The Tesla Conspiracy
Nobody can dispute the fact that Nikola Tesla was a scientific genius.Not only did his patents and technological achievements help form the basis for most modern electrical and magnetic applications (including alternating current, an early x-ray machine, the AC motor, and the three-phase rotating magnetic field), he also pioneered in robotics, ballistics, cybernetics, and theoretical physics. Although Guglielmo Marconi was awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for his work on radio, several court decisions would determine that Tesla deserved the real credit. Tesla never won the Nobel Prize in his own right (according to one rumour, plans to give a joint award to him and Thomas Edison had been scrapped due to their long feud). Tesla was widely acclaimed for his work in launching the modern technological revolution and the standard unit for the measurement of magnetic flux density was named the tesla in his honour.Although he attempted to launch several companies in his lifetime, most ended in failure and he was often forced to work as a common labourer to support himself while dreaming up his next invention.For all that he was world famous in his old age, Nikola Tesla seemed incapable of managing his money properly and spent his final years in poverty.
Despite his achievements, Nikola Tesla may well be remembered for his reputation as a showman of science and grandiose claims that never panned out. Throughout his lifetime, he pursued seemingly impossible dreams including wireless transmission of power (the phenomenon of transferring energy without wires through the use of electromagnetic induction is still known as the Tesla effect). By the 1930s, when Tesla was in his eighties, he claimed to have developed a "dynamic theory of gravity" although his work was never published. He also scorned Albert Einstein's theory of relativity as being riddled with errors but never really developed a true alternative. Tesla attempted to interest the United States military in a directed energy weapon that would "put an end to all war". Naming it the teleforce weapon, he also tried to interest several European countries as well but nobody took him up on his offer. Other plans for ion-propelled aircraft and electromagnetic ships powered from ground-based stations never materialized either.
While he may not have been viewed as a "mad scientist" as such, he was certainly well known for his eccentric behaviour. Although there is some speculation that he may have suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, the symptoms that he displayed during his lifetime may match other diagnoses as well. Tesla showed many signs of obsessive-compulsive behaviour including a pathological fear of germs and dirt of all kinds, a strange fixation on the number three (he always insisted on staying in hotel rooms with numbers divisible by three), and experienced episodes of depression throughout his life. During these "nervous breakdowns", he would become hypersensitive to light and noise with strange twitches and shivers that defied medical diagnosis. A lifelong bachelor, Nikola Tesla was ambivalent towards women (despite numerous opportunities) and may well have died a virgin. In his old age, Nikola Tesla's oddities became even more apparent. For the last ten years of his life, he lived in a two-bedroom hotel suite in New York City (room 3327 of course) and often raised pigeons in his suite.; In addition to becoming increasingly sensitive to bright lights and loud noises, he also made claims to have communicated with beings from the planet Venus and being visited by a specific white pigeon each day. Although he had a small circle of devoted friends, Telsa often isolated himself and was verbally abrasive towards anyone who annoyed him.
Nikola Tesla died alone in a hotel room on January 7, 1943. He had been living as recluse for years although his reputation as a brilliant scientist and his grandiose claims had kept him in the public eye. With more than 700 patents to his name, enough people took him seriously for a rather lengthy FBI file to be compiled on Tesla and his claims. Within hours of Tesla's death, the various papers and files in his suite were confiscated by the Alien Property Custodian (this despite the fact that Tesla was a U.S. citizen) and stored in a warehouse.
The (largely)declassified FBI file makes for fascinating reading. The first part of the file deals with Tesla's attempts to interest the U.S. government in his teleforce weapon as well as various news clippings in which he described his "death ray for planes" as well as outlining his conditions for working for the military (he demanded total autonomy and "no interference from experts"). The main bulk of the file deals with the aftermath of Tesla's death when the representatives of the Alien Property Custodian and the Yugoslavian Consulate entered Tesla's hotel room and removed the contents of his safe. After verifying that all articles removed were placed in a local warehouse (along with more than thirty barrels of material belonging to Telsa that had already been stored there), Tesla's papers became the focus of a major squabble over who would have access. Much of the later controversy over Tesla's papers seems to stem from that legal battle.
