Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla Articles

Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

Ask Dr. Seifer About Nikola Tesla - 2nd Quarter 1997

April, 1997
Page number(s):
6-8, 23

Ask Dr. Seifer is a regular series in TESLA. If you have a question you would like to submit, send it to Dr. Marc Seifer, % International Tesla Society, PO Box 5636, Colorado Springs, CO 80931.

Q • What happened to all the research papers and equipment Tesla owned when he died? Did the FBI really confiscate them at that time?

A • As World War II approached, Tesla began to actively promote in the newspapers his particle beam weapon. The inventor saw this device as an ultimate Star Wars type defensive shield which could be used to protect any country from incoming invasion. It was Tesla’s belief that if each country had such a defensive capability, war would be made obsolete. In 1940, journalist William Lawrence wrote a highly visible article on what he called the “death ray” for the New York Times. This piece caught the attention of the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover for a number of reasons. From this moment on, Tesla began to be watched by Hoover, and a file was built up on him.

According to Ralph Bergstressor, who attended Tesla’s funeral with William Lawrence and who had met with Tesla during the last few months of his life for the purposes of obtaining the schematics of the weapon for a faction of the War Department, William Lawrence was a communist. Whether or not Lawrence really was a communist cannot be ascertained by me. In any event, he might have had “left wing” leanings. Thus, his writings would have had special significance for the virulent anti-Communist J. Edgar Hoover.

On top of that, one of Tesla’s closest relatives was his nephew, Sava Kosanovich, the ambassador from a communist country, Yugoslavia. Hoover, therefore also had a file on Kosanovich. It was Hoover’s fear that either Tesla himself may have been a communist, or that his particle beam weapon would get into communist hands.

As it turns out, Hoover’s fears were not unfounded as Tesla was, in fact, offering the weapon not only to the U.S. Government, but also to England, and to two communist countries, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. As these countries were our allies during WWII, and as numerous companies such as RCA, Bethlehem Steel and Westinghouse Corporation were trading with the Soviets with the blessing of the government, there was nothing wrong with Tesla offering his inventions to these countries. However, obviously, if his particle beam weapon was, in fact, as good as he stated it was, then it would have been foolhardy to let the Soviets get a hold of it. We may have been allies with the Soviets, but it was not because we liked them, but rather because we had a common enemy: Nazi Germany.

When Tesla died in January of 1943 his estate could have gone to Sava Kosanovich, who wanted to take the estate back to Yugoslavia and create a museum to house it, or to another Tesla nephew, Nicholas Trbojevich (William Terbo’s father), who was an inventor living in the United States. For various reasons, Trbojevich had no interest in the estate, and it was also known that Tesla, during his lifetime, had become amenable to the idea that a center of learning based upon his work would be set up in his country of origin, Yugoslavia. For those reasons, the estate went to Sava Kosanovich.

As Kosanovich was a citizen of Yugoslavia, the Tesla estate now fell under the jurisdiction of the Office of Alien Property. Based upon papers obtained by me through the Freedom of Information Act, it is clear that upon Tesla’s death, the FBI no longer had any jurisdiction over Tesla’s effects. However, because of their initial interest and because of Hoover’s file on the inventor, numerous military personnel continued to contact the FBI with regards to the fate of Tesla’s various inventions including the top secret schematics of the particle beam weapon.

Because of the war, and because of the political differences between the United States and the communist country of Yugoslavia, Tesla’s effects were impounded and held for nearly 10 years in a Manhattan Storage Warehouse, with Sava Kosanovich paying the monthly bills for the upkeep. They remained under the jurisdiction of the Office of Alien Property for this time.

What happened during these ten years? Just a few days after Tesla died, John Trump, who was a physicist from MIT, was assigned the task of reviewing the 80 trunks that made up the estate. It took Trump just 2 days to go through the vast holdings. This survey resulted in the paper known as the Trump Report. This report analyzed a number of Tesla articles, most notably the particle beam weapon, but Trump concluded that the device was unworkable and recommended that there was nothing of value in Tesla’s papers and inventions. Many of the letters were microfilmed, and these are presently on file in the Library of Congress.

It is my belief, however, that the War Department was not as dismissive as Trump. I believe that they studied the secret weaponry paper and tried to construct a workable particle beam weapon. Simultaneously, the Soviets also worked on such a weapon. In 1977, Aviation Week carried a story on the Soviet particle beam weapon, and as we reviewed in the last issue of Tesla: a Journal of Modern Science, this device bore a striking resemblance to Tesla’s schematics, which were published 7 years later by ITS.

