Tesla is the true unsung prophet of the electric age; without whom
our radio, auto ignition, telephone, alternating current power generation
and transmission, radio and television would all have been impossible. Yet
his life and times have vanished largely from public access. This autobiography
is released to remedy this situation, and to fill this black hole
in information space.
© Kolmogorov-Smirnov Publishing
Mirror of the site:
The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla by Nikola Tesla
Table of Contents
Introduction & Editors Note
by Nikola Tesla
Chapter 1: My Early Life - The progressive
development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most
important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the
complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of
the forces of nature to human needs.
Chapter 2 - I shall dwell briefly on
these extraordinary experiences, on account of their possible interest
to students of psychology and physiology and also because this period
of agony was of the greatest consequence on my mental development and
Chapter 3: How Tesla Conceived The Rotary
Magnetic Field - At the age of ten I entered the Real Gymnasium
which was a new and fairly well equipped institution. In the department
of physics were various models of classical scientific apparatus, electrical
and mechanical. The demonstrations and experiments performed from time
to time by the instructors fascinated me and were undoubtedly a powerful
incentive to invention.
Chapter 4: The Discovery of the Tesla Coil
and Transformer - For a while I gave myself up entirely to the
intense enjoyment of picturing machines and devising new forms. It was
a mental state of happiness about as complete as I have ever known in
life. Ideas came in an uninterrupted stream and the only difficulty
I had was to hold them fast.
Chapter 5 - As I review the events
of my past life I realize how subtle are the influences that shape our
destinies. An incident of my youth may serve to illustrate.
Chapter 6 - No subject to which I have
ever devoted myself has called for such concentration of mind, and strained
to so dangerous a degree the finest fibers of my brain, as the systems
of which the magnifying transmitter is the foundation.
Introduction & Editors Note
Nikola Tesla was born in the Serb family in hamlet of Smiljan on July 9, 1856, in the then Austro-Hungarian border province of Lika / Serbian Krajina (from 1995 part of Croatia) and died January 7, 1943 in New York. His parents were rev. Milutin Tesla, priest of Serb Orthodox Church, and mother Djouka from the Mandic family. Nikola Tesla was the electrical engineer who invented the AC (alternating current) induction motor, which made the universal transmission and distribution of electricity possible. Tesla began his studies in physics and mathematics at Gratz Polytechnic, and then took philosophy at the University of Prague. He worked as an electrical engineer in Budapest, Hungary, and subsequently in France and Germany.
In 1888 his discovery that a magnetic field could be made to rotate if two coils at right angles are supplied with AC current 90 degrees out of phase made possible the invention of the AC induction motor. The major advantage of this motor being its brushless operation, which many at the time believed impossible.
Tesla moved to the United States in 1884, where he worked for Thomas
Edison who quickly became a rival - Edison being an advocate of the inferior
DC power transmission system. During this time, Tesla was commissioned
with the design of the AC generators installed at Niagara Falls. George
Westinghouse purchased the patents to his induction motor, and made it
the basis of the Westinghouse power system which still underlies the modern
electrical power industry today.
He also did notable research on high-voltage electricity and wireless
communication; at one point creating an earthquake which shook the ground
for several miles around his New York laboratory. He also devised a system
which anticipated world-wide wireless communications, fax machines, radar,
radio-guided missiles and aircraft.
Editors Note, September 21, 1994
text (ASCII) and portable
document format (PDF) version of this file was created by John R.H.
Penner from a small booklet found in a used bookstore for $2.50. The only
form of date identification is the name of the original purchaser, Arthua
Daine (sic), dated April 29, 1978. However, the book appears to be considerably
older, made with a typewriter, then photocopied and stapled. The only
other significant features of the booklet is that it contains four photocopied
portrait photographs of Nikola Tesla, and was originally forty pages long.
The book has no copyright identification, nor any means of contacting
the publishers. As far as this editor is aware, this autobiography is
no longer available in printed form anywhere. In the interest of making
this important text available to the wider public, the entire original
text has been retyped word-for-word as it originally appears into this
electronic format. If anyone knows how to reach the original publisher,
please contact the editor, so that proper credit may be given as is due.
John Roland Hans Penner
464 Scott Street
St. Catharines, Ontario
L2M 3W7, Canada
These files may be freely redistributed as long as the content is not
modified in any way. It may not be sold or published for money unless
specifically authorized prior to publication by express permission of
Kolmogorov- Smirnov Publishing, or John R.H. Penner. Unless otherwise
notified, this work is Copyright 1995 by John R.H. Penner.
by Nikola Tesla
Chapter 1: My Early Life
The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention.
It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose
is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing
of the forces of nature to human needs. This is the difficult task of
the inventor who is often misunderstood and unrewarded. But he finds ample
compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers and in the knowledge
of being one of that exceptionally privileged class without whom the race
would have long ago perished in the bitter struggle against pitiless elements.
Speaking for myself, I have already had more than my full measure of this
exquisite enjoyment; so much, that for many years my life was little short
of continuous rapture. I am credited with being one of the hardest workers
and perhaps I am, if thought is the equivalent of labor, for I have devoted
to it almost all of my waking hours. But if work is interpreted to be
a definite performance in a specified time according to a rigid rule,
then I may be the worst of idlers.
Every effort under compulsion demands a sacrifice of life-energy. I
never paid such a price. On the contrary, I have thrived on my thoughts.
In attempting to give a connected and faithful account of my activities
in this story of my life, I must dwell, however reluctantly, on the impressions
of my youth and the circumstances and events which have been instrumental
in determining my career. Our first endeavors are purely instinctive promptings
of an imagination vivid and undisciplined. As we grow older, reason asserts
itself and we become more and more systematic and designing. But those
early impulses, though not immediately productive, are of the greatest
moment and may shape our very destinies. Indeed, I feel now that had I
understood and cultivated instead of suppressing them, I would have added
substantial value to my bequest to the world. But not until I had attained
manhood did I realize that I was an inventor.
This was due to a number of causes. In the first place I had a brother
who was gifted to an extraordinary degree; one of those rare phenomena
of mentality which biological investigation has failed to explain. His
premature death left my earth parents disconsolate. (I will explain my
remark about my "earth parents" later.) We owned a horse which had been
presented to us by a dear friend. It was a magnificent animal of Arabian
breed, possessed of almost human intelligence, and was cared for and petted
by the whole family, having on one occasion saved my dear father's life
under remarkable circumstances.
My father had been called one winter night to perform an urgent duty
and while crossing the mountains, infested by wolves, the horse became
frightened and ran away, throwing him violently to the ground. It arrived
home bleeding and exhausted, but after the alarm was sounded, immediately
dashed off again, returning to the spot, and before the searching party
were far on the way they were met by my father, who had recovered consciousness
and remounted, not realizing that he had been lying in the snow for several
hours. This horse was responsible for my brother's injuries from which
he died. I witnessed the tragic scene and although so many years have
elapsed since, my visual impression of it has lost none of its force.
The recollection of his attainments made every effort of mine seem dull
in comparison. Anything I did that was creditable merely caused my parents
to feel their loss more keenly. So I grew up with little confidence in
But I was far from being considered a stupid boy, if I am to judge from
an incident of which I have still a strong remembrance. One day the Aldermen
were passing through a street where I was playing with other boys. The
oldest of these venerable gentlemen, a wealthy citizen, paused to give
a silver piece to each of us. Coming to me, he suddenly stopped and commanded,
"Look in my eyes." I met his gaze, my hand outstretched to receive the
much valued coin, when to my dismay, he said, "No, not much; you can get
nothing from me. You are too smart."
They used to tell a funny story about me. I had two old aunts with wrinkled
faces, one of them having two teeth protruding like the tusks of an elephant,
which she buried in my cheek every time she kissed me. Nothing would scare
me more then the prospects of being kissed by these affectionate, unattractive
relatives. It happened that while being carried in my mother's arms, they
asked who was the prettier of the two. After examining their faces intently,
I answered thoughtfully, pointing to one of them, "This here is not as
ugly as the other."
Then again, I was intended from my very birth for the clerical profession
and this thought constantly oppressed me. I longed to be an engineer,
but my father was inflexible. He was the son of an officer who served
in the army of the Great Napoleon and in common with his brother, professor
of mathematics in a prominent institution, had received a military education;
but, singularly enough, later embraced the clergy in which vocation he
achieved eminence. He was a very erudite man, a veritable natural philosopher,
poet and writer and his sermons were said to be as eloquent as those of
Abraham a-Sancta-Clara. He had a prodigious memory and frequently recited
at length from works in several languages. He often remarked playfully
that if some of the classics were lost he could restore them. His style
of writing was much admired. He penned sentences short and terse and full
of wit and satire. The humorous remarks he made were always peculiar and
characteristic. Just to illustrate, I may mention one or two instances.
Among the help, there was a cross-eyed man called Mane, employed to
do work around the farm. He was chopping wood one day. As he swung the
ax, my father, who stood nearby and felt very uncomfortable, cautioned
him, "For God's sake, Mane, do not strike at what you are looking but
at what you intend to hit."
On another occasion he was taking out for a drive a friend who carelessly
permitted his costly fur coat to rub on the carriage wheel. My father
reminded him of it saying, "Pull in your coat; you are ruining my tire."
He had the odd habit of talking to himself and would often carry on
an animated conversation and indulge in heated argument, changing the
tone of his voice. A casual listener might have sworn that several people
were in the room.
Although I must trace to my mother's influence whatever inventiveness
I possess, the training he gave me must have been helpful. It comprised
all sorts of exercises - as, guessing one another's thoughts, discovering
the defects of some form of expression, repeating long sentences or performing
mental calculations. These daily lessons were intended to strengthen memory
and reason, and especially to develop the critical sense, and were undoubtedly
My mother descended from one of the oldest families in the country and
a line of inventors. Both her father and grandfather originated numerous
implements for household, agricultural and other uses. She was a truly
great woman, of rare skill, courage and fortitude, who had braved the
storms of life and passed through many a trying experience. When she was
sixteen, a virulent pestilence swept the country. Her father was called
away to administer the last sacraments to the dying and during his absence
she went alone to the assistance of a neighboring family who were stricken
by the dread disease. She bathed, clothed and laid out the bodies, decorating
them with flowers according to the custom of the country and when her
father returned he found everything ready for a Christian burial.
My mother was an inventor of the first order and would, I believe, have
achieved great things had she not been so remote from modern life and
its multifold opportunities. She invented and constructed all kinds of
tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread which was spun
by her. She even planted the seeds, raised the plants and separated the
fibers herself. She worked indefatigably, from break of day till late
at night, and most of the wearing apparel and furnishings of the home
were the product of her hands. When she was past sixty, her fingers were
still nimble enough to tie three knots in an eyelash.
There was another and still more important reason for my late awakening.
In my boyhood I suffered from a peculiar affliction due to the appearance
of images, often accompanied by strong flashes of light, which marred
the sight of real objects and interfered with my thoughts and action.
They were pictures of things and scenes which I had really seen, never
of those imagined. When a word was spoken to me the image of the object
it designated would present itself vividly to my vision and sometimes
I was quite unable to distinguish whether what I saw was tangible or not.
This caused me great discomfort and anxiety. None of the students of psychology
or physiology whom I have consulted, could ever explain satisfactorily
these phenomenon. They seem to have been unique although I was probably
predisposed as I know that my brother experienced a similar trouble. The
theory I have formulated is that the images were the result of a reflex
action from the brain on the retina under great excitation. They certainly
were not hallucinations such as are produced in diseased and anguished
minds, for in other respects I was normal and composed. To give an idea
of my distress, suppose that I had witnessed a funeral or some such nerve-wracking
spectacle. Then, inevitably, in the stillness of night, a vivid picture
of the scene would thrust itself before my eyes and persist despite all
my efforts to banish it. If my explanation is correct, it should be possible
to project on a screen the image of any object one conceives and make
it visible. Such an advance would revolutionize all human relations. I
am convinced that this wonder can and will be accomplished in time to
come. I may add that I have devoted much thought to the solution of the
I have managed to reflect such a picture, which I have seen in my mind,
to the mind of another person, in another room. To free myself of these
tormenting appearances, I tried to concentrate my mind on something else
I had seen, and in this way I would often obtain temporary relief; but
in order to get it I had to conjure continuously new images. It was not
long before I found that I had exhausted all of those at my command; my
'reel' had run out as it were, because I had seen little of the world
- only objects in my home and the immediate surroundings. As I performed
these mental operations for the second or third time, in order to chase
the appearances from my vision, the remedy gradually lost all its force.
Then I instinctively commenced to make excursions beyond the limits of
the small world of which I had knowledge, and I saw new scenes. These
were at first very blurred and indistinct, and would flit away when I
tried to concentrate my attention upon them. They gained in strength and
distinctness and finally assumed the concreteness of real things. I soon
discovered that my best comfort was attained if I simply went on in my
vision further and further, getting new impressions all the time, and
so I began to travel; of course, in my mind. Every night, (and sometimes
during the day), when alone, I would start on my journeys - see new places,
cities and countries; live there, meet people and make friendships and
acquaintances and, however unbelievable, it is a fact that they were just
as dear to me as those in actual life, and not a bit less intense in their
This I did constantly until I was about seventeen, when my thoughts
turned seriously to invention. Then I observed to my delight that I could
visualize with the greatest facility. I needed no models, drawings or
experiments. I could picture them all as real in my mind. Thus I have
been led unconsciously to evolve what I consider a new method of materializing
inventive concepts and ideas, which is radially opposite to the purely
experimental and is in my opinion ever so much more expeditious and efficient.
The moment one constructs a device to carry into practice a crude idea,
he finds himself unavoidably engrossed with the details of the apparatus.