There were fears that a distant relative whom Tesla had "intensively disliked" might gain access to the Tesla papers and make them available to "the enemy" (the U.S. had already entered WWII by that time) and members of the Military Intelligence Division expressed "vital interest" as well. The Bureau denied taking any direct action and left disposal of the papers to the Alien Property Custodian. That didn't stop allegations of a conspiracy springing up over the Tesla papers and the presumed scientific advances that would result from them. The rest of Tesla's FBI file consists of various denials that the FBI had anything to do with the Tesla papers and official responses to the polite (and not-so polite) requests for information from concerned sources. John Jacob O'Neill probably didn't help matters when he published the first full-length biography of Tesla in 1944. Titled The Prodigal Genius, the book accused FBI agents of confiscating many of Tesla's papers after his death and likely launched the conspiracy theory. The book was specifically referenced in many of the letters that the FBI received
After a lengthy struggle by Tesla's family and the Yugoslavian government, most of the papers were eventually released and are now part of the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade. Aside from his legitimate scientific achievements, Nikola Tesla has been the focus of numerous pseudoscientific claims regarding death rays, UFOs, and other spectacular applications that were supposedly developed in secret by government agencies after the Tesla papers were taken. The fact that nothing of the sort seems to have materialized in the decades since Tesla's death has done little to lessen the conspiracy theories.
Mad scientists are always popular.
Nikola Tesla - A True Scientific Genius
By Chad Royal
Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in what is now Croatia. He was the fourth of five children in the family. His father was a priest and his mother somewhat of an amateur inventor. She was adept at making craft tools for the home.
In 1875 Tesla studied electrical engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz. While there he studied the uses of alternating current. In December 1878, Tesla left Graz and broke off all relations with his family for a time.
After re-establishing a relationship with his family, Tesla was persuaded by his father to attend the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. His father died after he completed only one term, and he left the university.
In 1880, he moved to Budapest to work for a telegraph company. When the first telephone exchange in Budapest opened in 1881, he became the chief electrician. Later he would become the engineer for the country's first telephone system.
In 1882 he moved to Paris, to work as an engineer for the Continental Edison Company. Later that year he conceived the idea for an induction motor and began developing various devices that use rotating magnetic fields. He received patents for these devices in 1888.
On 6 June 1884, Tesla came to the United States and was hired to work at Thomas Edison's lab in New Jersey. His first tasks were simple electrical engineering projects, but he quickly was called on to work on some of the most challenging projects at the company.
After a dispute with Edison over using direct current or alternating current as a power source, Tesla left the company. In 1886 he formed his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. This was a short lived venture however. Again Tesla got into a dispute with his financial backers over the use of alternating current. He eventually was relieved of his duties at the company by his investors.
In 1887 Tesla filed for seven U.S. patents in the field of polyphase AC motors and power transmission. These included a complete system of generators, transformers, transmission lines, motors and lighting.
George Westinghouse heard about Tesla's patents, and was interested in using Tesla's inventions for the long distance transmission of electrical power. Westinghouse paid Tesla a cash sum to buy the patents, and also agreed to pay royalties of $2.50 per horsepower of electrical capacity sold.
With Westinghouse's purchase of these patents, a full scale war broke out between Westinghouse and Thomas Edison. The stakes were high because both knew the monetary rewards that would be reaped in the future. Edison steadfastly believed the future of electric power was in using direct current. Westinghouse, however believed Tesla's alternating current system was superior.
Like something out of a bad movie script, it just so happened that a murderer was about to be executed in the first electric chair at New York's Auburn State Prison. Someone had succeeded in illegally purchasing a used Westinghouse generator, and it was used in an attempt to demonstrate the so-called " extreme danger of alternating current".
