In memory of Nikola Tesla

Objavljeno 8.1.2013.

Marking the 70th anniversary of the death of Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest inventors of the world, the National and University Library in Zagreb invites you to check out the articles about his work available on the portal Croatian Historic Newspapers.

Tesla was born in the small village Smiljani near Gospić on 10 July 1856. He went to primary school in Smiljani and Gospić and attended the secondary school in Rakovac near Karlovac. Despite the pressure exerted on him by his mother Georgina and father Milutin to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a priest, Tesla decided to study at the University of Technology in Graz, and later studied engineering in Prague. An interesting detail from Tesla’s life during that period is that he so much fancied Voltaire’s works that he learned them all by heart.

Mister Edison, I know two great men. One of them is you, and the other is the young man standing in front of you, said the letter of recommendation written for Tesla by Edison’s associate Charles Batchelor.  According to the records of the port of New York, the young genius came to the United States of America on 7 April 1882 at the age of 25. He soon started working at Edison’s company, but since the two strong characters could not agree on the way they should work, Tesla decided to start his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing.

The transformer, electromagnetic engine, high-frequency electricity, wireless energy transmission, radio-controlled aircrafts, radar, use of solar energy, radio-communication, and stationary waves are only some of the many patents, inventions and findings that the world owes to Tesla. Many of his ideas that he recorded in his notebooks are studied and pondered over to this day.

His greatest discovery – and Tesla always kept saying that he did not invent anything but just went around discovering things already in existence in the nature around us – was that of stationary waves. It enabled him to prove his theory that the Earth may act as a conductor and that it reacts as a tuning fork to electrical vibrations at certain frequencies.

Apart from being an ingenious scientist, Tesla also spoke six languages and was in excellent shape throughout his life, even at a very old age. There is a story that Tesla, a 199-centimetre tall man, slipped on the New York pavement and avoided falling down by doing a summersault and landing on his feet at the age of 80.

Although desperately in need of money, in 1912 he turned down the Nobel Prize in Physics, since he was supposed to share it with Edison, whom he never considered a true scientist. Nevertheless, in 1917 he was awarded the Edison Medal, the highest award presented by the American Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. During his life Tesla received fifteen honorary doctorates.

Tesla never married since he held that marriage would distract him from his work. He was a close friend of the sculptor Ivan Meštrović and writer Mark Twain, but he held that his only true friends were pigeons, which he frequently fed in Bryant Park. He died at the age of 87 on 7 January 1943 in New York. Two thousand people in the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine – including three Nobel Prize winners – came to pay their final respects to the man who paved the way for the technological development of the modern age.

Marking the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the unit of magnetic flux density after him, making him one of only fourteen world scientists whose names have been used to term units in the International System of Units. Encyclopaedia Britannica included Tesla among the ten most important people in the history of the world. Tesla’s bust adorns the lobby of Yale University, which was the first to award Tesla its honorary degree in 1894. Among many from the rest of the tributes that he received, we should single out that a hill on the Moon was named after Tesla, which constitutes an exceptional honour in the academic community.