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  5. Who was Nikola Tesla? – all you need to know about the greatest inventor


11.07.2022 22:32

Who was Nikola Tesla? – all you need to know about the greatest inventor


Who invented the light bulb? Edison? No – it was Nikola Tesla, whose character is not known to everyone. This outstanding engineer and inventor lived at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. We have prepared a short biography of this unique and extraordinary figure to whom the modern world owes a lot.

Nikola Tesla – the story of a great inventor

Nikola Tesla is, without a doubt, a unique figure in the history of science. He filed nearly 300 patents, although the hardships of his life meant that he had to sell many of them for pennies. Ultimately, his legacy includes over one hundred registered patents. 

nikola tesla

It is worth studying his biography carefully to understand how great an inventor he was. Tesla’s life was largely marked by rivalry with Thomas Edison, an American inventor, who was very negative about the activities of an Serbian engineer. 

Childhood and youth

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10th, 1856 in the town of Smiljan. At that time, it was located on the territory of the Austrian Empire, and is now located in Croatia. The Serb was the son of Milutin Tesla, an Orthodox priest, and Georgina Mandić. 

Parents wanted young Nikola to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a priest. Fortunately, a local teacher found out about Tesla’s talent, who helped him obtain a scholarship and guided him to Graz at the local polytechnic university. 

During his studies, Nikola Tesla showed great abilities in the field of electrical engineering. He began to be interested in alternating current and the potential of its use. His further career was inextricably linked with electricity. He quickly got a job at the telegraph office in Budapest, where he constructed his first inventions in his spare time.

Nikola Tesla's childhood

Probably there he invented his first rotary AC motor, although this thesis is not confirmed in official sources. In time, the office where he worked was sold, and Tesla traveled to Paris, where he joined the Continental Edison Company. This French brand was involved in, among other things, the production of engines, lighting and generators, according to the patents of the American inventor, Thomas Edison. 


In this work, Nikola Tesla was very effective, but he felt a sense of injustice. He was able to save the company from even the biggest troubles, but he did not receive adequate payment for it and felt underestimated. This made him quit his job and travel to the United States to meet Edison himself. 

Work in the USA

In 1884, Nikola Tesla emigrated to the United States, where, thanks to recommendations, he started working in the laboratory of Thomas Edison. He then offered the American to increase the efficiency of his power plant by converting direct current to alternating current. He was to receive a $ 50,000 bounty for this, but Edison never did because he didn’t trust alternating current. This made Tesla alienated from the great inventor. 

The next year was very difficult for the Serb. To survive, he had to do a lot of different jobs. The outstanding engineer worked, inter alia, as a ditch digger. Over time, he managed to get in touch with the owners of the Western Union Telegraph Company. With their help, he founded his company – Tesla Electric Light Company. 

It was then that Tesla laid the foundations for the transmission and generation of alternating current, which are still used today. In addition, he created many AC powered designs, including an electric motor and a fluorescent lamp, and built the first AC power plant and transmission line to supply power to fluorescent lamps at Western Union railroad stations in the North of the United States. 

Alternating current

Tesla then invented a polyphase induction motor, which, along with the transformer design, was sold to George Westinghouse. It was for him that Nikola Tesla worked for a year as a consultant who received remuneration in Pittsburgh of as much as $ 2,000, which would now be converted into the amount of $ 55,000.

Unfortunately, competition between companies grew, leading to a plight for Tesla’s employer and a reduction in his income and research investment. In 1894, Nikola Tesla sold the patent for an induction motor to Westinghouse for $ 216,000. At that time, the Serbian inventor of the light bulb enjoyed great popularity, and many people recognized his superiority over Edison. 

Multiphase induction motor
Source: ciekawostkihistoryczne.pl

Even at the end of the 19th century, Nikola Tesla invented the Tesla coil, a resonant transformer that could be used in the manufacture of a radio. This research was also used by Guglielmo Marconi, who beat Tesla to patent the device by a few days and for years was considered the creator of the radio. 