As he goes on improving and reconstructing, his force of concentration
diminishes and he loses sight of the great underlying principle. Results
may be obtained, but always at the sacrifice of quality. My method is
different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea, I start
at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make
improvements and operate the device in my mind. It is absolutely immaterial
to me whether I run my turbine in thought or test it in my shop. I even
note if it is out of balance. There is no difference whatever; the results
are the same. In this way I am able to rapidly develop and perfect a conception
without touching anything. When I have gone so far as to embody in the
invention every possible improvement I can think of and see no fault anywhere,
I put into concrete form this final product of my brain. Invariably my
device works as I conceived that it should, and the experiment comes out
exactly as I planned it. In twenty years there has not been a single exception.
Why should it be otherwise? Engineering, electrical and mechanical, is
positive in results. There is scarcely a subject that cannot be examined
beforehand, from the available theoretical and practical data. The carrying
out into practice of a crude idea as is being generally done, is, I hold,
nothing but a waste of energy, money, and time.
My early affliction had however, another compensation. The incessant
mental exertion developed my powers of observation and enabled me to discover
a truth of great importance. I had noted that the appearance of images
was always preceded by actual vision of scenes under peculiar and generally
very exceptional conditions, and I was impelled on each occasion to locate
the original impulse. After a while this effort grew to be almost automatic
and I gained great facility in connecting cause and effect. Soon I became
aware, to my surprise, that every thought I conceived was suggested by
an external impression. Not only this but all my actions were prompted
in a similar way. In the course of time it became perfectly evident to
me that I was merely an automation endowed with power of movement
responding to the stimuli of the sense organs and thinking and acting
accordingly. The practical result of this was the art of teleautomatics
which has been so far carried out only in an imperfect manner. Its latent
possibilities will, however be eventually shown. I have been years planning
self-controlled automata and believe that mechanisms can be produced which
will act as if possessed of reason, to a limited degree, and will create
a revolution in many commercial and industrial departments. I was about
twelve years of age when I first succeeded in banishing an image from
my vision by willful effort, but I never had any control over the flashes
of light to which I have referred. They were, perhaps, my strangest and
[most] inexplicable experience. They usually occurred when I found myself
in a dangerous or distressing situations or when I was greatly exhilarated.
In some instances I have seen all the air around me filled with tongues
of living flame. Their intensity, instead of diminishing, increased with
time and seemingly attained a maximum when I was about twenty-five years
While in Paris in 1883, a prominent French manufacturer sent me an invitation
to a shooting expedition which I accepted. I had been long confined to
the factory and the fresh air had a wonderfully invigorating effect on
me. On my return to the city that night, I felt a positive sensation that
my brain had caught fire. I was a light as though a small sun was located
in it and I passed the whole night applying cold compressions to my tortured
head. Finally the flashes diminished in frequency and force but it took
more than three weeks before they wholly subsided. When a second invitation
was extended to me, my answer was an emphatic NO!
These luminous phenomena still manifest themselves from time to time,
as when a new idea opening up possibilities strikes me, but they are no
longer exciting, being of relatively small intensity. When I close my
eyes I invariably observe first, a background of very dark and uniform
blue, not unlike the sky on a clear but starless night. In a few seconds
this field becomes animated with innumerable scintillating flakes of green,
arranged in several layers and advancing towards me. Then there appears,
to the right, a beautiful pattern of two systems of parallel and closely
spaced lines, at right angles to one another, in all sorts of colors with
yellow, green, and gold predominating. Immediately thereafter, the lines
grow brighter and the whole is thickly sprinkled with dots of twinkling
light. This picture moves slowly across the field of vision and in about
ten seconds vanishes on the left, leaving behind a ground of rather unpleasant
and inert gray until the second phase is reached. Every time, before falling
asleep, images of persons or objects flit before my view. When I see them
I know I am about to lose consciousness. If they are absent and refuse
to come, it means a sleepless night. To what an extent imagination played
in my early life, I may illustrate by another odd experience.
Like most children, I was fond of jumping and developed an intense desire
to support myself in the air. Occasionally a strong wind richly charged
with oxygen blew from the mountains, rendering my body light as cork and
then I would leap and float in space for a long time. It was a delightful
sensation and my disappointment was keen when later I undeceived myself.
During that period I contracted many strange likes, dislikes and habits,
some of which I can trace to external impressions while others are unaccountable.
I had a violent aversion against the earrings of women, but other ornaments,
as bracelets, pleased me more or less according to design. The sight of
a pearl would almost give me a fit, but I was fascinated with the glitter
of crystals or objects with sharp edges and plane surfaces. I would not
touch the hair of other people except, perhaps at the point of a revolver.
I would get a fever by looking at a peach and if a piece of camphor was
anywhere in the house it caused me the keenest discomfort. Even now I
am not insensible to some of these upsetting impulses. When I drop little
squares of paper in a dish filled with liquid, I always sense a peculiar
and awful taste in my mouth. I counted the steps in my walks and calculated
the cubical contents of soup plates, coffee cups and pieces of food, otherwise
my meal was unenjoyable. All repeated acts or operations I performed had
to be divisible by three and if I missed I felt impelled to do it all
over again, even if it took hours. Up to the age of eight years, my character
was weak and vacillating. I had neither courage or strength to form a
firm resolve. My feelings came in waves and surges and variated unceasingly
between extremes. My wishes were of consuming force and like the heads
of the hydra, they multiplied. I was oppressed by thoughts of pain in
life and death and religious fear. I was swayed by superstitious belief
and lived in constant dread of the spirit of evil, of ghosts and ogres
and other unholy monsters of the dark. Then all at once, there came a
tremendous change which altered the course of my whole existence.
Of all things I liked books best. My father had a large library and
whenever I could manage I tried to satisfy my passion for reading. He
did not permit it and would fly in a rage when he caught me in the act.
He hid the candles when he found that I was reading in secret. He did
not want me to spoil my eyes. But I obtained tallow, made the wicking
and cast the sticks into tin forms, and every night I would bush the keyhole
and the cracks and read, often till dawn, when all others slept and my
mother started on her arduous daily task.
On one occasion I came across a novel entitled Aoafi, (the
son of Aba), a Serbian translation of a well known Hungarian writer, Josika.
This work somehow awakened my dormant powers of will and I began to practice
self-control. At first my resolutions faded like snow in April, but in
a little while I conquered my weakness and felt a pleasure I never knew
before - that of doing as I willed.
In the course of time this vigorous mental exercise became second to
nature. At the outset my wishes had to be subdued but gradually desire
and will grew to be identical. After years of such discipline I gained
so complete a mastery over myself that I toyed with passions which have
meant destruction to some of the strongest men. At a certain age I contracted
a mania for gambling which greatly worried my parents. To sit down to
a game of cards was for me the quintessence of pleasure. My father led
an exemplary life and could not excuse the senseless waste of my time
and money in which I indulged. I had a strong resolve, but my philosophy
was bad. I would say to him, "I can stop whenever I please, but is it
worth while to give up that which I would purchase with the joys of paradise?"
On frequent occasions he gave vent to his anger and contempt, but my mother
was different. She understood the character of men and knew that one's
salvation could only be brought about through his own efforts. One afternoon,
I remember, when I had lost all my money and was craving for a game, she
came to me with a roll of bills and said, "Go and enjoy yourself. The
sooner you lose all we possess, the better it will be. I know that you
will get over it." She was right. I conquered my passion then and there
and only regretted that it had not been a hundred times as strong. I not
only vanquished but tore it from my heart so as not to leave even a trace
Ever since that time I have been as indifferent to any form of gambling
as to picking teeth. During another period I smoked excessively, threatening
to ruin my health. Then my will asserted itself and I not only stopped
but destroyed all inclination. Long ago I suffered from heart trouble
until I discovered that it was due to the innocent cup of coffee I consumed
every morning. I discontinued at once, though I confess it was not an
easy task. In this way I checked and bridled other habits and passions,
and have not only preserved my life but derived an immense amount of satisfaction
from what most men would consider privation and sacrifice.
After finishing the studies at the Polytechnic Institute and University,
I had a complete nervous breakdown and, while the malady lasted, I observed
many phenomena, strange and unbelievable...
I shall dwell briefly on these extraordinary experiences, on account
of their possible interest to students of psychology and physiology and
also because this period of agony was of the greatest consequence on my
mental development and subsequent labors. But it is indispensable to first
relate the circumstances and conditions which preceded them and in which
might be found their partial explanation.
From childhood I was compelled to concentrate attention upon myself.
This caused me much suffering, but to my present view, it was a blessing
in disguise for it has taught me to appreciate the inestimable value of
introspection in the preservation of life, as well as a means of achievement.
The pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring
into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern
existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the
contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what
is passing on within themselves. The premature death of millions is primarily
traceable to this cause. Even among those who exercise care, it is a common
mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers. And what is true
of an individual also applies, more or less, to a people as a whole.
Abstinence was not always to my liking, but I find ample reward in the
agreeable experiences I am now making. Just in the hope of converting
some to my precepts and convictions I will recall one or two.
A short time ago I was returning to my hotel. It was a bitter cold night,
the ground slippery, and no taxi to be had. Half a block behind me followed
another man, evidently as anxious as myself to get under cover. Suddenly
my legs went up in the air. At the same instant there was a flash in my
brain. The nerves responded, the muscles contracted. I swung 180 degrees
and landed on my hands. I resumed my walk as though nothing had happened
when the stranger caught up with me. "How old are you?" he asked, surveying
"Oh, about fifty-nine," I replied, "What of it?"
"Well," said he, "I have seen a cat do this but never a man." About
a month ago I wanted to order new eye glasses and went to an oculist who
put me through the usual tests. He looked at me incredulously as I read
off with ease the smallest print at considerable distance. But when I
told him I was past sixty he gasped in astonishment. Friends of mine often
remark that my suits fit me like gloves but they do not know that all
my clothing is made to measurements which were taken nearly fifteen years
ago and never changed. During this same period my weight has not varied
one pound. In this connection I may tell a funny story.
One evening, in the winter of 1885, Mr. Edison, Edward H. Johnson, the
President of the Edison Illuminating Company, Mr. Batchellor, Manager
of the works, and myself, entered a little place opposite 65 Firth Avenue,
where the offices of the company were located. Someone suggested guessing
weights and I was induced to step on a scale. Edison felt me all over
and said: "Tesla weighs 152 lbs. to an ounce," and he guessed it exactly.
Stripped I weighed 142 pounds, and that is still my weight. I whispered
to Mr. Johnson; "How is it possible that Edison could guess my weight
"Well," he said, lowering his voice. "I will tell you confidentially,
but you must not say anything. He was employed for a long time in a Chicago
slaughter-house where he weighed thousands of hogs every day. That's why."
My friend, the Hon. Chauncey M. Dupew, tells of an Englishman on whom
he sprung one of his original anecdotes and who listened with a puzzled
expression, but a year later, laughed out loud. I will frankly confess
it took me longer than that to appreciate Johnson's joke. Now, my well-being
is simply the result of a careful and measured mode of living and perhaps
the most astonishing thing is that three times in my youth I was rendered
by illness a hopeless physical wreck and given up by physicians. More
than this, through ignorance and lightheartedness, I got into all sorts
of difficulties, dangers and scrapes from which I extricated myself as
by enchantment. I was almost drowned, entombed, lost and frozen. I had
hair-breadth escapes from mad dogs, hogs, and other wild animals. I passed
through dreadful diseases and met with all kinds of odd mishaps and that
I am whole and hearty today seems like a miracle. But as I recall these
incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether
accidental, but was indeed the work of divine power. An inventor's endeavor
is essentially life saving. Whether he harnesses forces, improves devices,
or provides new comforts and conveniences, he is adding to the safety
of our existence. He is also better qualified than the average individual
to protect himself in peril, for he is observant and resourceful. If I
had no other evidence that I was, in a measure, possessed of such qualities,
I would find it in these personal experiences. The reader will be able
to judge for himself if I mention one or two instances.
On one occasion, when about fourteen years old, I wanted to scare some
friends who were bathing with me. My plan was to dive under a long floating
structure and slip out quietly at the other end. Swimming and diving came
to me as naturally as to a duck and I was confident that I could perform
the feat. Accordingly I plunged into the water and, when out of view,
turned around and proceeded rapidly towards the opposite side. Thinking
that I was safely beyond the structure, I rose to the surface but to my
dismay struck a beam. Of course, I quickly dived and forged ahead with
rapid strokes until my breath was beginning to give out. Rising for the
second time, my head came again in contact with a beam. Now I was becoming
desperate. However, summoning all my energy, I made a third frantic attempt
but the result was the same. The torture of suppressed breathing was getting
unendurable, my brain was reeling and I felt myself sinking. At that moment,
when my situation seemed absolutely hopeless, I experienced one of those
flashes of light and the structure above me appeared before my vision.
I either discerned or guessed that there was a little space between the
surface of the water and the boards resting on the beams and, with consciousness
nearly gone, I floated up, pressed my mouth close to the planks and managed
to inhale a little air, unfortunately mingled with a spray of water which
nearly choked me. Several times I repeated this procedure as in a dream
until my heart, which was racing at a terrible rate, quieted down, and
I gained composure. After that I made a number of unsuccessful dives,
having completely lost the sense of direction, but finally succeeded in
getting out of the trap when my friends had already given me up and were
fishing for my body. That bathing season was spoiled for me through recklessness
but I soon forgot the lesson and only two years later I fell into a worse
There was a large flour mill with a dam across the river near the city
where I was studying at the time. As a rule the height of the water was
only two or three inches above the dam and to swim to it was a sport not
very dangerous in which I often indulged. One day I went alone to the
river to enjoy myself as usual. When I was a short distance from the masonry,
however, I was horrified to observe that the water had risen and was carrying
me along swiftly. I tried to get away but it was too late. Luckily, though,
I saved myself from being swept over by taking hold of the wall with both
hands. The pressure against my chest was great and I was barely able to
keep my head above the surface. Not a soul was in sight and my voice was
lost in the roar of the fall. Slowly and gradually I became exhausted
and unable to withstand the strain longer. Just as I was about to let
go, to be dashed against the rocks below, I saw in a flash of light a
familiar diagram illustrating the hydraulic principle that the pressure
of a fluid in motion is proportionate to the area exposed and automatically
I turned on my left side. As if by magic, the pressure was reduced and
I found it comparatively easy in that position to resist the force of
the stream. But the danger still confronted me. I knew that sooner or
later I would be carried down, as it was not possible for any help to
reach me in time, even if I had attracted attention. I am ambidextrous
now, but then I was left-handed and had comparatively little strength
in my right arm. For this reason I did not dare to turn on the other side
to rest and nothing remained but to slowly push my body along the dam.
