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Buried Screwball Facts About Nikola Tesla 

by Matt Cates 6 years ago in fact or fiction / feature / humanity / list / literature / pop culture / quotes / science fiction / tech / transhumanism / vintage
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Why the ignored inventor demands our remembrance…and amazement! 

Travel anywhere outside the United States and the name of Nikola Tesla is known. Ask the average person on an American sidewalk? They’re apt to recall the 80’s rock band. Or they’ll nod and mumble about Elon Musk’s motor company.

Will they know the actual man, though? Not likely. We’ve forgotten (some say intentionally) the inventor of alternating current, fluorescent bulbs, radio…wait, wait, wait! I’m giving away my own screwy facts listicle. Disregard last line and read on…

Tesla Invented Alternating Current…and Electrified Mark Twain With It

Ad for the Alternating Current System

Direct electrical current was the only way to go at the turn of the century. If you could afford it in your home or business, you were rich. Tesla proposed to his boss, Thomas Edison, a more efficient delivery method—alternate the current, extend the distance it could push. Why power one building if you could power a city?

To prove that alternating current was less lethal than Edison claimed, Tesla used to run very high frequency current through his own wire-thin body, insisting it had a rejuvenating effect (in reality it was probably pan searing his innards--so DON'T try it at home!). He even subjected his constipated pal Samuel Clemens, aka author Mark Twain…and Twain’s bowels nearly let loose in his trousers.

He Also Invented X-Rays…and X-Rayed Mark Twain’s Head for Half an Hour!

Twain and Tesla

Oh, the shenanigans when those two got together!

Before Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen patented the X-radiation photography in 1895, the sleep-deprived Tesla was running experiments on the same concepts in his New York lab. A team of doctors grouped together to write a technical article of these discoveries, for TeslaUniverse.com, titled, “Nikola Tesla and the Discovery of X-rays.”

Tesla reported that, driven by his observation of mysterious damage to photographic plates in his laboratory, he began his investigation of x-rays (at that time still unknown and unnamed) in 1894.

The first American X-ray was an attempt by Tesla to photograph his famous guinea pig friend’s skull. No telling what after effects it caused on poor Twain! You can hear the story at WNYC.org’s postcast.

Margaret Cheney penned perhaps the definitive Tesla biography. Per Amazon's blurb...

In Tesla: Man Out of Time, Margaret Cheney explores the brilliant and prescient mind of one of the twentieth century's greatest scientists and inventors. Called a madman by his enemies, a genius by others, and an enigma by nearly everyone, Nikola Tesla was, without a doubt, a trailblazing inventor who created astonishing, sometimes world-transforming devices that were virtually without theoretical precedent.

Tesla Created Remote Control…Before There Was Anything to Remote Control!

Tesla's RC 'toy boat'

In 1898, long before we had television remotes, video player remotes, air conditioner remotes, cars with remote lock features, or remote-piloted military drones…we had the remote control. To demonstrate it, the extravagant showman Tesla rigged up a small motor boat in a pool at Madison Square Garden. It was quite the novelty, but so far ahead of its time that few saw any real commercial potential for the whacky concept.

Except for the military types present, who saw quite clearly the possibilities. And now we have telerobotics and remote warfare!

Radio? He Invented That, According to the Supreme Court…But Nobody Cares!

Tesla Company letterhead

Nikola Tesla clearly created the technology used in the modern transmission of radio waves, yet Guglielmo Marconi clearly gets the credit. Why? For one, the workaholic Tesla was awful at filing patents; he was too busy creating!

Yet he did apply for a couple of radio patents, which the Patent Office fiddled with years later, to re-award them to Marconi. But even more years later the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Tesla having made the discovers prior to Marconi. All the Italian inventor did was take the ball and run with it…all the way to the bank!

As writer Louis Frenzel pointed out:

Marconi’s real contributions are more engineering and commercial than theoretical. He took the basic ideas and inventions of others and improved upon them and made them practical business successes. Tesla was almost the opposite. He created original ideas and proved them mathematically and physically, patenting some and not others.

Tesla Invented an Electric Car…but Nobody Believes It!

Image Credit: Jalopnik

Much of Tesla’s inspired work was so advanced or so capable of upsetting the global status quo (and therefore the pocketbooks of the powerholders) that his ideas were stolen, buried, or discredited. That’s not conspiracy theory. That’s a fact! And the dirty tricks have worked well, at times so well that one cannot prove the existence of an invention at all…and so it passes into legend.

But…legend has it Tesla invented an electric car in 1931, using the Pierce-Arrow as it engine's host. If you Google this term, you’ll note it is generally tied to the word “hoax.” But is it a hoax, or is the hoax a hoax?

