NIKOLA TESLA, in the opinion of authorities, today is conceded to
be the greatest inventor of all times. Tesla has more original
inventions to his credit than any other man in history. He is
considered greater than Archimedes, Faraday, or Edison. His basic,
as well as revolutionary, discoveries for sheer audacity have no
equal in the annals of the world. His master mind is easily one of
the seven wonders of the intellectual world. H. GERNSBACK.
Nikola Tesla and His Inventions
By H. Gernsback
SEVERALyears ago, in the course of a discussion, a well known
journalist asked me whom I considered at present the world's
greatest inventor. I said: "If you mean the man who really
invented, in other words, originated and discovered - not merely
improved what had already been invented by others, then without a
shade of doubt, Nikola Tesla is the world's greatest inventor, not
only at present, but in all history."
My friend was much surprised and voiced his astonishment. "Surely,"
said he, "you do not mean to place Tesla ahead of such great men as
Archimedes, Faraday or Edison?"
"That is exactly what I mean," I replied, "and before twenty-five
years have elapsed the world at large will echo my opinion."
"But listen," persisted my friend, "who on earth is this man Tesla
anyway? What are his wonderful inventions, what great thing has he
ever done? How is it that the world at large does not know him?"
"To begin with, and the better to impress you," I replied, "Tesla
has secured more than one hundred patents on inventions, many of
which have proved revolutionary. Science accords to him over 75
original discoveries, not mere mechanical improvements. Tesla is an
originator in the sense that Faraday was an originator. Like the
latter he is a pioneer blazing the trail ; aside from this he is a
discoverer of the very highest order."
"Ninety percent of the entire electrical industry pays tribute to
his genius. All electrical machinery using or generating
alternating current is due to Tesla. High tension current
transmission without which our long distance trolley cars, our
electrified lines, our subways would be impossible, arc due to the
genius of Tesla. The Tesla Induction Motor, the Tesla Rotary
Converter, the Tesla Phase System of Power Transmission, the Tesla
Steam and Gas Turbine and the Tesla Coil and Oscillation
Transformer are perhaps his better known inventions.
"As to your last question, namely, why the world at large does not
know Tesla, it is answered best by stating that he has committed
the unpardonable crime of not having a permanent press agent to
shout his greatness from the housetops. Then, too, most of Tesla's
inventions, at least to the public mind, are more or less
intangible on account of the fact that they are very technical and,
therefore, do not catch the popular imagination, as, for instance,
wireless, the X-ray, the airplane, or the telephone."
The trouble with Nikola Tesla is that he lives a century ahead of
his time. He has often been denounced as a dreamer even by well
informed men. He has been called crazy by others who ought to know
better. For Tesla talks in a language that most of us do not as yet
understand. But as the years roll on Science more and more
appreciates his greatness, and begins to pay him tribute more and
In 1893, three years prior to the earliest attempts in Hertz wave
telegraphy. Tesla first described his wireless system and took out
patents on a number of novel devices which were then but
imperfectly under stood. Even the electrical world at large laughed
at these patents. But large wireless interests had to pay him
tribute in the form of real money, because his "fool" patents were
recognized to be fundamental. He actually antedated every important
A few weeks ago the world read thru news dispatches of a great
wireless discovery - the static eliminator. But Tesla had not only
patented systems overcoming this and other forms of interference
but had actually constructed and successfully operated devices
years ago in Colorado, under conditions where static interference
was troublesome to an extraordinary degree. A photograph of one
form of his apparatus is published with a note from him for the
first time elsewhere in this issue of the Electrical Experimenter
And so it goes. The world smiles an unbelieving smile, but Tesla's
master mind invariably sets the world aright.
I first read about Tesla in a well-known German weekly publication
when I was less than 15 years old. The Editor of that publication
reproduced his picture on a full page and paid high tribute to
Tesla, hailing him as the world's coming greatest electrician. H.
W. Buck, Chief Engineer, President of the American Institute of
Electrical Engineers, among others, said: "The work of Nikola Tesla
in his great conception of his rotary field seems to me one of the
greatest feats of imagination which has ever been attained by human
Lord Kelvin, before the British Association, commenting upon the
Tesla Transformer exhibited, said: "This is a wonderful development
of the induction coil destined to be of great importance."
Electrical Review, commenting upon the wireless : "Mr. Tesla's
researches in this field have attracted world-wide attention, and
his is undoubtedly the master mind."
Der Electro-Technische Anzeiger, Berlin, and Elektrizitat, Leipzig,
Germany, (commenting upon Tesla's work) : "It is a combination of
the grandest power of technical performance with the most vivid
imagination, such as has never before manifested itself in the
Brigadier Allen, of the United States War Department Commenting
upon Tesla's Turbine): "Something new in the world. Officers are
greatly impressed with it."
While studying abroad I read every scrap of his work I could lay my
hands on. I performed most of his high frequency experiments, and
the more I saw of his work the more imprest I became.
Some years ago as Editor of Modern Electrics, I met him in a New
York shop where his famous turbine models were first built. I was
fascinated with the tall, gaunt man, then about 50 years old, but
looking less than 30. His extraordinary face, with his deep set
blue eyes, proclaimed the intense thinker - the philosopher. A few
minutes chat with him left me more than ever convinced of his
Further contacts during the past few years still enhanced my
opinion of him. Tesla is a man of extraordinary knowledge. He is
remarkably well read and has a photographic memory whereby it is
possible for him to recite page after page of nearly every
classical work, be it Goethe, Voltaire or Shakespeare. He speaks
and writes twelve languages. He is an accomplished calculator, who
has little use for tables and text-books and holds the sliding rule
in contempt. Tesla has received numerous honors and distinctions of
all kinds. He is a knight of several orders, holder of many titles
and diplomas. Some time ago he was awarded the Elliott Cresson gold
medal by the Franklin Institute and last year the Edison medal by
the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
Many extraordinary distinctions have been offered to him which he
has declined. As of timely interest one instance may be mentioned.