I had to get away from the mill towards which my face was turned, as the
current there was much swifter and deeper. It was a long and painful ordeal
and I came near to failing at its very end, for I was confronted with
a depression in the masonry. I managed to get over with the last ounce
of my strength and fell in a swoon when I reached the bank, where I was
found. I had torn virtually all the skin from my left side and it took
several weeks before the fever had subsided and I was well. These are
only two of many instances, but they may be sufficient to show that had
it not been for the inventor's instinct, I would not have lived to tell
Interested people have often asked me how and when I began to invent.
This I can only answer from my present recollection in the light of which,
the first attempt I recall was rather ambitious for it involved the invention
of an apparatus and a method. In the former it was anticipated, but the
later was original. It happened in this way. One of my playmates had come
into the possession of a hook and fishing tackle which created quite an
excitement in the village, and the next morning all started out to catch
frogs. I was left alone and deserted owing to a quarrel with this boy.
I had never seen a real hook and pictured it as something wonderful, endowed
with peculiar qualities, and was despairing not to be one of the party.
Urged by necessity, I somehow got hold of a piece of soft iron wire, hammered
the end to a sharp point between two stones, bent it into shape, and fastened
it to a strong string. I then cut a rod, gathered some bait, and went
down to the brook where there were frogs in abundance. But I could not
catch any and was almost discouraged when it occurred to me dangle the
empty hook in front of a frog sitting on a stump. At first he collapsed
but by and by his eyes bulged out and became bloodshot, he swelled to
twice his normal size and made a vicious snap at the hook. Immediately
I pulled him up. I tried the same thing again and again and the method
proved infallible. When my comrades, who in spite of their fine outfit
had caught nothing, came to me, they were green with envy. For a long
time I kept my secret and enjoyed the monopoly but finally yielded to
the spirit of Christmas. Every boy could then do the same and the following
summer brought disaster to the frogs.
In my next attempt, I seem to have acted under the first instinctive
impulse which later dominated me - to harness the energies of nature to
the service of man. I did this through the medium of May bugs, or June
bugs as they are called in America, which were a veritable pest in that
country and sometimes broke the branches of trees by the sheer weight
of their bodies. The bushes were black with them. I would attach as many
as four of them to a cross-piece, rotably arranged on a thin spindle,
and transmit the motion of the same to a large disc and so derive considerable
"power." These creatures were remarkably efficient, for once they were
started, they had no sense to stop and continued whirling for hours and
hours and the hotter it was, the harder they worked. All went well until
a strange boy came to the place. He was the son of a retired officer in
the Austrian army. That urchin ate May bugs alive and enjoyed them as
though they were the finest blue point oysters. That disgusting sight
terminated my endeavors in this promising field and I have never since
been able to touch a May bug or any other insect for that matter.
After that, I believe, I undertook to take apart and assemble the clocks
of my grandfather. In the former operation I was always successful, but
often failed in the latter. So it came that he brought my work to a sudden
halt in a manner not too delicate and it took thirty years before I tackled
another clockwork again.
Shortly thereafter, I went into the manufacture of a kind of pop-gun
which comprised a hollow tube, a piston, and two plugs of hemp. When firing
the gun, the piston was pressed against the stomach and the tube was pushed
back quickly with both hands. the air between the plugs was compressed
and raised to a high temperature and one of them was expelled with a loud
report. The art consisted in selecting a tube of the proper taper from
the hollow stalks which were found in our garden. I did very well with
that gun, but my activities interfered with the window panes in our house
and met with painful discouragement.
If I remember rightly, I then took to carving swords from pieces of
furniture which I could conveniently obtain. At that time I was under
the sway of the Serbian national poetry and full of admiration for the
feats of the heroes. I used to spend hours in mowing down my enemies in
the form of cornstalks which ruined the crops and netted me several spankings
from my mother. Moreover, these were not of the formal kind but the genuine
I had all this and more behind me before I was six years old and had
passed through one year of elementary school in the village of Smiljan
where my family lived. At this juncture we moved to the little city of
Gospic nearby. This change of residence was like a calamity to me. It
almost broke my heart to part from our pigeons, chickens and sheep, and
our magnificent flock of geese which used to rise to the clouds in the
morning and return from the feeding grounds at sundown in battle formation,
so perfect that it would have put a squadron of the best aviators of the
present day to shame. In our new house I was but a prisoner, watching
the strange people I saw through my window blinds. My bashfulness was
such that I would rather have faced a roaring lion than one of the city
dudes who strolled about. But my hardest trial came on Sunday when I had
to dress up and attend the service. There I met with an accident, the
mere thought of which made my blood curdle like sour milk for years afterwards.
It was my second adventure in a church. Not long before, I was entombed
for a night in an old chapel on an inaccessible mountain which was visited
only once a year. It was an awful experience, but this one was worse.
There was a wealthy lady in town, a good but pompous woman, who used
to come to the church gorgeously painted up and attired with an enormous
train and attendants. One Sunday I had just finished ringing the bell
in the belfry and rushed downstairs, when this grand dame was sweeping
out and I jumped on her train. It tore off with a ripping noise which
sounded like a salvo of musketry fired by raw recruits. My father was
livid with rage. He gave me a gentle slap on the cheek, the only corporal
punishment he ever administered to me, but I almost feel it now. The embarrassment
and confusion that followed are indescribable. I was practically ostracized
until something else happened which redeemed me in the estimation of the
An enterprising young merchant had organized a fire department. A new
fire engine was purchased, uniforms provided and the men drilled for service
and parade. The engine was beautifully painted red and black. One afternoon,
the official trial was prepared for and the machine was transported to
the river. The entire population turned out to witness the great spectacle.
When all the speeches and ceremonies were concluded, the command was given
to pump, but not a drop of water came from the nozzle. The professors
and experts tried in vain to locate the trouble. The fizzle was complete
when I arrived at the scene. My knowledge of the mechanism was nil and
I knew next to nothing of air pressure, but instinctively I felt for the
suction hose in the water and found that it had collapsed. When I waded
in the river and opened it up, the water rushed forth and not a few Sunday
clothes were spoiled. Archimedes running naked through the streets of
Syracuse and shouting Eureka at the top of his voice did not make a greater
impression than myself. I was carried on the shoulders and was hero of
Upon settling in the city I began a four years course in the so-called
Normal School preparatory to my studies at the College or Real-Gymnasium.
During this period my boyish efforts and exploits as well as troubles,
Among other things, I attained the unique distinction of champion crow
catcher in the country. My method of procedure was extremely simple. I
would go into the forest, hide in the bushes, and imitate the call of
the birds. Usually I would get several answers and in a short while a
crow would flutter down into the shrubbery near me. After that, all I
needed to do was to throw a piece of cardboard to detract its attention,
jump up and grab it before it could extricate itself from the undergrowth.
In this way I would capture as many as I desired. But on one occasion
something occurred which made me respect them. I had caught a fine pair
of birds and was returning home with a friend. When we left the forest,
thousands of crows had gathered making a frightful racket. In a few minutes
they rose in pursuit and soon enveloped us. The fun lasted until all of
a sudden I received a blow on the back of my head which knocked me down.
Then they attacked me viciously. I was compelled to release the two birds
and was glad to join my friend who had taken refuge in a cave.
In the school room there were a few mechanical models which interested
me and turned my attention to water turbines. I constructed many of these
and found great pleasure in operating them. How extraordinary was my life
an incident may illustrate. My uncle had no use for this kind of pastime
and more than once rebuked me. I was fascinated by a description of Niagara
Falls I had perused, and pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by
the falls. I told my uncle that I would go to America and carry out this
scheme. Thirty years later I was able to see my ideas carried out at Niagara
and marveled at the unfathomable mystery of the mind.
I made all kinds of other contrivances and contraptions but among those,
the arbalests I produced were the best. My arrows, when short, disappeared
from sight and at close range traversed a plank of pine one inch thick.
Through the continuous tightening of the bows I developed a skin on my
stomach much like that of a crocodile and I am often wondering whether
it is due to this exercise that I am able even now to digest cobble-stones!
Nor can I pass in silence my performances with the sling which would have
enabled me to give a stunning exhibit at the Hippodrome. And now I will
tell of one of my feats with this unique implement of war which will strain
to the utmost the credulity of the reader.
I was practicing while walking with my uncle along the river. The sun
was setting, the trout were playful and from time to time one would shoot
up into the air, its glistening body sharply defined against a projecting
rock beyond. Of course any boy might have hit a fish under these propitious
conditions but I undertook a much more difficult task and I foretold to
my uncle, to the minutest detail, what I intended doing. I was to hurl
a stone to meet the fish, press its body against the rock, and cut it
in two. It was no sooner said than done. My uncle looked at me almost
scared out of his wits and exclaimed "Vade retra Satanae!" and it was
a few days before he spoke to me again. Other records, however great,
will be eclipsed but I feel that I could peacefully rest on my laurels
for a thousand years.
How Tesla Conceived The Rotary Magnetic Field
At the age of ten I entered the Real Gymnasium which was a new and fairly
well equipped institution. In the department of physics were various models
of classical scientific apparatus, electrical and mechanical. The demonstrations
and experiments performed from time to time by the instructors fascinated
me and were undoubtedly a powerful incentive to invention. I was also
passionately fond of mathematical studies and often won the professor's
praise for rapid calculation. This was due to my acquired facility of
visualizing the figures and performing the operation, not in the usual
intuitive manner, but as in actual life. Up to a certain degree of complexity
it was absolutely the same to me whether I wrote the symbols on the board
or conjured them before my mental vision. But freehand drawing, to which
many hours of the course were devoted, was an annoyance I could not endure.
This was rather remarkable as most of the members of the family excelled
in it. Perhaps my aversion was simply due to the predilection I found
in undisturbed thought. Had it not been for a few exceptionally stupid
boys, who could not do anything at all, my record would have been the
It was a serious handicap, as under the then existing educational regime
drawing being obligatory, this deficiency threatened to spoil my whole
career and my father had considerable trouble in railroading me from one
class to another.
In the second year at that institution I became obsessed with the idea
of producing continuous motion through steady air pressure. The pump incident,
of which I have been told, had set afire my youthful imagination and impressed
me with the boundless possibilities of a vacuum. I grew frantic in my
desire to harness this inexhaustible energy but for a long time I was
groping in the dark. Finally, however, my endeavors crystallized in an
invention which was to enable me to achieve what no other mortal ever
attempted. Imagine a cylinder freely rotatable on two bearings and partly
surrounded by a rectangular trough which fits it perfectly. The open side
of the trough is enclosed by a partition so that the cylindrical segment
within the enclosure divides the latter into two compartments entirely
separated from each other by air-tight sliding joints. One of these compartments
being sealed and once for all exhausted, the other remaining open, a perpetual
rotation of the cylinder would result. At least, so I thought.
A wooden model was constructed and fitted with infinite care and when
I applied the pump on one side and actually observed that there was a
tendency to turning, I was delirious with joy. Mechanical flight was the
one thing I wanted to accomplish although still under the discouraging
recollection of a bad fall I sustained by jumping with an umbrella from
the top of a building. Every day I used to transport myself through the
air to distant regions but could not understand just how I managed to
do it. Now I had something concrete, a flying machine with nothing more
than a rotating shaft, flapping wings, and - a vacuum of unlimited power!
From that time on I made my daily aerial excursions in a vehicle of comfort
and luxury as might have befitted King Solomon. It took years before I
understood that the atmospheric pressure acted at right angles to the
surface of the cylinder and that the slight rotary effort I observed was
due to a leak! Though this knowledge came gradually it gave me a painful
I had hardly completed my course at the Real Gymnasium when I was prostrated
with a dangerous illness or rather, a score of them, and my condition
became so desperate that I was given up by physicians. During this period
I was permitted to read constantly, obtaining books from the public library
which had been neglected and entrusted to me for classification of the
works and preparation of catalogues.
One day I was handed a few volumes of new literature unlike anything
I had ever read before and so captivating as to make me utterly forget
my hopeless state. They were the earlier works of Mark Twain and to them
might have been due the miraculous recovery which followed. Twenty-five
years later, when I met Mr. Clements and we formed a friendship between
us, I told him of the experience and was amazed to see that great man
of laughter burst into tears...
My studies were continued at the higher Real Gymnasium in Carlstadt,
Croatia, where one of my aunts resided. She was a distinguished lady,
the wife of a colonel who was an old war-horse having participated in
many battles, I can never forget the three years I passed at their home.
No fortress in time of war was under a more rigid discipline. I was fed
like a canary bird. All the meals were of the highest quality and deliciously
prepared, but short in quantity by a thousand percent. The slices of ham
cut by my aunt were like tissue paper. When the colonel would put something
substantial on my plate she would snatch it away and say excitedly to
him; "Be careful. Niko is very delicate."
I had a voracious appetite and suffered like Tantalus.
But I lived in an atmosphere of refinement and artistic taste quite
unusual for those times and conditions. The land was low and marshy and
malaria fever never left me while there despite the enormous amounts of
quinine I consumed. Occasionally the river would rise and drive an army
of rats into the buildings, devouring everything, even to the bundles
of fierce paprika. These pests were to me a welcome diversion. I thinned
their ranks by all sorts of means, which won me the unenviable distinction
of rat-catcher in the community. At last, however, my course was completed,
the misery ended, and I obtained the certificate of maturity which brought
me to the crossroads.
