his ideas. As time progressed, Tesla's claims about his coils and wireless power transmission systems became more and more sensational. He found himself talking of "Death Rays capable of destroying 10,000 airplanes at a distance of 250 miles."

Tesla died January 7, 1943, in New York City heavy in debt and regarded as a crazy man who would say anything to woo investors. Tesla is really a tragic figure whose tragic flaw was having a genuine humanitarian dream in a capitalist society more interested in profitability than humanity.