At the announcement of Tesla's high frequency discoveries, while
the former Emperor of Germany was all-powerful and great men were
eager for his favors, Tesla received an invitation from him and the
Empress to repeat his celebrated experiments at the Royal Palace in
Berlin. He forgot all about it and did not answer for one year,
when he politely apologized for his inability to avail himself of
the honor. Later the invitation was renewed and nearly two years
past before Tesla answered to the same effect. After a lapse of
time, however, upon the announcement of another important
invention, he received the invitation for the third time, with the
assurance that an altogether unusual honor was reserved for him.
"Well, boys," said Tesla to his assistants after he laid the
invitation which he never answered aside, "the Emperor must be a
great man. I do not think that I would be capable of acting in this
way if I were in his place." Perhaps the most remarkable tribute
was paid to him when he made his famous experiments in Colorado in
1899. It was by J. Pierpont Morgan, the elder, who donated
$150,000, which enabled Tesla to produce artificial lightning and
incidentally to electrify the entire earth.
Some of Tesla's inventions have been of far-reaching importance in
the War. The resources and productive powers of the country have
been greatly increased thru extended use of his system of
alternating current transmission and transformation of energy.
Nearly ten million horsepower of water falls have been harnest by
this means, thus saving forty percent of the entire coal output of
the United States.
The railroads have been electrified and his induction motor has
revolutionized the steel industry and operation of factories. His
electric drive has been adopted on the largest cruisers and
battleships as the most perfect means of propulsion.
His wireless inventions have proved indispensable and his
oscillatory apparatus has been of inestimable service in
chirurgical and therapeutic treatment in the field.
The technical prints abound with his work, his inventions, his
The following is only a partial list of terms now adopted and
published in text books and technical works:
Tesla two-phase, three-phase, multi-phase,
poly-phase system of power transmission
Tesla rotating magnetic field
Tesla rotating magnetic field transformer
Tesla induction motor
Tesla split-phase motor
Tesla system of distribution
Tesla rotary transformer
Tesla system of transformation by condenser discharges
Tesla oscillation transformer
Tesla electrical oscillator
Tesla mechanical oscillator
Tesla high frequency machines
Tesla dynamo-electric oscillator
Tesla high-potential methods
Tesla impedance phenomena
Tesla electrical massage
Tesla arclight system
Tesla third brush regulation
Tesla Steam Turbine
Tesla Gas Turbine
Tesla Water Turbine
Tesla electro-static field
Tesla wireless system
Tesla methods of wireless transmission
Tesla magnifying transmitter
Tesla underground transmission, etc.
The other night the Editors of the "Experimenter had the
opportunity of passing an evening with Tesla. We talked about many
things, so interesting, that I will reserve them for another
article - but mostly, of course, the conversation centered about
"Dr. Tesla," I said to him, "you are aware of our great admiration
for you, which may or may not be important. But the great public
knows little of your mark. Even many of those technically educated
- excuse the frankness - think that you are either a dreamer or,
worse yet, crazy.
The fact is the world does not understand you because you live in
the next century. Moses was a great man, but the Bible teaches us
that he was "heavy of tongue" and could not make himself
understood. His brother therefore always spoke in his stead,
announcing to his hearers what Moses had to say. Why not let the
Experimenter be your brother? Why not let us translate your work
into a language that the man in the street can readily understand?
We have the knowledge and the technical training to do your
inventions justice by means of graphic illustrations and wash
The public does not want patent drawings or patent language. It
wants pictures and plain English. You are a great inventor, but
your 21st Century training prevents you from making yourself
understood to a 20th Century public. My plan is to run one of your
inventions every month, in plain English fully illustrated. That
means that it will probably take over two years to deal with all of
your more important inventions.
At the end of this period the articles can be published in book
form, a thing that does not exist at present. The plan is twofold.
First, the world at large will at last understand the highly
important work you have accomplished and will fully recognize you.
Second, it will be of greatest benefit to Science, to whom your
inventions will then not be the sealed book they are today."
Knowing that Tesla had in the past continuously refused similar
offers of dozens of great publishers of this country as well as
abroad, I was not at all sanguine of my own plan. Great was my
surprise therefore, that he not only gave his consent, but he
actually agreed to prepare each article personally with the
Dr. Tesla wants it expressly understood that he is undertaking this
great work chiefly to educate the young generation. He felt that he
could not possibly reach such a large electrically trained young
manhood, save thru the medium of the Electrical Experimenter. With
its circulation above 100,000. all enthusiastic experimenters,
Tesla feels that his greatest mission in life, namely, to assist
our rising generation, will come near fulfillment.
Nikola Tesla's articles will therefore run serially every month in
the ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER. The articles will be entitled: "My
Inventions" - by Nikola Tesla. Every article will be entirely
original; each will be illustrated with our own new illustrations
and with such wash drawings as made this journal so successful. The
first article will appear in our February number.
We wish to congratulate Experimenter readers for having obtained
for them probably the greatest technical news feature of a
generation. I caution you: Expect much!
BY special arrangement the ELECTRICAL EXPERIMENTER will, beginning
with the next issue, publish a series of articles entitled "My
Inventions", by Nikola Tesla. The great inventor will contribute a
signed article monthly, which articles will run for several years.
Most of this material has never appeared in print before. The
articles will be published in book form later. We consider this
announcement the most important we ever made. THE PUBLISHERS.
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