Nikola Tesla was born on this day in 1856

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Brilliant physicist, inventor, and electrical engineer
clues: Inventor Nikola; Edison contemporary; Physicist Nikola; Induction motor inventor; Electronics pioneer Nikola; Unit of induction; Current pioneer
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The Missing Secrets of Nikola Tesla

If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor. ~ Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla (July 10, 1856 - January 7, 1943) was a physicist, inventor, and electrical engineer of unusual intellectual brilliance and practical achievement. He was of Serb descent and worked mostly in the United States.

Tesla is most famous for conceiving the rotating magnetic field principle (1882) and then using it to invent the induction motor together with the accompanying alternating current long-distance electrical transmission system (1888). His theoretical work and patents still form the basis for modern alternating current electric power systems.

He also developed numerous other electrical and mechanical devices including the fundamental principles and machinery of wireless technology, including the high frequency alternator, the "AND" logic gate and the Tesla coil, as well as other devices such as the bladeless turbine, the spark plug and numerous other inventions.

In 1899, Tesla decided to move and began research in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he could have room for his high-voltage high-frequency experiments. He chose this location primarily because of the frequent thunderstorms, the high altitude (where the air, being at a lower pressure, had a lower dielectric breakdown strength, making it easier to ionize), and the dryness of the air (minimizing leakage of electric charge through insulators). Also, the property was free and electric power available from the El Paso Power Company. Today, magnetic intensity charts also show that the ground around his lab possesses a denser magnetic field than surrounding area. Tesla reached Colorado Springs on May 17, 1899. Upon his arrival he told reporters that he was conducting experiments transmitting signals from Pikes Peak to Paris.

Tesla kept a diary of his experiments in the Colorado Springs lab where he spent nearly nine months. It consists of 500 pages of handwritten notes and nearly 200 drawings, recorded chronologically between June 1, 1899 and January 7, 1900, as the work occurred, containing explanations of his experiments. He was developing a system for wireless telegraphy, telephony and the transmission of power, experimented with high-voltage electricity and the possibility of wireless transmitting and distributing large amounts of electrical energy over long distances. He also conceived a system for geophysical exploration--seismology--which he called telegeodynamics, based on his reciprocating mechanical oscillator patented in 1894, and explained that a long sequence of small explosions could be used to find ore and create earthquakes large enough to destroy the Earth. He did not experiment with this as he felt there would not be "a desirable outcome".

Much of what Tesla discovered while in this lab has been lost to history and Tesla's own secrecy. To this very day there is talk of Tesla's Death Ray being invented there as well as communication with other planets. How much of this is true is now unknown, but has made Tesla's time at this remote lab a wellspring for Urban legends about him.

Tesla left Colorado Springs on January 7, 1900. The lab was torn down, broken up, and its contents sold to pay debts. The Colorado experiments prepared Tesla for his next project, the establishment of a wireless power transmission facility that would be known as Wardenclyffe. On March 21, 1900, Tesla was granted US685012 patent for the means for increasing the intensity of electrical oscillations. The United States Patent Office classification system currently denotes that this patent pertains to superconductivity technology (Class 505/825).

Tesla started to exhibit pronounced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the years following. He became obsessed with the number three. He often felt compelled to walk around a block three times before entering a building, demanded a stack of three folded cloth napkins beside his plate at every meal, etc. The nature of OCD was little understood at the time and no treatments were available, so his symptoms were considered by some to be evidence of partial insanity and this probably hurt what was left of his reputation. This obsessive-compulsive behavior may have originated from the observations over repeated polyphase systems in nature that Tesla researched.

Tesla died alone in the hotel New Yorker of heart failure, some time between the evening of January 5 and the morning of January 8, 1943. Despite selling his AC electricity patents, he was essentially destitute and died with significant debts.

At the time of his death, Tesla had been working on some form of teleforce weapon, or death ray, the secrets of which he had offered to the United States War Department on the morning of January 5. It appears that his proposed death ray was related to his research into ball lightning and plasma. He was found dead three days later and, after the FBI was contacted by the War Department, his papers were declared to be top secret.

Immediately after Tesla's death became known, the Federal Bureau of Investigation instructed the Office of Alien Property to take possession of his papers and property, despite his US citizenship. All of his personal effects were seized on the advice of presidential advisers. J. Edgar Hoover declared the case "most secret", because of the nature of Tesla's inventions and patents. Tesla's Serbian-Orthodox family and the Yugoslav embassy struggled with American authorities to gain these items after his death due to the potential significance of some of his research.

Eventually, his nephew, Sava Kosanovich, got possession of some of his personal effects (which are now housed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Yugoslavia). Tesla's funeral took place on January 12, 1943 at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, New York City.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Nikola Tesla".

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