During all those years my parents never wavered in their resolve to
make me embrace the clergy, the mere thought of which filled me with dread.
I had become intensely interested in electricity under the stimulating
influence of my professor of physics, who was an ingenious man and often
demonstrated the principles by apparatus of his own invention. Among these
I recall a device in the shape of a freely rotatable bulb, with tinfoil
coating, which was made to spin rapidly when connected to a static machine.
It is impossible for me to convey an adequate idea of the intensity of
feeling I experienced in witnessing his exhibitions of these mysterious
phenomena. Every impression produced a thousand echoes in my mind. I wanted
to know more of this wonderful force; I longed for experiment and investigation
and resigned myself to the inevitable with aching heart. Just as I was
making ready for the long journey home I received word that my father
wished me to go on a shooting expedition. It was a strange request as
he had been always strenuously opposed to this kind of sport. But a few
days later I learned that the cholera was raging in that district and,
taking advantage of an opportunity, I returned to Gospic in disregard
to my parent's wishes. It is incredible how absolutely ignorant people
were as to the causes of this scourge which visited the country in intervals
of fifteen to twenty years. They thought that the deadly agents were transmitted
through the air and filled it with pungent odors and smoke. In the meantime
they drank infested water and died in heaps. I contracted the dreadful
disease on the very day of my arrival and although surviving the crisis,
I was confined to bed for nine months with scarcely any ability to move.
My energy was completely exhausted and for the second time I found myself
at Death's door.
In one of the sinking spells which was thought to be the last, my father
rushed into the room. I still see his pallid face as he tried to cheer
me in tones belying his assurance. "Perhaps," I said, "I may get well
if you will let me study engineering." "You will go to the best technical
institution in the world," he solemnly replied, and I knew that he meant
it. A heavy weight was lifted from my mind but the relief would have come
too late had it not been for a marvelous cure brought through a bitter
decoction of a peculiar bean. I came to life like Lazarus to the utter
amazement of everybody.
My father insisted that I spend a year in healthful physical outdoor
exercise to which I reluctantly consented. For most of this term I roamed
in the mountains, loaded with a hunter's outfit and a bundle of books,
and this contact with nature made me stronger in body as well as in mind.
I thought and planned, and conceived many ideas almost as a rule delusive.
The vision was clear enough but the knowledge of principles was very limited.
In one of my inventions, I proposed to convey letters and packages across
the seas, through a submarine tube, in spherical containers of sufficient
strength to resist the hydraulic pressure. The pumping plant, intended
to force the water through the tube, was accurately figured and designed
and all other particulars carefully worked out. Only one trifling detail,
of no consequence, was lightly dismissed. I assumed an arbitrary velocity
of the water and, what is more, took pleasure in making it high, thus
arriving at a stupendous performance supported by faultless calculations.
Subsequent reflections, however, on the resistance of pipes to fluid flow
induced me to make this invention public property.
Another one of my projects was to construct a ring around the equator
which would, of course, float freely and could be arrested in its spinning
motion by reactionary forces, thus enabling travel at a rate of about
one thousand miles an hour, impracticable by rail. The reader will smile.
The plan was difficult of execution, I will admit, but not nearly so bad
as that of a well known New York professor, who wanted to pump the air
from the torrid to temperate zones, entirely forgetful of the fact that
the Lord had provided a gigantic machine for this purpose.
Still another scheme, far more important and attractive, was to derive
power from the rotational energy of terrestrial bodies. I had discovered
that objects on the earth's surface owing to the diurnal rotation of the
globe, are carried by the same alternately in and against the direction
of translatory movement. From this results a great change in momentum
which could be utilized in the simplest imaginable manner to furnish motive
effort in any habitable region of the world. I cannot find words to describe
my disappointment when later I realized that I was in the predicament
of Archimedes, who vainly sought for a fixed point in the universe.
At the termination of my vacation I was sent to the polytechnic school
in Gratz, Styria (Austria), which my father had chosen as one of the oldest
and best reputed institutions. That was the moment I had eagerly awaited
and I began my studies under good auspices and firmly resolved to succeed.
My previous training was above average, due to my father's teaching and
opportunities afforded. I had acquired the knowledge of a number of languages
and waded through the books of several libraries, picking up information
more or less useful. Then again, for the first time, I could choose my
subjects as I liked, and free-hand drawing was to bother me no more.
I had made up my mind to give my parents a surprise, and during the
whole first year I regularly started my work at three o'clock in the morning
and continued until eleven at night, no Sundays or holidays excepted.
As most of my fellow-students took things easily, naturally I eclipsed
all records. In the course of the year I passed through nine exams and
the professors thought I deserved more than the highest qualifications.
Armed with their flattering certificates, I went home for a short rest,
expecting triumph, and was mortified when my father made light of these
That almost killed my ambition; but later, after he had died, I was
pained to find a package of letters which the professors had written to
him to the effect that unless he took me away from the institution I would
be killed through overwork. Thereafter I devoted myself chiefly to physics,
mechanics and mathematical studies, spending the hours of leisure in the
I had a veritable mania for finishing whatever I began, which often
got me into difficulties. On one occasion I started to read the works
of Voltaire, when I learned, to my dismay that there were close to one
hundred large volumes in small print which that monster had written while
drinking seventy-two cups of black coffee per diem. It had to be done,
but when I laid aside that last book I was very glad, and said, "Never
My first year's showing had won me the appreciation and friendship of
several professors. Among these, Professor Rogner, who was teaching arithmetical
subjects and geometry; Professor Poeschl, who held the chair of theoretical
and experimental physics, and Dr. Alle, who taught integral calculus and
specialized in differential equations. This scientist was the most brilliant
lecturer to whom I ever listened. He took a special interest in my progress
and would frequently remain for an hour or two in the lecture room, giving
me problems to solve, in which I delighted. To him I explained a flying
machine I had conceived, not an illusory invention, but one based on sound,
scientific principles, which has become realizable through my turbine
and will soon be given to the world. Both Professors Rogner and Poeschl
were curious men. The former had peculiar ways of expressing himself and
whenever he did so, there was a riot, followed by a long embarrassing
pause. Professor Poeschl was a methodical and thoroughly grounded German.
He had enormous feet, and hands like the paws of a bear, but all of his
experiments were skillfully performed with clock-like precision and without
a miss. It was in the second year of my studies that we received a Gramoe
Dyname from Paris, having the horseshoe form of a laminated field magnet,
and a wire wound armature with a commutator. It was connected up and various
effects of the currents were shown. While Professor Poeschl was making
demonstrations, running the machine was a motor, the brushes gave trouble,
sparking badly, and I observed that it might be possible to operate a
motor without these appliances. But he declared that it could not be done
and did me the honor of delivering a lecture on the subject, at the conclusion
he remarked, "Mr. Tesla may accomplish great things, but he certainly
will never do this. It would be equivalent to converting a steadily pulling
force, like that of gravity into a rotary effort. It is a perpetual motion
scheme, an impossible idea." But instinct is something which transcends
knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to
perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of
the brain, is futile.
For a time I wavered, impressed by the professor's authority, but soon
became convinced I was right and undertook the task with all the fire
and boundless confidence of my youth. I started by first picturing in
my mind a direct-current machine, running it and following the changing
flow of the currents in the armature. Then I would imagine an alternator
and investigate the progresses taking place in a similar manner. Next
I would visualize systems comprising motors and generators and operate
them in various ways.
The images I saw were to me perfectly real and tangible. All my remaining
term in Gratz was passed in intense but fruitless efforts of this kind,
and I almost came to the conclusion that the problem was insolvable.
In 1880 I went to Prague, Bohemia, carrying out my father's wish to
complete my education at the University there. It was in that city that
I made a decided advance, which consisted in detaching the commutator
from the machine and studying the phenomena in this new aspect, but still
without result. In the year following there was a sudden change in my
views of life.
I realized that my parents had been making too great sacrifices on my
account and resolved to relieve them of the burden. The wave of the American
telephone had just reached the European continent and the system was to
be installed in Budapest, Hungary. It appeared an ideal opportunity, all
the more as a friend of our family was at the head of the enterprise.
It was here that I suffered the complete breakdown of the nerves to
which I have referred. What I experienced during the period of the illness
surpasses all belief. My sight and hearing were always extraordinary.
I could clearly discern objects in the distance when others saw no trace
of them. Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbors
from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb
their sleep, and calling for help. In 1899, when I was past forty and
carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly thunderclaps
at a distance of 550 miles. My ear was thus over thirteen times more sensitive,
yet at that time I was, so to speak, stone deaf in comparison with the
acuteness of my hearing while under the nervous strain.
In Budapest I could hear the ticking of a watch with three rooms between
me and the time-piece. A fly alighting on a table in the room would cause
a dull thud in my ear. A carriage passing at a distance of a few miles
fairly shook my whole body. The whistle of a locomotive twenty or thirty
miles away made the bench or chair on which I sat, vibrate so strongly
that the pain was unbearable. The ground under my feet trembled continuously.
I had to support my bed on rubber cushions to get any rest at all. The
roaring noises from near and far often produced the effect of spoken words
which would have frightened me had I not been able to resolve them into
their accumulated components. The sun rays, when periodically intercepted,
would cause blows of such force on my brain that they would stun me. I
had to summon all my will power to pass under a bridge or other structure,
as I experienced the crushing pressure on the skull. In the dark I had
the sense of a bat, and could detect the presence of an object at a distance
of twelve feet by a peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse
varied from a few to two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of
my body with twitchings and tremors, which was perhaps hardest to bear.
A renowned physician who have me daily large doses of bromide of potassium,
pronounced my malady unique and incurable.
It is my eternal regret that I was not under the observation of experts
in physiology and psychology at that time. I clung desperately to life,
but never expected to recover. Can anyone believe that so hopeless a physical
wreck could ever be transformed into a man of astonishing strength and
tenacity; able to work thirty-eight years almost without a day's interruption,
and find himself still strong and fresh in body and mind? Such is my case.
A powerful desire to live and to continue the work and the assistance
of a devoted friend, an athlete, accomplished the wonder. My health returned
and with it the vigor of mind.
In attacking the problem again, I almost regretted that the struggle
was soon to end. I had so much energy to spare. When I understood the
task, it was not with a resolve such as men often make. With me it was
a sacred vow, a question of life and death. I knew that I would perish
if I failed. Now I felt that the battle was won. Back in the deep recesses
of the brain was the solution, but I could net yet give it outward expression.
One afternoon, which is ever present in my recollection, I was enjoying
a walk with my friend in the City Park and reciting poetry. At that age,
I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethe's
Faust. The sun was just setting and reminded me of the glorious
passage, "Sie ruckt und weicht, der Tag ist uberlebt, Dort eilt sie hin
und fordert neues Leben. Oh, das kein Flugel mich vom Boden hebt Ihr nach
und immer nach zu streben! Ein schöner Traum indessen sie entweicht,
Ach, au des Geistes Flügein wird so leicht Kein korperlicher Flugel
sich gesellen!" As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like
a flash of lightening and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew
with a stick on the sand, the diagram shown six years later in my address
before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and my companion
understood them perfectly. The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and
clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told
him, "See my motor here; watch me reverse it." I cannot begin to describe
my emotions. Pygmalion seeing his statue come to life could not have been
more deeply moved. A thousand secrets of nature which I might have stumbled
upon accidentally, I would have given for that one which I had wrested
from her against all odds and at the peril of my existence...
Chapter 4: The Discovery of the Tesla Coil and Transformer
(The Basic Part of Every Radio and T.V.)
For a while I gave
myself up entirely to the intense enjoyment of picturing machines and
devising new forms. It was a mental state of happiness about as complete
as I have ever known in life. Ideas came in an uninterrupted stream and
the only difficulty I had was to hold them fast. The pieces of apparatus
I conceived were to me absolutely real and tangible in every detail, even
to the minutest marks and signs of wear. I delighted in imagining the
motors constantly running, for in this way they presented to the mind's
eye a fascinating sight. When natural inclination develops into a passionate
desire, one advances towards his goal in seven-league boots. In less than
two months I evolved virtually all the types of motors and modifications
of the system which are now identified with my name, and which are used
under many other names all over the world. It was, perhaps, providential
that the necessities of existence commanded a temporary halt to this consuming
activity of the mind.
I came to Budapest prompted by a premature report concerning the telephone
enterprise and, as irony of fate willed it, I had to accept a position
as draughtsman in the Central Telegraph Office of the Hungarian government
at a salary which I deem it my privilege not to disclose. Fortunately,
I soon won the interest of the inspector-in-chief and was thereafter employed
on calculations, designs and estimates in connection with new installations,
until the telephone exchange started, when I took charge of the same.
The knowledge and practical experience I gained in the course of this
work, was most valuable and the employment gave me ample opportunities
for the exercise of my inventive faculties. I made several improvements
in the central station apparatus and perfected a telephone repeater or
amplifier which was never patented or publicly described but would be
creditable to me even today. In recognition of my efficient assistance
the organizer of the undertaking, Mr. Puskas, upon disposing of his business
in Budapest, offered me a position in Paris which I gladly accepted.
I never can forget the deep impression that magic city produced on my
mind. For several days after my arrival, I roamed through the streets
in utter bewilderment of the new spectacle. The attractions were many
and irresistible, but, alas, the income was spent as soon as received.
