Born in what is now Croatia in 1856, Nikola Tesla was the son of an Orthodox priest and a housewife with a talent for mechanics and memorisation. At the age of just five, Tesla was believed to have spooked a horse ridden by his older brother Dane. Dane was killed in the subsequent accident.
Tesla immigrated to the United States in 1884 and took up a post with Thomas Edison. A dispute over pay led to his resignation and he decided to set up on his own with the help of financial backers. His photographic memory and flair for invention earned him international celebrity, while his flamboyant, eccentric personality and showman-like demonstrations of his works made him a favourite of the press, who gave him his “Mad Scientist” nickname.
The Alternating Current Induction Motor
In a competition of best inventions ever, it would be hard to top the AC induction Motor. Though many inventors were working on such motors in the 1880s, it is Tesla who is credited with coming up with a practical, workable solution. Tesla’s AC Induction Motor was granted a US Patent in May 1888.
The Tesla Coil
Having perfected the AC motor, Tesla put it to work on his Tesla Coil. Though he intended this resonant transformer circuit to provide global wireless power, until the 1920s they were used for commercially in spark gap radio transmitters. The coils are still in use today, mainly as educational tools.
When we think of wireless nowadays, it’s usually internet which first springs to mind. However, way back at the end of the 19th century, Tesla was using his ground-breaking inventions to power lamps up to 25 miles away – a fantastic achievement for the time.