Tesla coil
Source: wikipedia.org

It was only after Tesla’s death that he was given back what he deserved and it was recognized that he was the inventor of the radio. Marconi, on the other hand, received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909. Litigation with Marconi saw Tesla lose his fortune and die in poverty.

The last moments

Nikola Tesla until the last moments of his life worked on creating new inventions. Unfortunately, with time, he began to fall into poverty, which was caused by the aforementioned judicial rivalry with Marconi over the illegal use of Serb’s patents. Tesla ran into increasing debt and sold a large proportion of his patents. 

These funds allowed him to cover his tax liabilities to the United States of which he had acquired citizenship. Nikola Tesla died on January 7, 1943 around 22:00. The dramaturgy of this death is added by the fact that it took place on the Orthodox Christmas. The cause of the inventor’s death was a coronary artery thrombus. The death took place at the New Yorker Hotel in apartment number 3327. The deceased engineer was found by hotel staff.

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Interestingly, his notes and documents quickly disappeared, and the theft of them is unofficially assigned to the US government agency. Undoubtedly, Nikola Tesla was a great inventor who left a permanent mark on the present world and technology. Many of his designs and inventions were only appreciated after his death. 

The most important inventions of Tesla 

Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest inventors in history. Its greatness is evidenced by the number of inventions, some of which are used even now, in the 21st century. What should you associate Nikola Tesla with? Inventions that revolutionized the world include a light bulb, radio or an electric motor powered by alternating current. 

His achievements also include an alternating current generator, a Tesla transformer, a bicycle dynamo and a solar battery, which laid the foundations for today’s scientific achievements in the field of renewable energy sources and photovoltaics. 

Bike dynamo
Source: teslauniverse.com

The most popular Serb inventions also include an autotransformer and a disk turbine. One of his greatest projects is a hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls. This is only a part of over a hundred patents that can be found in the portfolio of a genius engineer.

Family of Nikola Tesla 

Tesla’s parents are the aforementioned Milutin Tesla and Georgina Mandić. Nikola Tesla also had siblings, including an older brother, Dane, who died early from injuries he suffered while riding a horse. 


After the death of his brother, Tesla repeatedly emphasized that he was even more talented than him. Nikola also had three sisters: Milka, Angelina and Marica. The fate of the engineer’s ancestors is also interesting. His grandfather fought in Napoleon’s Illyrian War as a sergeant and his name was also Nikola. 

Nikola Tesla's family
Source: wondersofphysics.com

The brother of Milutin (Nikola Tesla’s father), Josip, was an officer and lecturer in mathematics at the Vienna Military Academy. Tesla’s maternal brothers also had remarkable achievements. Pajo was one of the field marshals in the Austro-Hungarian army, and Petar was the bishop of Bosnia. Georgina Mandić’s grandfather was a Serbian minister. Nikola Tesla was very careful about his privacy, so little information about his family got into the media. 

Interesting facts from the life of Nikola Tesla 

What else is worth knowing about how Nikola Tesla was? Interesting facts about him show that he was a very colorful character. The inventor built the first water wheel at the age of five. He was also a poet, but treated his poems very privately and did not allow for their publication. 

According to legend, Tesla’s interest in electricity was influenced by his cat Macak, whom he had as a child. It was while stroking the pet that he noticed that sparks started to fly from his fur and he was very interested in it. 

Macak the cat
Source: animals.howstuffworks.com

During the first World Fair in Chicago, an alternating current system invented by Serb was used for lighting. Nikola Tesla never married because he considered electricity and his research to be his one and only true love. It also says a lot about the character of an inventor. 

According to rumors, he was to receive the Nobel Prize in 1915. It was even unofficially confirmed, but on the final straight the Nobel Committee unexpectedly changed its mind. To this day, it is not known why Nikola Tesla did not receive this award. 


Serb was friends with personalities from the world of art, including the eminent writer Mark Twain. After the fall of Yugoslavia, Croats and Serbs tried to overcome Tesla’s nationality because both nations wanted to be proud of him. 

Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain
Source: amazon.com

How do you rate the character of Tesla? Genius? Or maybe just an inventor-idealist who didn’t understand predatory capitalism, and that’s why he got into trouble? Let us know in the comments! 

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