When Mr. Puskas asked me how I was getting along in the new sphere, I
described the situation accurately in the statement that "The last twenty-nine
days of the month are the toughest." I led a rather strenuous life in
what would now be termed "Rooseveltian fashion." Every morning, regardless
of the weather, I would go from the boulevard St-Marcel, where I resided,
to a bathing house on the Seine; plunge into the water, loop the circuit
twenty-seven times and then walk an hour to reach Ivry, where the company's
factory was located. There I would have a wood-chopper's breakfast at
half-past seven o'clock and then eagerly await the lunch hour, in the
meanwhile cracking hard nuts for the manager-of-the-works, Mr. Charles
Batchellor, who was an intimate friend and assistant of Edison. Here I
was thrown in contact with a few Americans who fairly fell in love with
my because of my proficiency in Billiards! To these men I explained my
invention and one of them, Mr. D. Cunningham, foreman of the mechanical
department, offered to form a stock company. The proposal seemed to me
comical in the extreme. I did not have the faintest conception of what
he meant, except that it was an American way of doing things. Nothing
came of it, however, and during the next few months I had to travel from
one place to another in France and Germany to cure the ills of the power
On my return to Paris, I submitted to one of the administrators of the
company, Mr. Rau, a plan for improving their dynamos and was given an
opportunity. My success was complete and the delighted directors accorded
me the privilege of developing automatic regulators which were much desired.
Shortly after, there was some trouble with the lighting plant which had
been installed at the new railroad station in Strasbourg, Alsace. The
wiring was defective and on the occasion of the opening ceremonies, a
large part of a wall was blown out through a short-circuit, right in the
presence of old Emperor William I. The German government refused to take
the plant and the French company was facing a serious loss. On account
of my knowledge of the German language and past experience, I was entrusted
with the difficult task of straightening out matters and early in 1883,
I went to Strasbourg on that mission.
Some of the incidents in that city have left an indelible record on
my memory. By a curious coincidence, a number of the men who subsequently
achieved fame, lived there about that time. In later life I used to say,
"There were bacteria of greatness in that old town." Others caught the
disease, but I escaped!" The practical work, correspondence, and conferences
with officials kept me preoccupied day and night, but as soon as I was
able to manage, I undertook the construction of a simple motor in a mechanical
shop opposite the railroad station, having brought with me from Paris
some material for that purpose. The consummation of the experiment was,
however, delayed until the summer of that year, when I finally had the
satisfaction of seeing the rotation effected by alternating currents of
different phase, and without sliding contacts or commutator, as I had
conceived a year before. It was an exquisite pleasure but not to compare
with the delirium of joy following the first revelation.
Among my new friends was the former mayor of the city, Mr. Sauzin, whom
I had already, in a measure, acquainted with this and other inventions
of mine and whose support I endeavored to enlist. He was sincerely devoted
to me and put my project before several wealthy persons, but to my mortification,
found no response. He wanted to help me in every possible way and the
approach of the first of July, 1917, happens to remind me of a form of
"assistance" I received from that charming man, which was not financial,
but none the less appreciated. In 1870, when the Germans invaded the country,
Mr. Sauzin had buried a good sized allotment of St. Estephe of 1801 and
he came to the conclusion that he knew no worthier person than myself
to consume that precious beverage. This, I may say, is one of the unforgettable
incidents to which I have referred. My friend urged me to return to Paris
as soon as possible and seek support there. This I was anxious to do,
but my work and negotiations were protracted, owing to all sorts of petty
obstacles I encountered, so that at times the situation seemed hopeless.
Just to give an idea of German thoroughness and "efficiency," I may mention
here a rather funny experience.
An incandescent lamp of 16 c.p. was to be placed in a hallway, and upon
selecting the proper location, I ordered the "monteur" to run the wires.
After working for a while, he concluded that the engineer had to be consulted
and this was done. The latter made several objections but ultimately agreed
that the lamp should be placed two inches from the spot I had assigned,
whereupon the work proceeded. Then the engineer became worried and told
me that Inspector Averdeck should be notified. That important person was
called, he investigated, debated, and decided that the lamp should be
shifted back two inches, which was the place I had marked! It was not
long, however, before Averdeck got cold feet himself and advised me that
he had informed Ober-Inspector Hieronimus of the matter and that I should
await his decision. It was several days before the ober-inspector was
able to free himself of other pressing duties, but at last he arrived
and a two hour debate followed, when he decided to move the lamp two inches
further. My hopes that this was the final act, were shattered when the
ober-inspector returned and said to me, "Regierungsrath Funke is particular
that I would not dare to give an order for placing this lamp without his
explicit approval." Accordingly, arrangements for a visit from that great
man were made. We started cleaning up and polishing early in the morning,
and when Funke came with his retinue he was ceremoniously received. After
two hours of deliberation, he suddenly exclaimed, "I must be going!,"
and pointing to a place on the ceiling, he ordered me to put the lamp
there. It was the exact spot which I had originally chosen! So it went
day after day with variations, but I was determined to achieve, at whatever
cost, and in the end my efforts were rewarded.
By the spring of 1884, all the differences were adjusted, the plant
formally accepted, and I returned to Paris with pleasing anticipation.
One of the administrators had promised me a liberal compensation in case
I succeeded, as well as a fair consideration of the improvements I had
made to their dynamos and I hoped to realize a substantial sum. There
were three administrators, whom I shall designate as A, B, and C for convenience.
When I called on A, he told me what B had the say. This gentleman thought
that only C could decide, and the latter was quite sure that A alone had
the power to act. After several laps of this circulus viciousus,
it dawned upon me that my reward was a castle in Spain.
The utter failure of my attempts to raise capital for development was
another disappointment, and when Mr. Bachelor pressed me to go to America
with a view of redesigning the Edison machines, I determined to try my
fortunes in the Land of Golden Promise. But the chance was nearly missed.
I liquefied my modest assets, secured accommodations and found myself
at the railroad station as the train was pulling out. At that moment,
I discovered that my money and tickets were gone. What to do was the question.
Hercules had plenty of time to deliberate, but I had to decide while running
alongside the train with opposite feeling surging in my brain like condenser
oscillations. Resolve, helped by dexterity, won out in the nick of time
and upon passing through the usual experience, as trivial and unpleasant,
I managed to embark for New York with the remnants of my belongings, some
poems and articles I had written, and a package of calculations relating
to solutions of an unsolvable integral and my flying machine. During the
voyage I sat most of the time at the stern of the ship watching for an
opportunity to save somebody from a watery grave, without the slightest
thought of danger. Later, when I had absorbed some of the practical American
sense, I shivered at the recollection and marveled at my former folly.
The meeting with Edison was a memorable event in my life. I was amazed
at this wonderful man who, without early advantages and scientific training,
had accomplished so much. I had studied a dozen languages, delved in literature
and art, and had spent my best years in libraries reading all sorts of
stuff that fell into my hands, from Newton's Principia to
the novels of Paul de Kock, and felt that most of my life had been squandered.
But it did not take long before I recognized that it was the best thing
I could have done. Within a few weeks I had won Edison's confidence, and
it came about in this way.
The S.S. Oregon, the fastest passenger steamer at that time, had both
of its lighting machines disabled and its sailing was delayed. As the
superstructure had been built after their installation, it was impossible
to remove them from the hold. The predicament was a serious one and Edison
was much annoyed. In the evening I took the necessary instruments with
me and went aboard the vessel where I stayed for the night. The dynamos
were in bad condition, having several short-circuits and breaks, but with
the assistance of the crew, I succeeded in putting them in good shape.
At five o'clock in the morning, when passing along Fifth Avenue on my
way to the shop, I met Edison with Bachelor and a few others, as they
were returning home to retire. "Here is our Parisian running around at
night," he said. When I told him that I was coming from the Oregon and
had repaired both machines, he looked at me in silence and walked away
without another word. But when he had gone some distance I heard him remark,
"Bachelor, this is a good man." And from that time on I had full freedom
in directing the work. For nearly a year my regular hours were from 10:30
A.M. until 5 o'clock the next morning without a day's exception. Edison
said to me, "I have had many hard working assistants, but you take the
cake." During this period I designed twenty-four different types of standard
machines with short cores and uniform pattern, which replaced the old
ones. The manager had promised me fifty thousand dollars on the completion
of this task, but it turned out to be a practical joke. This gave me a
painful shock and I resigned my position.
Immediately thereafter, some people approached me with the proposal
of forming an arc light company under my name, to which I agreed. Here
finally, was an opportunity to develop the motor, but when I broached
the subject to my new associates they said, "No, we want the arc lamp.
We don't care for this alternating current of yours." In 1886, my system
of arc lighting was perfected and adopted for factory and municipal lighting,
and I was free, but with no other possession than a beautifully engraved
certificate of stock of hypothetical value. Then followed a period of
struggle in the new medium for which I was not fitted, but the reward
came in the end, and in April, 1887, the Tesla Electric Co. was organized,
providing a laboratory and facilities. The motors I built there were exactly
as I had imagined them. I made no attempt to improve the design, but merely
reproduced the pictures as they appeared to my vision and the operation
was always as I expected.
In the early part of 1888, an arrangement was made with the Westinghouse
Company for the manufacture of the motors on a large scale. But great
difficulties had still to be overcome. My system was based on the use
of low frequency currents and the Westinghouse experts had adopted 133
cycles with the objects of securing advantages in transformation. They
did not want to depart with their standard forms of apparatus and my efforts
had to be concentrated upon adapting the motor to these conditions. Another
necessity was to produce a motor capable of running efficiently at this
frequency on two wires, which was not an easy accomplishment.
At the close of 1889, however, my services in Pittsburgh being no longer
essential, I returned to New York and resumed experimental work in a Laboratory
on Grand Street, where I began immediately the design of high-frequency
machines. The problems of construction in this unexplored field were novel
and quite peculiar, and I encountered many difficulties. I rejected the
inductor type, fearing that it might not yield perfect sine waves, which
were so important to resonant action. Had it not been for this, I could
have saved myself a great deal of labor. Another discouraging feature
of the high-frequency alternator seemed to be the inconstancy of speed
which threatened to impose serious limitations to its use. I had already
noted in my demonstrations before the American Institution of Electrical
Engineers, that several times the tune was lost, necessitating readjustment,
and did not yet foresee what I discovered long afterwards, a means of
operating a machine of this kind at a speed constant to such a degree
as not to vary more than a small fraction of one revolution between the
extremes of load. From many other considerations, it appeared desirable
to invent a simpler device for the production of electric oscillations.
In 1856, Lord Kelvin had exposed the theory of the condenser discharge,
but no practical application of that important knowledge was made. I saw
the possibilities and undertook the development of induction apparatus
on this principle. My progress was so rapid as to enable me to exhibit
at my lecture in 1891 a coil giving sparks of five inches. On that occasion
I frankly told the engineers of a defect involved in the transformation
by the new method, namely, the loss in the spark gap. Subsequent investigation
showed that no matter what medium is employed, be it air, hydrogen, mercury
vapor, oil, or a stream of electrons, the efficiency is the same. It is
a law very much like the governing of the conversion of mechanical energy.
We may drop a weight from a certain height vertically down, or carry it
to the lower level along any devious path; it is immaterial insofar as
the amount of work is concerned. Fortunately however, this drawback is
not fatal, as by proper proportioning of the resonant, circuits of an
efficiency of 85 percent is attainable. Since my early announcement of
the invention, it has come into universal use and wrought a revolution
in many departments, but a still greater future awaits it.
When in 1900 I obtained powerful discharges of 1,000 feet and flashed
a current around the globe, I was reminded of the first tiny spark I observed
in my Grand Street laboratory and was thrilled by sensations akin to those
I felt when I discovered the rotating magnetic field.
As I review the events of my past life I realize how subtle are the
influences that shape our destinies. An incident of my youth may serve
to illustrate. One winter's day I managed to climb a steep mountain, in
company with other boys. The snow was quite deep and a warm southerly
wind made it just suitable for our purpose. We amused ourselves by throwing
balls which would roll down a certain distance, gathering more or less
snow, and we tried to out-do one another in this sport. Suddenly a ball
was seen to go beyond the limit, swelling to enormous proportions until
it became as big as a house and plunged thundering into the valley below
with a force that made the ground tremble. I looked on spellbound incapable
of understanding what had happened. For weeks afterward the picture of
the avalanche was before my eyes and I wondered how anything so small
could grow to such an immense size.
Ever since that time the magnification of feeble actions fascinated
me, and when, years later, I took up the experimental study of mechanical
and electrical resonance, I was keenly interested from the very start.
Possibly, had it not been for that early powerful impression I might not
have followed up the little spark I obtained with my coil and never developed
my best invention, the true history of which I will tell.
Many technical men, very able in their special departments, but dominated
by a pedantic spirit and nearsighted, have asserted that excepting the
induction motor, I have given the world little of practical use. This
is a grievous mistake. A new idea must not be judged by its immediate
results. My alternating system of power transmission came at a psychological
moment, as a long sought answer to pressing industrial questions, and
although considerable resistance had to be overcome and opposing interests
reconciled, as usual, the commercial introduction could not be long delayed.
Now, compare this situation with that confronting my turbines, for example.
One should think that so simple and beautiful an invention, possessing
many features of an ideal motor, should be adopted at once and, undoubtedly,
it would under similar conditions. But the prospective effect of the rotating
field was not to render worthless existing machinery; on the contrary,
it was to give it additional value. The system lent itself to new enterprise
as well as to improvement of the old. My turbine is an advance of a character
entirely different. It is a radical departure in the sense that its success
would mean the abandonment of the antiquated types of prime movers on
which billions of dollars have been spent. Under such circumstances, the
progress must need be slow and perhaps the greatest impediment is encountered
in the prejudicial opinions created in the minds of experts by organized
Only the other day, I had a disheartening experience when I met my friend
and former assistant, Charles F. Scott, now professor of Electric Engineering
at Yale. I had not seen him for a long time and was glad to have an opportunity
for a little chat at my office. Our conversation, naturally enough, drifted
onto my turbine and I became heated to a high degree. "Scott," I exclaimed,
carried away by the vision of a glorious future, "My turbine will scrap
all the heat engines in the world." Scott stroked his chin and looked
away thoughtfully, as though making a mental calculation. "That will make
quite a pile of scrap," he said, and left without another word!
These and other inventions of mine, however, were nothing more than
steps forward in a certain directions. In evolving them, I simply followed
the inborn instinct to improve the present devices without any special
thought of our far more imperative necessities. The "Magnifying Transmitter"
was the product of labors extending through years, having for their chief
object, the solution of problems which are infinitely more important to
mankind than mere industrial development.
