Friday, January 15, 2016

Tesla: The Basics

I've written a number of posts related to my research into the life of Nikola Tesla. Although many may be visiting my blog because of their prior interest in Tesla, others may not be familiar with him. So I decided to write a standard post of introduction to the man and his work.

Who Was Nikola Tesla? 

    In late nineteenth century America, when rival inventors sought to reshape the world, Serbian immigrant Nikola Tesla was king. Six foot six inches tall and lean,  he had a photographic memory. In some aspects he lived a life as ascetic as a monk, eschewing women, coffee and tea, tobacco and chewing gum working himself to the point of repeated nervous breakdowns.

    Going head to head, Tesla vanquished Edison and established the format for the generation and transmission of electricity that is still in use today. He fought Marconi over the authorship of the radio, finally winning in the Supreme Court.

    He created a variety of seminal inventions garnering hundreds of patents. In a 1947 tribute article in the journal Science, he was credited with:

    Alternating current generators.

    The electric motor.
    The radio.

    The remote control.
    The effusive article also credits him with being the inventor of radar, broadcasting and fax machines, creations that were conceptualized but not fashioned (or patented) by him. He made early contributions to X-rays (before Roentgen), lighting and hydroelectric power.

    While every mature invention is the combined work of many, Tesla was remarkable in his ability to envision the final product. Others started inventions, Tesla finished them, and beyond that, he could imagine their place in a world a century in the future—he combined the best of Thomas Edison and Jules Verne. When radio was in its infancy, he described connecting the world, not just with sound, but with images, exchanging information. He imagined the world wide web with access to information on a hand-held device.

    Tesla was also notorious for pursuing quixotic inventions including those involving the transmission of lightning and the creation of earthquakes. He became obsessed with ending war forever. He proposed a device for recording human thought.

    As he grew older he became more and more eccentric, his business failures and his collection of phobias drove him into seclusion. Ultimately, he imagined himself a machine, an automaton run by the will of the universe.

    He died in debt, nearly forgotten. His papers were seized by the U.S. government out of fear of what secrets they might hold.

    Decades after his death, his reputation has undergone a resurgence. His uncompromising genius, his brilliant visions of the future, and even his madness are now celebrated.

Tesla, the thinking man
Nikola Tesla, The Thinking Man

Reference: Accomplishments of Nikola Tesla. Kenneth M. Swezey. Science, May 16, 1948, pp. 1147-59

End note:  The name Tesla is Serbian for "adze," a chopping and digging instrument. Tesla was the sharpest tool in the shed. 

Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my forthcoming thriller, A Predator's Game, Rook's Page Publishing.
A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

Back page blurb.

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.

His recent mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, recently won second place in the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at

The above post was re-written and expanded from one I prepared two and one half years ago.


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