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Nikola Tesla (Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Тесла; 10 July 1856 - 7 January 1943) was a Serbian American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.
Tesla gained experience in telephony and electrical engineering before emigrating to the United States in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison in New York City. He soon struck out on his own with financial backers, setting up laboratories and companies to develop a range of electrical devices. His patented AC induction motor and transformer were licensed by George Westinghouse, who also hired Tesla for a short time as a consultant. Tesla went on to pursue his ideas of wireless lighting and electricity distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs and made early (1893) pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. He tried to put these ideas to practical use in his ill-fated attempt at intercontinental wireless transmission; his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project. In his lab he also conducted a range of experiments with mechanical oscillator/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He even built a wireless controlled boat which may have been the first such device ever exhibited. Tesla's achievements and his abilities as a showman demonstrating his seemingly miraculous inventions made him world-famous. Although he made a considerable amount of money from his patents, he spent a lot financing his own projects. He lived for most of his life in a series of New York hotels although the end of his patent income and eventual bankruptcy led him to live in diminished circumstances. Tesla continued to invite the press to parties he held on his birthday to announce new inventions he was working on and make (sometimes unusual) public statements. Because of his pronouncements and the nature of his work over the years, Tesla gained a reputation in popular culture as the archetypal "mad scientist." He died on 7 January 1943.
Tesla's work fell into relative obscurity after his death, but since the 1990s, his reputation has experienced a resurgence in popular culture. His work and reputed inventions are also at the center of many conspiracy theories and have also been used to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories and New Age occultism. In 1960, in honor of Tesla, the General Conference on Weights and Measures for the International System of Units dedicated the term "tesla" to the SI unit measure for magnetic field strength. Nikola Tesla was born on 10 July (O.S. 28 June) 1856 to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan, Austrian Empire (modern-day Croatia). His father, Milutin Tesla, was a Serbian Orthodox priest. Tesla's mother, Đuka Tesla (née Mandić), whose father was also a Serbian Orthodox priest, had a talent for making home craft tools, mechanical appliances, and the ability to memorize Serbian epic poems. Đuka had never received a formal education. Nikola credited his eidetic memory and creative abilities to his mother's genetics and influence. Tesla's progenitors were from western Serbia, near Montenegro.
Tesla was the fourth of five children. He had an older brother named Dane and three sisters, Milka, Angelina and Marica. Dane was killed in a horse-riding accident when Nikola was five. However, according to another account, Dane died after falling down the cellar stairs, but when he was unconscious and in delirium, he claimed that Nikola pushed him down. In January 1880, two of Tesla's uncles put together enough money to help him leave Gospić for Prague where he was to study. Unfortunately, he arrived too late to enroll at Charles-Ferdinand University; he never studied Greek, a required subject; and he was illiterate in Czech, another required subject. Tesla did, however, attend lectures at the university, although, as an auditor, he did not receive grades for the courses.
In 1881, Tesla moved to Budapest to work under Ferenc Puskas at a telegraph company, the Budapest Telephone Exchange. Upon arrival, Tesla realized that the company, then under construction, was not functional, so he worked as a draftsman in the Central Telegraph Office instead. Within a few months, the Budapest Telephone Exchange became functional and Tesla was allocated the chief electrician position. During his employment, Tesla made many improvements to the Central Station equipment and claimed to have perfected a telephone repeater or amplifier, which was never patented nor publicly described. In 1882, Tesla began working for the Continental Edison Company in France, designing and making improvements to electrical equipment.
In June 1884, Tesla relocated to New York City. During his trip across the Atlantic, his ticket, money, and some of his luggage were stolen, and he was nearly thrown overboard after a mutiny broke out on the ship. He arrived with only four cents in his pocket, a letter of recommendation, a few poems, and the remainder of his belongings.
Tesla was hired by Edison to work for his Edison Machine Works. Tesla's work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving some of the company's most difficult problems. Tesla was even offered the task of completely redesigning the Edison Company's direct current generators.
In 1885, Tesla claimed that he could redesign Edison's inefficient motor and generators, making an improvement in both service and economy. According to Tesla, Edison remarked, "There's fifty thousand dollars in it for you—if you can do it"—this has been noted as an odd statement from an Edison whose company was stingy with pay and who did not have that sort of cash on hand. After months of work, Tesla fulfilled the task and inquired about payment. Edison, claiming that he was only joking, replied, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor." Instead, Edison offered a US$10 a week raise over Tesla's US$18 per week salary; Tesla refused the offer and immediately resigned. On 7 January 1943, Tesla, 86, died alone in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel. His corpse was later found by maid Alice Monaghan after she had entered Tesla's room, ignoring the "do not disturb" sign that Tesla had placed on his door two days prior to his death. Assistant medical examiner, H.W. Wembly, was called to the scene; after examining the body, he ruled that the cause of death had been coronary thrombosis, and that there had been no suspicious circumstances.
For more information, see Wikipedia entry at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla .
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