A question remains as to whether Tesla actually sold the schematics to the Soviets in the 1930’s, as his papers suggested that he might have, or, just as likely, that the Soviets obtained the schematics from the Yugoslavian government after Kosanovich finally obtained the estate. In any event, having waited patiently for such a long time, Kosanovich hired a New York attorney and finally was able to obtain the release of the Tesla estate in 1952, nearly 9 years after he officially inherited it.

True to his word, Kosanovich brought the 80 trunks back to Belgrade and placed them in a building which became the Tesla Museum, and that is where Tesla’s entire estate, including all of his papers, newspaper articles, correspondence and inventions presently are.

Q • Why was Tesla’s legacy to us relegated to silence in history books?

A • There is no simple answer to this profound question for it is a very complex issue. First of all, we need to look at the question from a historical point of view. Certainly, as Tesla was the primary inventor to such creations as the induction motor, AC polyphase system, fluorescent lights, wireless communication, remote control, robotics and also the helicopter/airplane, we are left with a great mystery for Tesla could have been a highly visible historical figure for any one of these separate inventions. We know Edison’s name for the light bulb and the phonograph, Bell’s for the telephone, Westinghouse for air brakes and, alas, Marconi for the radio, so why not Tesla?

I believe that there are a number of separate reasons why Tesla’s name was essentially relegated to non-person status. For my doctoral dissertation, I, first of all, set out to establish that indeed, Tesla’s name was little known. After conducting numerous surveys of college students and also relevant library books, I found a few startling facts.

Well over 90% of students recognize the name of Tom Edison, yet almost no liberal arts student has heard of Tesla, and only about 50% of graduating electrical engineering students recognized his name. In books on the AC polyphase system, Tesla’s invention, Tesla’s name is actually absent from most of them. And in a study of 13 books specifically on the history of modern invention, Tesla’s name was completely missing from 8 of them, and barely mentioned in two others. In other words, 10 out of 13 books on the history of invention does not tell the reader who one of the most important inventors of the modern age is. Based upon a careful analysis, I have uncovered four separate reasons why Tesla’s name fell into obscurity:

1. Concerning the AC polyphase system, although Tesla’s book, The Inventions, Researches & Writings of Nikola Tesla wan important classic, very few libraries in the country have the book available. Instead, many major libraries have as their earliest book on the topic the textbook written by Charles Steinmetz. This book, which was originally written about 1898 does not mention Tesla’s name anywhere in the text. This would be akin to writing a book on the theory of relativity and leaving out Einstein’s name.

The reason why Steinmetz left Tesla’s name out of the book was because Steinmetz was working for General Electric at that time, and GE was in a patent dispute with the Westinghouse Corporation over the AC polyphase system. Steinmetz was actually looking for ways to pirate the invention by creating teaser currents and other apparatus that tried to hide their link to Tesla’s invention. Over time, many engineers could study the AC polyphase system and only know the name of Steinmetz.

This tendency to eliminate Tesla’s name from his most successful invention was also forwarded by Michael Pupin, physics teacher from Columbia University. All one has to do is read Pupin’s Pulitzer prize-winning autobiography to see how Pupin purposefully left out Tesla’s name from the history of the AC polyphase system. Although Pupin discusses such events as the lighting of the Chicago World’s Fair and the harnessing of Niagara Falls by Tesla’s system, if one didn’t know the truth, one would think that Elihu Thomson was the inventor!

Even the Westinghouse company was guilty of stripping Tesla from his invention. In a book on the AC polyphase system written by Andrew Robertson, CEO of the Westinghouse Corporation in the 1930’s, one would think that William Stanley was the inventor. Another Westinghouse writer, Lewis Stillwell, writing in a highly distributed tribute to George Westinghouse, implied that the invention was created by Oliver Shallenberger.

And in modern books by such writers as Thomas Hughes, author of Networks of Power, one would think that Galileo Ferraris was as important as Tesla was to the invention. Corporate litigation and jealousy are two key reasons why it is very difficult for the average lay person to ever know who the real author of the AC polyphase system is. And thus, Tesla’s name was neatly stripped from his first invention, even though his name appears nine separate times on the Niagara Falls patent plaque, even though Tesla was invited to speak as the inventor at opening day at Niagara Falls exactly 100 years ago, and even though the Westinghouse Corporation won every legal battle against GE and other competitors with various judges ruling that Nikola Tesla was the primary inventor of the AC polyphase system.