Convicted murderer William Kemmler was executed on August 6, 1890 using electricity from Westinghouse's generator. It was described as "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging." Death by electrocution was later sarcastically referred to as "Westinghousing."
Despite this setback, the Westinghouse Corporation won the bid for illuminating The Chicago World's Fair, the first all-electric fair in history. The contract was awarded to Westinghouse after the company was able to bid substantially less than the newly formed General Electric Company. General Electric had taken over the Edison Company.
Still using direct current, General Electric's bid was twice that of the bid by Westinghouse. Tesla's alternating current system had won it's first major battle. After the success at the fair, over 80% of electrical lights and other devices ordered in the country ran off of alternating current.
Tesla and Westinghouse would have their next triumph in 1893. Westinghouse was awarded the contract to build the Niagara Falls Power Project. The project would supply electricity from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, N.Y.
On November 16, 1896, the switch was thrown and at midnight the first electricity reached Buffalo. The Niagara Falls Gazette reported that "The turning of a switch in the big powerhouse at Niagara completed a circuit which caused the Niagara River to flow uphill."
Within a few years the number of generators at Niagara Falls reached the planned ten, and power lines were electrifying New York City for the first time.
Years of fighting competitors had financially drained Westinghouse, and the company was on the verge of takeover. Famed investor J.P. Morgan was accused of plotting to bring all U.S. hydroelectric power under his control by manipulating stock prices. His alleged plan was to take over Westinghouse and the patents he had bought from Nikola Tesla.
This was when Tesla tore up the previous contract he had with Westinghouse. This released Westinghouse from his agreement to pay Tesla royalties on electrical power produced. Tesla's act literally single-handedly saved the Westinghouse Company. It also cost Tesla a massive fortune he would have received from the royalties.
After the Niagara Falls Power Project was completed, Tesla resumed his experiments and testing. This was the work he loved doing more than anything else. In 1891 he invented the famous Tesla coil. This invention took ordinary sixty-cycle per second household current and stepped it up to extremely high frequencies. It could also generate extremely high voltages. The Tesla coil is still used today in TV's, radios, and various other electronics.
But Tesla's lifelong obsession was the wireless transmission of energy. Using his Tesla coils, he soon discovered that he could transmit and receive powerful radio signals when they were tuned to resonate at the same frequency.
In early 1895 he was ready to broadcast a signal 50 miles to West Point, New York. But soon after Tesla's lab was completely destroyed by fire.
In England Guglielmo Marconi was experimenting with a device for wireless telegraphy. Marconi had taken out the first wireless telegraphy patent in England in 1896. But his invention only used a two circuit system. Such a system could not transmit "across a pond" according to some skeptics. Later Marconi set up long-distance demonstrations, using a Tesla oscillator to transmit the signals across the English Channel.
On December 12, 1901, Marconi for the first time was able to transmit and receive signals across the Atlantic Ocean. Otis Pond, an engineer working for Tesla told him "Looks as if Marconi got the jump on you." Tesla replied, "Marconi is a good fellow. Let him continue. He is using seventeen of my patents."
Tesla was successful in a number of scientific breakthroughs. In 1898 he conducted a demonstration of the world's first radio-controlled vessel. Tesla's U.S. patent number 613,809 describes the first device anywhere in the world for wireless remote control. The working model, or "teleautomaton," responded to radio signals and was powered with an internal battery.
Tesla's remote controlled boat was literally the birth of robotics, though he is seldom recognized for this accomplishment. The talented inventor was trained in electrical and mechanical engineering, and these skills merged perfectly in this remote-controlled boat. Unfortunately, the invention was so far ahead of its time that those who observed it could not imagine its practical uses.
Tesla had spent the latter part of the 1890′s in Colorado Springs. He was of the belief that it was possible to transmit electrical power without wires at high altitudes. Though he spent nine months there conducting experiments, the results of his experiments are not clear. No one knows for sure if he was actually able to transmit wireless power at Pikes Peak.