If my memory serves me right, it was in November, 1890, that I performed
a laboratory experiment which was one of the most extraordinary and spectacular
ever recorded in the annal of Science. In investigating the behavior of
high frequency currents, I had satisfied myself that an electric field
of sufficient intensity could be produced in a room to light up electrodeless
vacuum tubes. Accordingly, a transformer was built to test the theory
and the first trial proved a marvelous success. It is difficult to appreciate
what those strange phenomena meant at the time. We crave for new sensations,
but soon become indifferent to them. The wonders of yesterday are today
common occurrences. When my tubes were first publicly exhibited, they
were viewed with amazement impossible to describe. From all parts of the
world, I received urgent invitations and numerous honors and other flattering
inducements were offered to me, which I declined. But in 1892 the demand
became irresistible and I went to London where I delivered a lecture before
the Institution of Electrical Engineers.
It has been my intention to leave immediately for Paris in compliance
with a similar obligation, but Sir James Dewar insisted on my appearing
before the Royal Institution. I was a man of firm resolve, but succumbed
easily to the forceful arguments of the great Scotchman. He pushed me
into a chair and poured out half a glass of a wonderful brown fluid which
sparkled in all sorts of iridescent colors and tasted like nectar. "Now,"
said he, "you are sitting in Faraday's chair and you are enjoying whiskey
he used to drink." (Which did not interest me very much, as I had altered
my opinion concerning strong drink). The next evening I have a demonstration
before the Royal Institution, at the termination of which, Lord Rayleigh
addressed the audience and his generous words gave me the first start
in these endeavors. I fled from London and later from Paris, to escape
favors showered upon me, and journeyed to my home, where I passed through
a most painful ordeal and illness.
Upon regaining my health, I began to formulate plans for the resumption
of work in America. Up to that time I never realized that I possessed
any particular gift of discovery, but Lord Rayleigh, whom I always considered
as an ideal man of science, had said so and if that was the case, I felt
that I should concentrate on some big idea.
At this time, as at many other times in the past, my thoughts turned
towards my Mother's teaching. The gift of mental power comes from God,
Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become
in tune with this great power. My Mother had taught me to seek all truth
in the Bible; therefore I devoted the next few months to the study of
One day, as I was roaming the mountains, I sought shelter from an approaching
storm. The sky became overhung with heavy clouds, but somehow the rain
was delayed until, all of a sudden, there was a lightening flash and a
few moments after, a deluge. This observation set me thinking. It was
manifest that the two phenomena were closely related, as cause and effect,
and a little reflection led me to the conclusion that the electrical energy
involved in the precipitation of the water was inconsiderable, the function
of the lightening being much like that of a sensitive trigger. Here was
a stupendous possibility of achievement. If we could produce electric
effects of the required quality, this whole planet and the conditions
of existence on it could be transformed. The sun raises the water of the
oceans and winds drive it to distant regions where it remains in a state
of most delicate balance. If it were in our power to upset it when and
wherever desired, this mighty life sustaining stream could be at will
controlled. We could irrigate arid deserts, create lakes and rivers, and
provide motive power in unlimited amounts. This would be the most efficient
way of harnessing the sun to the uses of man. The consummation depended
on our ability to develop electric forces of the order of those in nature.
It seemed a hopeless undertaking, but I made up my mind to try it and
immediately on my return to the United States in the summer of 1892, after
a short visit to my friends in Watford, England; work was begun which
was to me all the more attractive, because a means of the same kind was
necessary for the successful transmission of energy without wires.
At this time I made a further careful study of the Bible, and discovered
the key in Revelation. The first gratifying result was obtained in the
spring of the succeeding year, when I reaching a tension of about 100,000,000
volts - one hundred million volts - with my conical coil, which I figured
was the voltage of a flash of lightening. Steady progress was made until
the destruction of my laboratory by fire, in 1895, as may be judged from
an article by T.C. Martin which appeared in the April number of the Century
Magazine. This calamity set me back in many ways and most of that
year had to be devoted to planning and reconstruction. However, as soon
as circumstances permitted, I returned to the task.
Although I knew that higher electric-motive forces were attainable with
apparatus of larger dimensions, I had an instinctive perception that the
object could be accomplished by the proper design of a comparatively small
and compact transformer. In carrying on tests with a secondary in the
form of flat spiral, as illustrated in my patents, the absence of streamers
surprised me, and it was not long before I discovered that this was due
to the position of the turns and their mutual action. Profiting from this
observation, I resorted to the use of a high tension conductor with turns
of considerable diameter, sufficiently separated to keep down the distributed
capacity, while at the same time preventing undue accumulation of the
charge at any point. The application of this principle enabled me to produce
pressures of over 100,000,000 volts, which was about the limit obtainable
without risk of accident. A photograph of my transmitter built in my laboratory
at Houston Street, was published in the Electrical Review
of November, 1898.
In order to advance further along this line, I had to go into the open,
and in the spring of 1899, having completed preparations for the erection
of a wireless plant, I went to Colorado where I remained for more than
one year. Here I introduced other improvements and refinements which made
it possible to generate currents of any tension that may be desired. Those
who are interested will find some information in regard to the experiments
I conducted there in my article, "The Problem of Increasing Human Energy,"
in the Century Magazine of June 1900, to which I have referred
on a previous occasion.
I will be quite explicit on the subject of my magnifying transformer
so that it will be clearly understood. In the first place, it is a resonant
transformer, with a secondary in which the parts, charged to a high potential,
are of considerable area and arranged in space along ideal enveloping
surfaces of very large radii of curvature, and at proper distances from
one another, thereby insuring a small electric surface density everywhere,
so that no leak can occur even if the conductor is bare. It is suitable
for any frequency, from a few to many thousands of cycles per second,
and can be used in the production of currents of tremendous volume and
moderate pressure, or of smaller amperage and immense electromotive force.
The maximum electric tension is merely dependent on the curvature of the
surfaces on which the charged elements are situated and the area of the
latter. Judging from my past experience there is no limit to the possible
voltage developed; any amount is practicable. On the other hand, currents
of many thousands of amperes may be obtained in the antenna. A plant of
but very moderate dimensions is required for such performances. Theoretically,
a terminal of less than 90 feet in diameter is sufficient to develop an
electromotive force of that magnitude, while for antenna currents of from
2,000-4,000 amperes at the usual frequencies, it need not be larger than
30 feet in diameter. In a more restricted meaning, this wireless transmitter
is one in which the Hertzwave radiation is an entirely negligible quantity
as compared with the whole energy, under which condition the damping factor
is extremely small and an enormous charge is stored in the elevated capacity.
Such a circuit may then be excited with impulses of any kind, even of
low frequency and it will yield sinusoidal and continuous oscillations
like those of an alternator. Taken in the narrowest significance of the
term, however, it is a resonant transformer which, besides possessing
these qualities, is accurately proportioned to fit the globe and its electrical
constants and properties, by virtue of which design it becomes highly
efficient and effective in the wireless transmission of energy. Distance
is then absolutely eliminated, there being no diminuation in the intensity
of the transmitted impulses. It is even possible to make the actions increase
with the distance from the plane, according to an exact mathematical law.
This invention was one of a number comprised in my "World System" of wireless
transmission which I undertook to commercialize on my return to New York
As to the immediate purposes of my enterprise, they were clearly outlined
in a technical statement of that period from which I quote, "The world
system has resulted from a combination of several original discoveries
made by the inventor in the course of long continued research and experimentation.
It makes possible not only the instantaneous and precise wireless transmission
of any kind of signals, messages or characters, to all parts of the world,
but also the inter-connection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and
other signal stations without any change in their present equipment. By
its means, for instance, a telephone subscriber here may call up and talk
to any other subscriber on the Earth. An inexpensive receiver, not bigger
than a watch, will enable him to listen anywhere, on land or sea, to a
speech delivered or music played in some other place, however distant."
These examples are cited merely to give an idea of the possibilities
of this great scientific advance, which annihilates distance and makes
that perfect natural conductor, the Earth, available for all the innumerable
purposes which human ingenuity has found for a line-wire. One far-reaching
result of this is that any device capable of being operated through one
or more wires (at a distance obviously restricted) can likewise be actuated,
without artificial conductors and with the same facility and accuracy,
at distances to which there are no limits other than those imposed by
the physical dimensions of the earth. Thus, not only will entirely new
fields for commercial exploitation be opened up by this ideal method of
transmission, but the old ones vastly extended. The World System is based
on the application of the following import and inventions and discoveries:
- The Tesla Transformer: This apparatus is in the production of electrical
vibrations as revolutionary as gunpowder was in warfare. Currents many
times stronger than any ever generated in the usual ways and sparks
over one hundred feet long, have been produced by the inventor with
an instrument of this kind.
- The Magnifying Transmitter: This is Tesla's best invention, a peculiar
transformer specially adapted to excite the earth, which is in the transmission
of electrical energy when the telescope is in astronomical observation.
By the use of this marvelous device, he has already set up electrical
movements of greater intensity than those of lightening and passed a
current, sufficient to light more than two hundred incandescent lamps,
around the Earth.
- The Tesla Wireless System: This system comprises a number of improvements
and is the only means known for transmitting economically electrical
energy to a distance without wires. Careful tests and measurements in
connection with an experimental station of great activity, erected by
the inventor in Colorado, have demonstrated that power in any desired
amount can be conveyed, clear across the globe if necessary, with a
loss not exceeding a few per cent.
- The Art of Individualization: This invention of Tesla is to primitive
tuning, what refined language is to unarticulated expression. It makes
possible the transmission of signals or messages absolutely secret and
exclusive both in the active and passive aspect, that is, non-interfering
as well as non-interferable. Each signal is like an individual of unmistakable
identity and there is virtually no limit to the number of stations or
instruments which can be simultaneously operated without the slightest
- The Terrestrial Stationary Waves: This wonderful discovery, popularly
explained, means that the Earth is responsive to electrical vibrations
of definite pitch, just as a tuning fork to certain waves of sound.
These particular electrical vibrations, capable of powerfully exciting
the globe, lend themselves to innumerable uses of great importance commercially
and in many other respects. The first "World System" power plant can
be put in operation in nine months. With this power plant, it will be
practicable to attain electrical activities up to ten million horse-power
and it is designed to serve for as many technical achievements as are
possible without due expense. Among these are the following:
- The inter-connection of existing telegraph exchanges or offices
all over the world;
- The establishment of a secret and non-interferable government
- The inter-connection of all present telephone exchanges or offices
around the globe;
- The universal distribution of general news by telegraph or telephone,
in conjunction with the press;
- The establishment of such a "World System" of intelligence transmission
for exclusive private use;
- The inter-connection and operation of all stock tickers of the
- The establishment of a "World System" - of musical distribution,
- The universal registration of time by cheap clocks indicating
the hour with astronomical precision and requiring no attention
- The world transmission of typed or handwritten characters, letters,
- The establishment of a universal marine service enabling the navigators
of all ships to steer perfectly without compass, to determine the
exact location, hour and speak; to prevent collisions and disasters,
- The inauguration of a system of world printing on land and sea;
- The world reproduction of photographic pictures and all kinds
of drawings or records..."
I also proposed to make demonstration in the wireless transmission of
power on a small scale, but sufficient to carry conviction. Besides these,
I referred to other and incomparably more important applications of my
discoveries which will be disclosed at some future date. A plant was built
on Long Island with a tower 187 feet high, having a spherical terminal
about 68 feet in diameter. These dimensions were adequate for the transmission
of virtually any amount of energy. Originally, only from 200 to 300 K.W.
were provided, but I intended to employ later several thousand horsepower.
The transmitter was to emit a wave-complex of special characteristics
and I had devised a unique method of telephonic control of any amount
of energy. The tower was destroyed two years ago (1917) but my projects
are being developed and another one, improved in some features, will be
On this occasion I would contradict the widely circulated report that
the structure was demolished by the government, which owing to war conditions,
might have created prejudice in the minds of those who may not know that
the papers, which thirty years ago conferred upon me the honor of American
citizenship, are always kept in a safe, while my orders, diplomas, degrees,
gold medals and other distinctions are packed away in old trunks. If this
report had a foundation, I would have been refunded a large sum of money
which I expended in the construction of the tower. On the contrary, it
was in the interest of the government to preserve it, particularly as
it would have made possible, to mention just one valuable result, the
location of a submarine in any part of the world. My plant, services,
and all my improvements have always been at the disposal of the officials
and ever since the outbreak of the European conflict, I have been working
at a sacrifice on several inventions of mine relating to aerial navigation,
ship propulsion and wireless transmission, which are of the greatest importance
to the country. Those who are well informed know that my ideas have revolutionized
the industries of the United States and I am not aware that there lives
an inventor who has been, in this respect, as fortunate as myself - especially
as regards the use of his improvements in the war.
I have refrained from publicly expressing myself on this subject before,
as it seemed improper to dwell on personal matters while all the world
was in dire trouble. I would add further, in view of various rumors which
have reached me, that Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan did not interest himself
with me in a business way, but in the same large spirit in which he has
assisted many other pioneers. He carried out his generous promise to the
letter and it would have been most unreasonable to expect from him anything
more. He had the highest regard for my attainments and gave me every evidence
of his complete faith in my ability to ultimately achieve what I had set
out to do. I am unwilling to accord to some small-minded and jealous individuals
the satisfaction of having thwarted my efforts. These men are to me nothing
more than microbes of a nasty disease. My project was retarded by laws
of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of
time, but the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal
No subject to which I have ever devoted myself has called for such concentration
of mind, and strained to so dangerous a degree the finest fibers of my
brain, as the systems of which the "Magnifying Transmitter" is the foundation.
I put all the intensity and vigor of youth in the development of the rotating
field discoveries, but those early labors were of a different character.