2. Tesla’s failure at Wardenclyffe. As we all know, Tesla was attempting to create a world telegraphy system in 1901 with the financial backing of J. Pierpont Morgan. Just as Tesla failed in this endeavor, Marconi succeeded in sending an impulse across the Atlantic Ocean. And thus, people remember Marconi, who received a Nobel Prize for the feat, rather than Tesla, who never demonstrated to the press or to financial backers, for that matter, long distance wireless transmission. It should also be kept in mind that Marconi set up highly successful wireless stations in 30 countries around the globe. Tesla was too locked into Wardenclyffe. He refused to open smaller operations, and so as Wardenclyffe continued to stand silent, Marconi spread his creations to every major urban center in the world. Thus, over time, it appeared to most observers that Marconi must be the creator of the radio, and Tesla’s system appeared unworkable. For economic reasons, it was also in the interests of such corporate giants as RCA and Westinghouse to obscure Tesla’s role in the history of the creation of the wireless, as they would have had to pay Tesla large royalties if they admitted Tesla’s real role in the development of the radio. It should be noted, that in 1943, the Supreme Court ruled Tesla over Marconi in the invention of wireless communication. Tesla also won a similar award a generation before in France in 1915.

3. Tesla’s ties to the occult. In 1899 while in Colorado Springs, Tesla stated that he received three beating pulses on his storm tracking equipment. After a short time, he began to theorize that the impulses were of intelligent origin. Tesla concluded that these impulses may have stemmed from extraterrestrials living on the planet Mars. The belief in life on Mars was a common one shared by individuals such as engineers Lord Kelvin and Elihu Thomson and by astronomers Perceival Lowell and Camille Flammarion. The idea was also forwarded by the newspapers (much like today) and by the 1890’s fictional writers as George DuMurier, author of The Martian, and H. G. Wells author of War of the Worlds.

Tesla wrote numerous articles espousing the ET scenario including “Talking with the Planets” which was published in Colliers in 1901, in many newspaper articles and also many years later in a tribute to Tesla celebrating his 75th birthday in Time Magazine which was published in 1931.

Because of Tesla’s insistence on the importance of interplanetary communication, he attracted the mystical fringe including a number of far out people like Margaret Storm, who wrote an occult Tesla biography entitled Return of The Dove, and Arthur Matthews, author of Wall of Light, Nikola Tesla and The Venusian Space Ship. Whereas Storm, in her book, speculates that Tesla was born on the planet Venus and that he was raised by earth parents so that he could grow up to give humans so many of the inventions of the modern era, Matthews boldly stated as late as 1970, that Tesla was still alive living on a UFO that lands frequently on Matthews’ estate which was situated out in the forests of Canada.

This attachment of Tesla to the occult fringe served to injure his reputation and caused his name to be separated even further from his mainstream scientific endeavors.

4. Tesla’s heritage and ties to Yugoslavia, which was, for many years, a communist country. Tesla had no children, so his estate was inherited by one of his nephews, Sava Kosanovich, who was then, in 1943, ambassador from Yugoslavia (see above). It was Kosanovich’s plan to take Tesla’s entire estate, which consisted of 80 trunks of his inventions, papers, correspondence, photographs, patents and so on, to Yugoslavia where a museum in his honor was being set up. Although separate from the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia was, still essentially, “behind the Iron Curtain.” Thus, unlike Thomas Edison, who had a museum in Menlo Park, or Henry Ford, who had a museum near Detroit, Tesla had no center of learning related to himself in America.

Further, and perhaps as a fifth reason, Tesla had top secret particle-beam weaponry papers which were confiscated by factions of the U.S. War Department during WWII. Much of Tesla’s work was off limits to the casual investigator or even to the serious academician. Even today, these papers are still under lock and key. So we see a combination of Tesla’s estate being shipped over seas to a communist nation, the veil that came over the country because of the McCarthy period and the top secret aspect of some of Tesla’s work, all adding to this fourth reason of relegating Tesla to a non person status.

(Dr. Marc Seifer is today’s leading researcher into the life of Nikola Tesla. He has spent over two decades in his pursuit of facts and has unearthed many falacies concerning Nikola Tesla, the greatest inventor and mind of the past two centuries. Dr. Seifer has completed a most comprehensive biography of Tesla entitled: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla - the Biography of a Genius. This hard back book contains over 500pages of research and is today’s most authoritative volume on Tesla’s life.


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