Spotlight: Nikola Tesla – electricity superstar

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Who was Nikola Tesla?

Do you think that being born during a lightning storm could influence who you grow up to be?

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan, Austrian Empire (now modern-day Croatia). The lightning storm at his birth prompted the midwife to think that it was a bad omen and he would be a child of darkness. His mother disagreed saying, “No, he will be a child of light”. That, he truly was.

Nikola, in fact, grew up to be a scientist with over 700 different inventions and designs to his name. His main focus was the movement of electricity and he was best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

Nikola Tesla even worked for Thomas Edison for part of his career, but they had disagreements, leading to what was named the “War of Currents”.

Tesla’s experiments and creations involved generating and transmitting electricity and he made important breakthroughs regarding radar technology, X-ray technology, remote control and the rotating magnetic field. He had a particular passion for creating wireless transmission. It is amazing to think that he came up with an idea for smartphone technology back in 1901!

In the race to develop radio waves that could transmit between countries separated by a large ocean, Tesla described to his business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new way of instant communication. It involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funnelling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet.

After Tesla’s death, there was a period of time where people basically forgot about celebrating his achievements, but in 1960, the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the unit used for measuring the strength of magnetism, the tesla, in his honour. His accomplishments are now recognised on par with the some of the world’s most famous scientists.

Inquiry – Digging Deeper

Find out more about the Tesla coil and how it works buy watching the video below. In this video you can see how electricity can be passed through the human body without causing harm. This was a favourite past time of Tesla’s, totally amazing people with his fearless electricity stunts.

The Human Conductor – The Tesla Coil