Remembering Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor and engineer.  Born in what is now Croatia in 1856, he moved to Paris in 1882, and to the US in 1884, where he worked with Thomas Edison for a few years.  The two then parted ways, in part over a pay dispute in relation to Tesla’s work.   The rift deepened during the “War of Currents”, in which Edison was promoting the use of direct current [DC] power distribution, while Tesla and George Westinghouse were promoting alternating current [AC].   The AC system ultimately won out, because the voltage of an AC supply can be easily stepped up or down with transformers, and high voltage transmission is more efficient over any appreciable distance.  AC distribution is the rule in developed world today.  Tesla also made numerous inventions, including the ubiquitous AC induction motor, which Tesla patented in 1888.

Tesla had a reputation of being somewhat eccentric, and of course having the well-known and apparently none-too-scrupulous Thomas Edison as an enemy did not help.  He died in New York City in 1943, and his work was largely forgotten for a time.  Now, however, there are a couple of efforts under way to commemorate his work.

The first, according to a report at BBC News, is a project to build a Tesla Museum, on the site of Tesla’s laboratory in Shoreham, New York.  A non-profit organization, the Tesla Science Center, originally announced the plan when the property came onto the market, but had trouble raising the needed funds.  A “crowd funding” campaign launched by Matthew Inman, creator of The Oatmeal Web site, raised more than $850,000 in short order, and breathed new life into the project.  The New Scientist site has an interview with Mr. Inman about the project.

According to an article at Wired, another Tesla project is underway at the Kickstarter site, a docudrama about Tesla called Electricity: The Story and Life of Nikola Tesla.

The movie will feature dramatic re-enactments, interviews, vintage film sequences and archival photographs filmed in slow-panning “Ken Burns style,” according to project rep Zach Taiji.

Tesla, by all accounts, was a bit of a strange character.  Still, he made some significant contributions to science and technology, and there is little doubt that he was treated badly by Edison. I hope these projects will help his contributions to be recognized.

One Response to Remembering Nikola Tesla

  1. […] in August, I wrote about a project to build a museum in honor of Nikola Tesla, on the site of his former laboratory in Shoreham NY, on Long Island.  A […]

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