Although strenuous in the extreme, they did not involve that keen and
exhausting discernment which had to be exercised in attacking the many
problems of the wireless.
Despite my rare physical endurance at that period, the abused nerves
finally rebelled and I suffered a complete collapse, just as the consummation
of the long and difficult task was almost in sight. Without doubt I would
have paid a greater penalty later, and very likely my career would have
been prematurely terminated, had not providence equipped me with a safety
device, which seemed to improve with advancing years and unfailingly comes
to play when my forces are at an end. So long as it operates I am safe
from danger, due to overwork, which threatens other inventors, and incidentally,
I need no vacations which are indispensable to most people. When I am
all but used up, I simply do as the darkies who "naturally fall asleep
while white folks worry."
To venture a theory out of my sphere, the body probably accumulates
little by little a definite quantity of some toxic agent and I sink into
a nearly lethargic state which lasts half an hour to the minute. Upon
awakening I have the sensation as though the events immediately preceding
had occurred very long ago, and if I attempt to continue the interrupted
train of thought I feel veritable nausea. Involuntarily, I then turn to
other tasks and am surprised at the freshness of the mind and ease with
which I overcome obstacles that had baffled me before. After weeks or
months, my passion for the temporarily abandoned invention returns and
I invariably find answers to all the vexing questions, with scarcely any
effort. In this connection, I will tell of an extraordinary experience
which may be of interest to students of psychology.
I had produced a striking phenomenon with my grounded transmitter and
was endeavoring to ascertain its true significance in relation to the
currents propagated through the earth. It seemed a hopeless undertaking,
and for more than a year I worked unremittingly, but in vain. This profound
study so entirely absorbed me, that I became forgetful of everything else,
even of my undermined health. At last, as I was at the point of breaking
down, nature applied the preservative inducing lethal sleep. Regaining
my senses, I realized with consternation that I was unable to visualize
scenes from my life except those of infancy, the very first ones that
had entered my consciousness. Curiously enough, these appeared before
my vision with startling distinctness and afforded me welcome relief.
Night after night, when retiring, I would think of them, and more and
more of my previous existence was revealed. The image of my mother was
always the principal figure in the spectacle that slowly unfolded, and
a consuming desire to see her again gradually took possession of me. This
feeling grew so strong that I resolved to drop all work and satisfy my
longing, but I found it too hard to break away from the laboratory, and
several months elapsed during which I had succeeded in reviving all the
impressions of my past life, up to the spring of 1892. In the next picture
that came out of the mist of oblivion, I saw myself at the Hotel de la
Paix in Paris, just coming to from one of my peculiar sleeping spells,
which had been caused by prolonged exertion of the brain. Imagine the
pain and distress I felt, when it flashed upon my mind that a dispatch
was handed to me at that very moment, bearing the sad news that my mother
was dying. I remembered how I made the long journey home without an hour
of rest and how she passed away after weeks of agony.
It was especially remarkable that during all this period of partially
obliterated memory, I was fully alive to everything touching on the subject
of my research. I could recall the smallest detail and the least insignificant
observations in my experiments and even recite pages of text and complex
My belief is firm in a law of compensation. The true rewards are ever
in proportion to the labor and sacrifices made. This is one of the reasons
why I feel certain that of all my inventions, the magnifying transmitter
will prove most important and valuable to future generations. I am prompted
to this prediction, not so much by thoughts of the commercial and industrial
revolution which it will surely bring about, but of the humanitarian consequences
of the many achievements it makes possible. Considerations of mere utility
weigh little in the balance against the higher benefits of civilization.
We are confronted with portentous problems which can not be solved just
by providing for our material existence, however abundantly. On the contrary,
progress in this direction is fraught with hazards and perils not less
menacing than those born from want and suffering. If we were to release
the energy of atoms or discover some other way of developing cheap and
unlimited power at any point on the globe, this accomplishment, instead
of being a blessing, might bring disaster to mankind in giving rise to
dissension and anarchy, which would ultimately result in the enthronement
of the hated regime of force. The greatest good will come from technical
improvements tending to unification and harmony, and my wireless transmitter
is preeminently such. By its means, the human voice and likeness will
be reproduced everywhere, and factories driven from thousands of miles
away by waterfalls furnishing power. Aerial machines will be propelled
around the earth without a stop and the sun's energy controlled to create
lakes and rivers for motive purposes and transformation of arid deserts
into fertile land. Its introduction for telegraphic, telephonic and similar
uses will automatically cut out the static and all other interferences
which at present, impose narrow limits to the application of the wireless.
This is a timely topic on which a few words might not be amiss.
During the past decade a number of people have arrogantly claimed that
they had succeeded in doing away with this impediment. I have carefully
examined all of the arrangements described and tested most of them long
before they were publicly disclosed, but the finding was uniformly negative.
Recent official statement from the U.S. Navy may, perhaps, have taught
some beguilable news editors how to appraise these announcements at their
real worth. As a rule, the attempts are based on theories so fallacious,
that whenever they come to my notice, I can not help thinking in a light
vein. Quite recently a new discovery was heralded, with a deafening flourish
of trumpets, but it proved another case of a mountain bringing forth a
mouse. This reminds me of an exciting incident which took place a year
ago, when I was conducting my experiments with currents of high frequency.
Steve Brodie had just jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge. The feat has been
vulgarized since by imitators, but the first report electrified New York.
I was very impressionable then and frequently spoke of the daring printer.
On a hot afternoon I felt the necessity of refreshing myself and stepped
into one of the popular thirty thousand institutions of this great city,
where a delicious twelve per cent beverage was served, which can now be
had only by making a trip to the poor and devastated countries of Europe.
The attendance was large and not over-distinguished and a matter was discussed
which gave me an admirable opening for the careless remark, "This is what
I said when I jumped off the bridge." No sooner had I uttered these words,
than I felt like the companion of Timothens in the poem of Schiller. In
an instant there was pandemonium and a dozen voices cried, "It is Brodie!"
I threw a quarter on the counter and bolted for the door, but the crowd
was at my heels with yells, "Stop, Steeve!", which must have been misunderstood,
for many persons tried to hold me up as I ran frantically for my haven
of refuge. By darting around corners, I fortunately managed, through the
medium of a fire escape, to reach the laboratory, where I threw off my
coat, camouflaged myself as a hard-working blacksmith and started the
forge. But these precautions proved unnecessary, as I had eluded my pursuers.
For many years afterward, at night, when imagination turns into specters
the trifling troubles of the day, I often thought, as I tossed on the
bed, what my fate would have been, had the mob caught me and found out
that I was not Steve Brodie!
Now the engineer who lately gave an account before a technical body
of a novel remedy against static based on a "heretofore unknown law of
nature," seems to have been as reckless as myself when he contended that
these disturbances propagate up and down, while those of a transmitter
proceed along the earth. It would mean that a condenser as this globe,
with its gaseous envelope, could be charged and discharged in a manner
quite contrary to the fundamental teachings propounded in every elemental
text book of physics. Such a supposition would have been condemned as
erroneous, even in Franklin's time, for the facts bearing on this were
then well known and the identity between atmospheric electricity and that
developed by machines was fully established. Obviously, natural and artificial
disturbances propagate through the earth and the air in exactly the same
way, and both set up electromotive forces in the horizontal as well as
vertical sense. Interference can not be overcome by any such methods as
were proposed. The truth is this: In the air, the potential increases
at the rate of about fifty volts per foot of elevation, owing to which
there may be a difference of pressure amounting to twenty, or even forty
thousand volts between the upper and lower ends of the antenna. The masses
of the charged atmosphere are constantly in motion and give up electricity
to the conductor, not continuously, but rather disruptively, this producing
a grinding noise in a sensitive telephonic receiver. The higher the terminal
and the greater the space encompassed by the wires, the more pronounced
is the effect, but it must be understood that it is purely local and has
little to do with the real trouble.
In 1900, while perfecting my wireless system, one form of apparatus
compressed four antennae. These were carefully calibrated in the same
frequency and connected in multiple with the object of magnifying the
action in receiving from any direction. When I desired to ascertain the
origin of the transmitted impulse, each diagonally situated pair was put
in series with a primary coil energizing the detector circuit. In the
former case, the sound was loud in the telephone; in the latter it ceased,
as expected, the two antennae neutralizing each other, but the true statics
manifested themselves in both instances and I had to devise special preventives
embodying different principles. By employing receivers connected to two
points of the ground, as suggested by me long ago, this trouble caused
by the charged air, which is very serious in the structures as now built,
is nullified and besides, the liability of all kinds of interference is
reduced to about one-half because of the directional character of the
circuit. This was perfectly self-evident, but came as a revelation to
some simple-minded wireless folks whose experience was confined to forms
of apparatus that could have been improved with an ax, and they have been
disposing of the bear's skin before killing him. If it were true that
strays performed such antics, it would be easy to get rid of them by receiving
without aerials. But, as a matter of fact, a wire buried in the ground
which, conforming to this view, should be absolutely immune, is more susceptible
to certain extraneous impulses than one placed vertically in the air.
To state it fairly, a slight progress has been made, but not by virtue
of any particular method or device. It was achieved simply by discerning
the enormous structures, which are bad enough for transmission but wholly
unsuitable for reception and adopting a more appropriate type of receiver.
As I have said before, to dispose of this difficulty for good, a radical
change must be made in the system and the sooner this is done the better.
It would be calamitous, indeed, if at this time when the art is in its
infancy and the vast majority, not excepting even experts, have no conception
of its ultimate possibilities, a measure would be rushed through the legislature
making it a government monopoly. This was proposed a few weeks ago by
Secretary Daniels and no doubt that distinguished official has made his
appeal to the Senate and House of Representatives with sincere conviction.
But universal evidence unmistakably shows that the best results are always
obtained in healthful commercial competition. There are, however, exceptional
reasons why wireless should be given the fullest freedom of development.
In the first place, it offers prospects immeasurably greater and more
vital to betterment of human life than any other invention or discovery
in the history of man. Then again, it must be understood that this wonderful
art has been, in its entirety, evolved here and can be called "American"
with more right and propriety than the telephone, the incandescent lamp
or the aeroplane.
Enterprising press agents and stock jobbers have been so successful
in spreading misinformation, that even so excellent a periodical as the
Scientific American, accords the chief credit to a foreign
country. The Germans, of course, gave us the Hertz waves and the Russian,
English, French and Italian experts were quick in using them for signaling
purposes. It was an obvious application of the new agent and accomplished
with the old classical and unimproved induction coil, scarcely anything
more than another kind of heliography. The radius of transmission was
very limited, the result attained of little value, and the Hertz oscillations,
as a means for conveying intelligence, could have been advantageously
replaced by sound waves, which I advocated in 1891. Moreover, all of these
attempts were made three years after the basic principles of the wireless
system, which is universally employed today, and its potent instrumentalities
had been clearly described and developed in America.
No trace of those Hertzian appliances and methods remains today. We
have proceeded in the very opposite direction and what has been done is
the product of the brains and efforts of citizens of this country. The
fundamental patents have expired and the opportunities are open to all.
The chief argument of the secretary is based on interference. According
to his statement, reported in the New York Herald of July
29th, signals from a powerful station can be intercepted in every village
in the world. In view of this fact, which was demonstrated in my experiments
in 1900, it would be of little use to impose restrictions in the United
As throwing light on this point, I may mention that only recently an
odd looking gentleman called on me with the object of enlisting my services
in the construction of world transmitters in some distant land. "We have
no money," he said, "but carloads of solid gold, and we will give you
a liberal amount." I told him that I wanted to see first what will be
done with my inventions in America, and this ended the interview. But
I am satisfied that some dark forces are at work, and as time goes on
the maintenance of continuous communication will be rendered more difficult.
The only remedy is a system immune against interruption. It has been perfected,
it exists, and all that is necessary is to put it in operation.
The terrible conflict is still uppermost in the minds and perhaps the
greatest importance will be attached to the magnifying transmitter as
a machine for attack and defense, more particularly in connection with
telautamatics. This invention is a logical outcome of observations
begun in my boyhood and continued throughout my life. When the first results
were published, the Electrical Review stated editorially
that it would become one of the "most potent factors in the advance of
civilization of mankind." The time is not distant when this prediction
will be fulfilled. In 1898 and 1900, it was offered by me to the government
and might have been adopted, were I one of those who would go to Alexander's
shepherd when they want a favor from Alexander!
At that time I really thought that it would abolish war, because of
its unlimited destructiveness and exclusion of the personal element of
combat. But while I have not lost faith in its potentialities, my views
have changed since. War can not be avoided until the physical cause for
its recurrence is removed and this, in the last analysis, is the vast
extent of the planet on which we live. Only though annihilation of distance
in every respect, as the conveyance of intelligence, transport of passengers
and supplies and transmission of energy will conditions be brought about
some day, insuring permanency of friendly relations. What we now want
most is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and
communities all over the earth and the elimination of that fanatic devotion
to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride, which is always prone
to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife. No league or parliamentary
act of any kind will ever prevent such a calamity. These are only new
devices for putting the weak at the mercy of the strong.
I have expressed myself in this regard fourteen years ago, when a combination
of a few leading governments, a sort of Holy alliance, was advocated by
the late Andrew Carnegie, who may be fairly considered as the father of
this idea, having given to it more publicity and impetus than anybody
else prior to the efforts of the President. While it can not be denied
that such aspects might be of material advantage to some less fortunate
peoples, it can not attain the chief objective sought. Peace can only
come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment and merging of
races, and we are still far from this blissful realization, because few
indeed, will admit the reality < that God made man in His image <
in which case all earth men are alike. There is in fact but one race,
of many colors. Christ is but one person, yet he is of all people, so
why do some people think themselves better than some other people?
As I view the world of today, in the light of the gigantic struggle
we have witnessed, I am filled with conviction that the interests of humanity
would be best served if the United States remained true to its traditions,
true to God whom it pretends to believe, and kept out of "entangling alliances."