After returning to New York from Colorado, a controversial article he wrote appeared in Century Magazine. In the article Tesla proposed a global system of wireless communications. The article got the attention of J.P. Morgan, the investor who Tesla had previously prevented from acquiring the Westinghouse Company.
Tesla proposed to Morgan his belief in a system to broadcast news, music, stock market reports, messages, top secret military communications, and even pictures to any part of the world.
Morgan offered Tesla $150,000 to build a transmission tower and power plant. Tesla's real intentions however was to make a large-scale demonstration of electrical power transmission without wires. This would later prove to be a huge mistake by Tesla.
Tesla acquired land on the cliffs of Long Island Sound for the new project. The site was called Wardenclyffe. As construction projects very often do, this one soon ran out of money. The $150,000 Tesla received from Morgan didn't last long. Tesla asked for more funds, but Morgan refused.
Most historians today believe that Morgan somehow learned of Tesla's intentions of supplying free electricity, and would have no part of such a plan. Free electricity meant no profits, so Morgan repeatedly denied Tesla more money to complete the project.
In 1905 Tesla was forced to abandon the project. It was soon labeled "Tesla's million dollar folly."
In 1912, Tesla tested a revolutionary new kind of turbine engine. Both Westinghouse Manufacturing and the General Electric Company had spent millions developing bladed turbine designs, which were in reality nothing more than powerful windmills in a housing.
Tesla's design was a series of closely spaced discs that were keyed to a shaft. With only one moving part, Tesla's turbine was simplistic, but practical, much like the AC motor he had invented years earlier. Fuels such as steam or vaporized gas were injected into the spaces between the discs, spinning the motor at a high rate of speed. Too high it later turned out. The turbine operated at such high revolutions per minute that the metal in the discs distorted from the heat. The project was later abandoned.
In 1928, at the age of seventy-two, he received his last patent, number 6,555,114, "Apparatus For Aerial Transportation." This ingenious flying machine resembled both a helicopter and an airplane. It in fact was the forerunner of today's tiltrotor or VSTOL (vertical short takeoff and landing) plane. Tesla unfortunately did not have the funds to build a prototype.
In 1931 Tesla invented what is today called a charged particle beam weapon. Tesla had hopes the weapon would put an end to war. Newspapers at the time called the invention a "death beam". Tesla stated that this invention would make war impossible by offering every country an "invisible Chinese wall."
One of the more controversial topics involving Nikola Tesla is what happened to many of his technical and scientific papers after his death in 1943. Just before his death at the height of World War II, he claimed that he had perfected his so-called "death beam." So it was natural that the FBI and other U.S. Government agencies would be interested in any scientific ideas involving weaponry he invented. Some were concerned that Tesla's papers might fall into the hands of the Axis powers or the Soviets.
The next morning after Tesla died his nephew Sava Kosanovic went to his hotel room. He suspected that someone had already gone through his uncle's effects. Technical papers were missing as well as a black notebook he knew his uncle kept-a notebook with several hundred pages, some of which were marked "Government."
P. E. Foxworth, the assistant director of the New York FBI office, was called in to investigate. According to Foxworth, the government was "vitally interested" in preserving Tesla's papers. Two days after Tesla's death, representatives of the Office of Alien Property went to his room at the New Yorker Hotel and seized all his possessions.
Dr. John G. Trump, an electrical engineer with the National Defense Research Committee of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, was called in to analyze the Tesla papers in OAP custody. Following a three-day investigation, Dr. Trump concluded:
"His [Tesla's] thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character often concerned with the production and wireless transmission of power; but did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results."
Really, Dr. Trump? Nikola Tesla was a man with a remarkable scientific mind. A man who was decades ahead of his time. A man who was a true visionary, and whose inventions still contribute to our 21st century lifestyle, even though some of those inventions are over a century old. The world owes a huge debt of gratitude to Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest inventors and scientists who ever lived.
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