Nikola Tesla, an American scientist of Serbian origin, is mostly famous as an inventor of the alternating current, but his genius extended further than that. His inventions, most of which were never patented because of various reasons, enabled and supported future discoveries in the spheres of telegraphy, radio, wireless systems, and much more. Although he never achieved the acknowledgment most of his contemporaries had (Edison, for example), for many people and scholars he remains the greatest scientist and inventor of the 20th century.
Life of Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan, former Austria and today’s Croatia, in 1856. It is said that not long before his birth, a meteor shower occurred; was it an omen or a coincidence, the conclusion is yours. He was educated in Austria and later Austro-Hungary, in Graz and Prague, but his limitless potential started to emerge in Budapest (1881-1882), where he perfected the telephone sound booster and came with an idea about the rotating magnetic field.
In the next few years, he went to Paris, Strasbourg, and then to the United States of America. When he left for the US, he was totally penniless. Recommended by Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison, Tesla started to work in his company 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. In 1885, when he tried to claim a promised reward for the improvement of Edison’s generator, he was rejected and then he left Edison’s company to found his own.
The museum’s collection points out discoveries that were credited to Tesla. Alternating current, remote controlled boats, Tesla’s transformer and research of resonant frequency are only a few among many other discoveries. He even discovered X rays, and pointed out their damaging effects, but his data was lost in a fire. He also predicted turbulent, future scientific developments of the 20th century, and came up with a solution for how to make them more stable.
The guided tour takes us further into the introductory years of the 20th century. Back then, Tesla had financial support for his inventions, but the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, where Tesla worked since 1888, fell into financial difficulties. At that time Tesla was working in Long Island, New York, at the facility (you can see a model of the facility in the museum) that was supposed to transmit wireless signals right through the earth, to each corner of the world.
The last leg of the guided tour (all guided tours are in English) introduces to us Tesla’s inventions, without which numerous technological discoveries of the 20th century wouldn’t be possible. Being left without finances, due to a financial collapse of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, Tesla was engaged in mechanical engineering, inventing various turbines, pumps without paddles, speed indicators, etc. In his career, he patented around 250 devices in and outside the U.S.A., and had countless more that weren’t approved for various reasons. A rumour states that, in the middle of the Second World War (1939 – 1945), he was working on something for the Soviet Union, when he had a traffic accident, which accelerated his death. He died in 1943, in New York.
Collection of the Nikola Tesla Museum
The Nikola Tesla Museum displays various devices invented and completed by Tesla (one such is in the photo), as well as models according to his plans. Note that exhibits in glass boxes are made by Tesla. Through the info panels, you’ll be taken into a fantastic world of discoveries that preceded those made by Tesla, which started with Thales in Ancient Greece, and continued with Benjamin Franklin, Alessandro Volta, Jean Arago, Michael Faraday and others.
As you are initially taken through Tesla’s life by a short movie (also in English), you will attend a demonstration about how Tesla brought electricity into homes throughout the world. Although Edison tried to achieve the same with the direct current, the best he had achieved was to have it transmitted 20 kilometres from the originating site. Tesla realized that the energy losses are incomparably smaller with the alternating current, and had it transmitted over 100 kilometres, which is thoroughly elaborated by a curator. Despite Edison’s efforts to prove how the alternating current was dangerous, Tesla’s project was accepted and in 1896 his alternating current lit the city of Buffalo. The hydroelectric facility was created according to his plans.
The display also elaborates Tesla’s facilities on Long Island, New York and in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Take part in live demonstrations
As the guided tour proceeds, you’ll have an opportunity to take part in interesting demonstrations, which will guide you through the basics of electricity. In the related photo, for example, you can see how our body acts like a conduit, although we aren’t connected to the electric socket. While you are holding the neon lamp, electrical energy is generated through the device’s wires, reaching its breaking point between the upper disc and a sphere. The energy is conducted through the air to our bodies by means of ions, and the lamps in our hands start to glow. A similar approach was used in the older trilogy of Star Wars, with the light swords.
Or how about touching lightning? It’s completely harmless, you’ll feel only a small tickling on your palm. The purpose of this demonstration is to prove that the volts aren’t fatal if we come in contact with the current, but the amperes are.
A visit to the Nikola Tesla Museum should take around an hour, and the full admission price is 2 EUR (2.15 USD). The guided tour, movie and the exhibition are covered by the ticket. Operating hours are from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm daily, except on Monday. Within the museum premises, you can familiarize yourselves with Tesla’s personal tools and belongings and enjoy interactive displays by means of touchscreens. The urn with his ashes is also exhibited.