Think the business world is above such tactics? Ha! Ha ha ha! (Yes, that's a real laugh). Consider this. Long before marijuana was called by its Spanish name, Americans referred to it as hemp. But those Powers-That-Be were against the wild popularity of hemp in commercial industries; they preferred to peddle their most costly synthetic products, and so a massive smear campaign was launched against hemp…part of which was to rebrand it as "marijuana." Look that up!

So what about the Pierce-Arrow story? Well, some folks are more receptive than others…probably the folks who are more interested in the planet than their bank balances.

Nikola Tesla proved in 1931 that it is possible to power our vehicles without a drop of fossil fuel. He removed the gasoline engine of a Pierce Arrow and replaced it with an electric motor and drove for hours, at speeds as high as 90 mph. Today, 81 years later, it is still possible to convert any gasoline engine vehicle into an all-electric vehicle and it will operate for hours – without having to stop and recharge. Not a drop of oil, gasoline, hydrogen fuel, natural gas or water. No combustion engine. No exhaust system.

Here is Nikola Tesla in his own fascinating words. A brief but compelling look directly in the mind of the man himself...

 Tesla Basically Kinda Invented Wireless Comm…100 Years Ago!    

Wardenclyffe Tower concept art

Oh, Wardenclyffe Tower and the endless possibilities lost to a universe of “What If’s?” The awesome tower of power may not have worked the way he planned, but alas we’ll never know.

What we do know is, unlike the electric car motor, there is no covering up the 187 foot tall Wardenclyffe. Too many photos of it still exist, and indeed there is now a Tesla museum on the old grounds, the Tesla Science Center!

Per Damn Interesting:

Atop his tower was perched a fifty-five ton dome of conductive metals, and beneath it stretched an iron root system that penetrated more than 300 feet into the Earth’s crust. “In this system that I have invented, it is necessary for the machine to get a grip of the earth,” he explained, “otherwise it cannot shake the earth. It has to have a grip… so that the whole of this globe can quiver.”

The tower was to be only the first; at least that was the plan. And part of this function of the “World Wireless System” was actually to enable wireless transmission of communications signals… Do remember, this was 1905 we’re discussing! But the investors got skittish at the realization that there was no feasible means (at the time) of charging customers to use the system once it was in place.

Funding was pulled, the tower torn down…

Tesla Invented Free Energy Methods…Which Were Squashed by Greedy Bankers! 

Nikola Tesla believed in the distribution of free power to the masses. This ran counter to the goals of his prime investors, chief among them wealthy financier John “J.P.” Morgan.

Morgan sunk $150,000 (a small fortune in those days) into Tesla’s schemes thinking he could profit from them; upon learning that Tesla secretly wanted to expand his plans in order to GIVE AWAY free energy, Morgan not only backed out but, furious over the breach of contract, convinced others to do the same.

With the crushing of Wardenclyffe Tower, Tesla's naive dream of offering a beacon of hope to the world was banished.

Tesla was ruined, and died alone in a hotel, a penniless old man with severe OCD, a backlog of crazy ideas which nobody wanted, and a reputation left in tatters after a lifetime of exploitation, discreditation by his rivals, and purposeful erasure by the U.S. government which longed to keep his more dangerous concepts out of the hands of the Soviets.

After the death of the man, American history books erased his legacy.

One of the best books I've read on any subject, Tad Wise's moving labor of love novel has been largely ignored...just like inventor Tesla himself.

The more one learns about the tragedy of Nikola Tesla, the more deeply it resonates with the reader. His tale so deeply impacted me that I wove a narrative arc of his life into the plot of my own science fiction novel, "Haveck."

As in the real world, in the book Tesla is the unseen, unacknowledged nexus of all modern events which followed in his wake.

Bone creator Jeff Smith outdoes himself in this gorgeously illustrated tale of time travel, parallel worlds, and Tesla! Now we're really diving off the board and into strange waters, but that is apt to happen when the eccentric electrical engineer-inventor is involved.

Perhaps no other historical figure has sparked the imaginations of so many authors (and conspiracy theorists) as Nikola Tesla. It's not the legitimate acclaim he deserves...but the real shame would be let his legacy pass into shadow completely.

fact or fictionfeaturehumanitylistliteraturepop culturequotesscience fictiontechtranshumanismvintage

About the author

Matt Cates

Freelance writer and owner of Cates Content and Copywriting; retired Air Force Veteran; former administrative assistant at Oregon State University; author of Haveck: The First Transhuman, the greatest sci-fi novel in the multiverse.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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