Nikola Tesla The Overlooked Engineer
Written by: Tayyab Khalil
On the thunderous stormy night of Thursday, July 10, 1856, a child was born in the Smiljan village of the Austrian Empire. Interpreting the lightning storm as a bad omen, the midwife responsible for the infant’s birth asserted that he would be a child of darkness. His mother furiously disagreed and confidently claimed that he would instead be a child of light. True to her word, that child grew up to be none other than Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant scientific minds and inventors the world has ever known.
Renowned for inventing the induction motor and for his marvelous works centralizing on alternating current, such accomplishments barely scratch the surface of his life as an engineer, inventor and physicist. Tesla had valiantly laid the groundwork for immeasurable scientific breakthroughs such as affordable electricity, hydropower, radio, electric generators, remote controls, X-ray photography etc. In order to carefully comprehend how advance Tesla was for his time, look no forward to one of his numerous predictions that stemmed from his technological experimentations. In 1926, he foresaw a future in which a pocket-sized device would assist the global inhabitants to be interconnected to each other in terms of wireless communication regardless of the enormous distances among them. He prophesied that the invention would aid the people to witness the inauguration of Presidents, nail-biting sports events and catastrophic occasions such as earthquakes and wars. The eerie prediction indeed came true when smartphones were invented in the modern times but Tesla’s beliefs during his lifetime were scorned as often as they were commended.
In addition to his spectacular achievements concerning alternating current, Tesla envisioned new technologies that were far ahead of their time and became infatuated with the possibility of transmitting energy without wires acting as a medium. A visionary in the truest sense of the word, the inventor inexplicably dreaded the consumption of earth’s limited resources and sought to provide an alternative means of providing free energy. The courteous but seemingly improbable notion of free energy could have fundamentally changed the entire complexion of the society as we know it but his thought-provoking ideas were more than enough to label his overly active mind as a specimen of lunacy by staunch doubters. In order to execute his incredible experiment of wireless energy transmission, Tesla constructed the 57 m long Wardenclyffe Tower with the financial backing from J. P. Morgan who was under the impression that the scientist was assembling a wireless communication system. Tesla, of course, had plans of his own as the tower was covertly being built as an energy system that would utilize Earth as a conductor. If the operation was successful, anyone could be provided with electricity by simply sticking a rod into the ground. Tesla’s innovative plans to create and distribute free electricity to the entire world came to a crashing halt due to monetary restraints but his futile research did manage to grab attention, albeit an unwanted one, from the United States government.
Throughout the remainder of his life, Tesla would daringly design engineering contraptions such as flying saucers and improved airships. Due to being under the microscope of the government, suspicion encapsulated his questionable experimentations. Not so surprisingly, the persistent rumours of him experimenting with time travel, artificial earthquakes, communication with extra-terrestrials through radio transmission, teleportation and cloning humans profoundly fueled a substantial amount of allure to his celebrity status and mystique as a mad scientist. Unquestionably the most horrifying exertion by Tesla that trembled the global elite was his intentions to invent a 60 million volt death beam that he alleged was capable to end all wars. As a pacifist, he claimed that his invention would vaporize any tank or aircraft from 200 miles away but the incredulous system is not as ridiculous as it sounds. Following his death at the age of 86, Federal Bureau of Investigation confiscated his scientific documents and though few of them would be returned to his family and donated to the Nikola Tesla Museum at Belgrade, Serbia, there are some of his apprehensive research work that remains classified by the United States Government to this very day.
By the time of his woeful death, Tesla had more than 700 patents under his belt and had cemented his legacy as an eccentric inventor yet he is not a household name nor deemed eminent quite like his contemporary Thomas Edison. How can such a monumental engineer be criminally compartmentalized to a pioneer of alternating current and omitted in textbooks despite tremendously contributions towards science and technology? While conspiracy theorists are quick to point it out as an elaborate cover-up by the government, the answer is rather much simpler and obvious. As Edison had the mental fortitude as a businessman, he was able to translate his inventions into a commercial success whereas many of Tesla’s inventions were never even materialized and his innovative concepts were commercially employed by several other scientists. For instance, Guglielmo Marconi utilized 17 of Tesla’s patents to build the world’s very first radio and would subsequently go on to win the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking accomplishment in wireless telegraphy. Inextricably the true founding father of electricity, Tesla is an unsung hero of the scientific community and is one of the prime examples of how history unethically recalls merely a predisposed segment of the truth.