Situated as it is, geographically remote from the theaters of impending
conflicts, without incentive to territorial aggrandizement, with inexhaustible
resources and immense population thoroughly imbued with the spirit of
liberty and right, this country is placed in a unique and privileged position.
It is thus able to exert, independently, its colossal strength and moral
force to the benefit of all, more judiciously and effectively, than as
a member of a league.
I have dwelt on the circumstances of my early life and told of an affliction
which compelled me to unremitting exercise of imagination and self-observation.
This mental activity, at first involuntary under the pressure of illness
and suffering, gradually became second nature and led me finally to recognize
that I was but an automaton devoid of free will in thought and action
and merely responsible to the forces of the environment. Our bodies are
of such complexity of structure, the motions we perform are so numerous
and involved and the external impressions on our sense organs to such
a degree delicate and elusive, that it is hard for the average person
to grasp this fact. Yet nothing is more convincing to the trained investigator
than the mechanistic theory of life which had been, in a measure, understood
and propounded by Descartes three hundred years ago. In his time many
important functions of our organisms were unknown and especially with
respect to the nature of light and the construction and operation of the
eye, philosophers were in the dark.
In recent years the progress of scientific research in these fields
has been such as to leave no room for a doubt in regard to this view on
which many works have been published. One of its ablest and most eloquent
exponents is, perhaps, Felix le Dantec, formerly assistant of Pasteur.
Professor Jacques Loeb has performed remarkable experiments in heliotropism,
clearly establishing the controlling power of light in lower forms of
organisms and his latest book, Forced Movements, is revelatory.
But while men of science accept this theory simply as any other that is
recognized, to me it is a truth which I hourly demonstrate by every act
and thought of mine. The consciousness of the external impression prompting
me to any kind of exertion, < physical or mental, is ever present in
my mind. Only on very rare occasions, when I was in a state of exceptional
concentration, have I found difficulty in locating the original impulse.
The by far greater number of human beings are never aware of what is passing
around and within them and millions fall victims of disease and die prematurely
just on this account. The commonest, every-day occurrences appear to them
mysterious and inexplicable. One may feel a sudden wave of sadness and
rack his brain for an explanation, when he might have noticed that it
was caused by a cloud cutting off the rays of the sun. He may see the
image of a friend dear to him under conditions which he construes as very
peculiar, when only shortly before he has passed him in the street or
seen his photograph somewhere. When he loses a collar button, he fusses
and swears for an hour, being unable to visualize his previous actions
and locate the object directly. Deficient observation is merely a form
of ignorance and responsible for the many morbid notions and foolish ideas
prevailing. There is not more than one out of every ten persons who does
not believe in telepathy and other psychic manifestations, spiritualism
and communion with the dead, and who would refuse to listen to willing
or unwilling deceivers?
Just to illustrate how deeply rooted this tendency has become even among
the clear-headed American population, I may mention a comical incident.
Shortly before the war, when the exhibition of my turbines in this city
elicited widespread comment in the technical papers, I anticipated that
there would be a scramble among manufacturers to get hold of the invention
and I had particular designs on that man from Detroit who has an uncanny
faculty for accumulating millions. So confident was I, that he would turn
up some day, that I declared this as certain to my secretary and assistants.
Sure enough, one fine morning a body of engineers from the Ford Motor
Company presented themselves with the request of discussing with me an
important project. "Didn't I tell you?," I remarked triumphantly to my
employees, and one of them said, "You are amazing, Mr. Tesla. Everything
comes out exactly as you predict."
As soon as these hard-headed men were seated, I of course, immediately
began to extol the wonderful features of my turbine, when the spokesman
interrupted me and said, "We know all about this, but we are on a special
errand. We have formed a psychological society for the investigation of
psychic phenomena and we want you to join us in this undertaking." I suppose
these engineers never knew how near they came to being fired out of my
Ever since I was told by some of the greatest men of the time, leaders
in science whose names are immortal, that I am possessed of an unusual
mind, I bent all my thinking faculties on the solution of great problems
regardless of sacrifice. For many years I endeavored to solve the enigma
of death, and watched eagerly for every kind of spiritual indication.
But only once in the course of my existence have I had an experience which
momentarily impressed me as supernatural. It was at the time of my mother's
I had become completely exhausted by pain and long vigilance, and one
night was carried to a building about two blocks from our home. As I lay
helpless there, I thought that if my mother died while I was away from
her bedside, she would surely give me a sign. Two or three months before,
I was in London in company with my late friend, Sir William Crookes, when
spiritualism was discussed and I was under the full sway of these thoughts.
I might not have paid attention to other men, but was susceptible to his
arguments as it was his epochal work on radiant matter, which I had read
as a student, that made me embrace the electrical career. I reflected
that the conditions for a look into the beyond were most favorable, for
my mother was a woman of genius and particularly excelling in the powers
of intuition. During the whole night every fiber in my brain was strained
in expectancy, but nothing happened until early in the morning, when I
fell in a sleep, or perhaps a swoon, and saw a cloud carrying angelic
figures of marvelous beauty, one of whom gazed upon me lovingly and gradually
assumed the features of my mother. The appearance slowly floated across
the room and vanished, and I was awakened by an indescribably sweet song
of many voices. In that instant a certitude, which no words can express,
came upon me that my mother had just died. And that was true. I was unable
to understand the tremendous weight of the painful knowledge I received
in advance, and wrote a letter to Sir William Crookes while still under
the domination of these impressions and in poor bodily health. When I
recovered, I sought for a long time the external cause of this strange
manifestation and, to my great relief, I succeeded after many months of
I had seen the painting of a celebrated artist, representing allegorically
one of the seasons in the form of a cloud with a group of angels which
seemed to actually float in the air, and this had struck me forcefully.
It was exactly the same that appeared in my dream, with the exception
of my mother's likeness. The music came from the choir in the church nearby
at the early mass of Easter morning, explaining everything satisfactorily
in conformity with scientific facts.
This occurred long ago, and I have never had the faintest reason since
to change my views on psychical and spiritual phenomena, for which there
is no foundation. The belief in these is the natural outgrowth of intellectual
development. Religious dogmas are no longer accepted in their orthodox
meaning, but every individual clings to faith in a supreme power of some
We all must have an ideal to govern our conduct and insure contentment,
but it is immaterial whether it be one of creed, art, science, or anything
else, so long as it fulfills the function of a dematerializing force.
It is essential to the peaceful existence of humanity as a whole that
one common conception should prevail. While I have failed to obtain any
evidence in support of the contentions of psychologists and spiritualists,
I have proved to my complete satisfaction the automatism of life, not
only through continuous observations of individual actions, but even more
conclusively through certain generalizations. these amount to a discovery
which I consider of the greatest moment to human society, and on which
I shall briefly dwell.
I got the first inkling of this astonishing truth when I was still a
very young man, but for many years I interpreted what I noted simply as
coincidences. Namely, whenever either myself or a person to whom I was
attached, or a cause to which I was devoted, was hurt by others in a particular
way, which might be best popularly characterized as the most unfair imaginable,
I experienced a singular and undefinable pain which, for the want of a
better term, I have qualified as "cosmic" and shortly thereafter, and
invariably, those who had inflicted it came to grief. After many such
cases I confided this to a number of friends, who had the opportunity
to convince themselves of the theory of which I have gradually formulated
and which may be stated in the following few words: Our bodies are of
similar construction and exposed to the same external forces. This results
in likeness of response and concordance of the general activities on which
all our social and other rules and laws are based. We are automata entirely
controlled by the forces of the medium, being tossed about like corks
on the surface of the water, but mistaking the resultant of the impulses
from the outside for the free will. The movements and other actions we
perform are always life preservative and though seemingly quite independent
from one another, we are connected by invisible links. So long as the
organism is in perfect order, it responds accurately to the agents that
prompt it, but the moment that there is some derangement in any individual,
his self-preservative power is impaired.
Everybody understands, of course, that if one becomes deaf, has his
eyes weakened, or his limbs injured, the chances for his continued existence
are lessened. But this is also true, and perhaps more so, of certain defects
in the brain which drive the automaton, more or less, of that vital quality
and cause it to rush into destruction. A very sensitive and observant
being, with his highly developed mechanism all intact, and acting with
precision in obedience to the changing conditions of the environment,
is endowed with a transcending mechanical sense, enabling him to evade
perils too subtle to be directly perceived. When he comes in contact with
others whose controlling organs are radically faulty, that sense asserts
itself and he feels the "cosmic" pain.
The truth of this has been borne out in hundreds of instances and I
am inviting other students of nature to devote attention to this subject,
believing that through combined systematic effort, results of incalculable
value to the world will be attained. The idea of constructing an automaton,
to bear out my theory, presented itself to me early, but I did not begin
active work until 1895, when I started my wireless investigations. During
the succeeding two or three years, a number of automatic mechanisms, to
be actuated from a distance, were constructed by me and exhibited to visitors
in my laboratory.
In 1896, however, I designed a complete machine capable of a multitude
of operations, but the consummation of my labors was delayed until late
This machine was illustrated and described in my article in the Century
Magazine of June, 1900; and other periodicals of that time and
when first shown in the beginning of 1898, it created a sensation such
as no other invention of mine has ever produced. In November, 1898, a
basic patent on the novel art was granted to me, but only after the examiner-in-chief
had come to New York and witnessed the performance, for what I claimed
seemed unbelievable. I remember that when later I called on an official
in Washington, with a view of offering the invention to the Government,
he burst out in laughter upon my telling him what I had accomplished.
Nobody thought then that there was the faintest prospect of perfecting
such a device. It is unfortunate that in this patent, following the advice
of my attorneys, I indicated the control as being affected through the
medium of a single circuit and a well-known form of detector, for the
reason that I had not yet secured protection on my methods and apparatus
for individualization. As a matter of fact, my boats were controlled through
the joint action of several circuits and interference of every kind was
Most generally, I employed receiving circuits in the form of loops,
including condensers, because the discharges of my high-tension transmitter
ionized the air in the (laboratory) so that even a very small aerial would
draw electricity from the surrounding atmosphere for hours.
Just to give an idea, I found, for instance, that a bulb twelve inches
in diameter, highly exhausted, and with one single terminal to which a
short wire was attached, would deliver well on to one thousand successive
flashes before all charge of the air in the laboratory was neutralized.
The loop form of receiver was not sensitive to such a disturbance and
it is curious to note that it is becoming popular at this late date. In
reality, it collects much less energy than the aerials or a long grounded
wire, but it so happens that it does away with a number of defects inherent
to the present wireless devices.
In demonstrating my invention before audiences, the visitors were requested
to ask questions, however involved, and the automaton would answer them
by signs. This was considered magic at the time, but was extremely simple,
for it was myself who gave the replies by means of the device.
At the same period, another larger telautomatic boat was constructed,
a photograph of which was shown in the October 1919 number of the Electrical
Experimenter. It was controlled by loops, having several turns
placed in the hull, which was made entirely water-tight and capable of
submergence. The apparatus was similar to that used in the first with
the exception of certain special features I introduced as, for example,
incandescent lamps which afforded a visible evidence of the proper functioning
of the machine. These automata, controlled within the range of vision
of the operator, were, however, the first and rather crude steps in the
evolution of the art of Telautomatics as I had conceived it.
The next logical improvement was its application to automatic mechanisms
beyond the limits of vision and at great distances from the center of
control, and I have ever since advocated their employment as instruments
of warfare in preference to guns. The importance of this now seems to
be recognized, if I am to judge from casual announcements through the
press, of achievements which are said to be extraordinary but contain
no merit of novelty, whatever. In an imperfect manner it is practicable,
with the existing wireless plants, to launch an aeroplane, have it follow
a certain approximate course, and perform some operation at a distance
of many hundreds of miles. A machine of this kind can also be mechanically
controlled in several ways and I have no doubt that it may prove of some
usefulness in war. But there are to my best knowledge, no instrumentalities
in existence today with which such an object could be accomplished in
a precise manner. I have devoted years of study to this matter and have
evolved means, making such and greater wonders easily realizable.
As stated on a previous occasion, when I was a student at college I
conceived a flying machine quite unlike the present ones. The underlying
principle was sound, but could not be carried into practice for want of
a prime-mover of sufficiently great activity. In recent years, I have
successfully solved this problem and am now planning aerial machines *devoid
of sustaining planes, ailerons, propellers, and other external* attachments,
which will be capable of immense speeds and are very likely to furnish
powerful arguments for peace in the near future. Such a machine, sustained
and propelled *entirely by reaction*, is shown on one of the pages of
my lectures, and is supposed to be controlled either mechanically, or
by wireless energy. By installing proper plants, it will be practicable
to *project a missile of this kind into the air and drop it* almost on
the very spot designated, which may be thousands of miles away.
But we are not going to stop at this. Telautomats will be ultimately
produced, capable of acting as if possessed of their own intelligence,
and their advent will create a revolution. As early as 1898, I proposed
to representatives of a large manufacturing concern the construction and
public exhibition of an automobile carriage which, left to itself, would
perform a great variety of operations involving something akin to judgment.
But my proposal was deemed chimerical at the time and nothing came of
At present, many of the ablest minds are trying to devise expedients
for preventing a repetition of the awful conflict which is only theoretically
ended and the duration and main issues of which I have correctly predicted
in an article printed in the Sun of December 20, 1914. The
proposed League is not a remedy but, on the contrary, in the opinion of
a number of competent men, may bring about results just the opposite.
It is particularly regrettable that a punitive policy was adopted in
framing the terms of peace, because a few years hence, it will be possible
for nations to fight without armies, ships or guns, by weapons far more
terrible, to the destructive action and range of which there is virtually
no limit. Any city, at a distance, whatsoever, from the enemy, can be
destroyed by him and no power on earth can stop him from doing so. If
we want to avert an impending calamity and a state of things which may
transform the globe into an inferno, we should push the development of
flying machines and wireless transmission of energy without an instant's
delay and with all the power and resources of the nation.
// Projekat Rastko / Istorija //
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