Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla Articles

Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

New Books - Nikola Tesla and His Work with Alternating Currents

March, 1995
Page number(s):

Edited By Leland I. Anderson

Twenty First Century Books, PO Box 2001, Breckenridge, CO 80424; tel 303-453-9293. 8½ x 11 inches, B & W illustrations, 237 + xvi pp, $40.

Reviewed By Jim Kearman, KRIS

In electrical and electronics circles, Nikola Tesla is like an old saint: Everyone’s heard of him but no one knows what he did to become famous. Tesla was born in Serbia in 1856 and died in the US in 1943. In his productive lifetime he was granted more than 100 US patents, including a simple induction motor. The invention of the induction motor was important because it made possible ac power generation and distribution, rather than dc. Dc power distribution was promoted by Edison, but was grudgingly accepted largely because no ac motor existed.

Most of us probably know Tesla best for his “Tesla coil,” an RF transformer generally used to give spectacular demonstrations of arcs and corona. By means of his famous coil, however, Tesla demonstrated several principles of radio (the tuned circuit, for example) in the early 1890s, years before Marconi conducted his better-known experiments. Tesla finally received recognition in the year following his death, when the US Supreme Court ruled the basic Marconi patents were invalid because prior art existed. After his death, many artifacts of his work were removed to Belgrade, where they remain in the museum named for him.

After coming to the US in 1884, Tesla made his home in New York City. There he became well known to society for the amazing demonstrations he conducted in his laboratory. Tesla had discovered the phenomenon called “skin effect” and used it to pass cascading sheets of corona around his body without injury to himself. Such demonstrations draw large crowds even today. Although a well-known inventor in his time, Tesla was a loner. Much of what we know of him today comes from examination of his papers.

The subject of this book is a collection of interviews conducted with Tesla by his legal counsel in 1916. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Co sought to trample all competition by patenting every device used in radio communication. Tesla was interviewed to document his prior work and accomplishments, and thus protect them from the rapacious Marconi Co. Although the interview took place over seven days, the editor has assembled the transcript into a contiguous document.

And what a document! Tesla well knew what fascinating work he was doing, and you can sense his enthusiasm as he describes apparatus capable of generating tens of thousands of volts and drawing sparks 135 feet long. Indeed, one of his goals was to broadcast energy through the air, rather than via wires. Although I shudder at the thought of megawatts of electricity being induced from here to there through the atmosphere, reduce the power and modulate the wave and you have radio.

Although his work with RF never got the recognition it deserved, royalties from his other inventions allowed Tesla to continue his work. He must have earned millions because he never did anything on a small scale. The illustrations in this book are period photos and drawings that were part of the deposition. Several photos show large rooms full of transformers and condensers; one can only wonder what they were used for. Another photo shows a 168-foot tower Tesla had built in Colorado for other experiments. That Tesla began working in the closing years of the Victorian era, when the Industrial Age was still seen as the savior of mankind, is evident from these photographs. Electricity and wireless could save time, money and lives. The highly mechanized carnage of WW I was still to come.

Several biographies of Tesla have been written. Your local library probably has at least one. If you’d like to know more about this amazingly creative genius, I suggest you start with one of the biographies. Once you have an overview of the man, this book will let Tesla tell you in his own words what fantastic deeds he accomplished.

Nikola Tesla on His Work With Alternating Currents

The surfacing of the transcript for this pre-hearing interview with Nikola Tesla by his legal counsel in 1916 resulted from an intensive search in archives of legal firms, some now defunct and others later acquired by contemporary interests. The interview was precipitated by numerous pending court cases as the fledgling radio industry entered a period of fierce competition. Tesla's counsel believed the interview necessary not only in order to prepare for the pressing of his own claims against the Marconi Company, but also to protect his own patent interests when called to give expert-witness testimony in the upcoming litigation foray pitting as adversaries a plethora of new communication companies and their captive radio pioneers.

A case prompting this interview, one of dozens to reach judicial review, was “Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America v. Atlantic Communication Company, et al.” Atlantic owned and operated the large radio station at Sayville, Long Island. The proceedings opened in 1915 with the calling of expert witnesses including Ferdinand Braun and Nikola Tesla. The specter of war had cast its shadow over Europe, and Count George von Arco, who had also been called, was detained because of services to the German Army in the use of asphyxiating gases and other deadly inventions perfected by him.

The text of this interview was, of course, never intended for publication. Counsel, concerned primarily with the protection of Tesla's patent interests, ask questions almost exclusively relating to the priority of his patents and their application. Tesla candidly discusses his contenders while presenting a thorough history of his work with alternating currents as applied to wireless transmission. In this document, he describes experimental methods, techniques, and apparatus used in his laboratories at New York City, Colorado Springs, and Long Island.

Most of the photographs accompanying this interview are in good condition, but those of schematic and mechanical drawings have suffered some decay with time. These may be the only form of the drawings extant and are reproduced with as much fidelity as possible. For better clarity, five illustrations are reprinted from the February and May, 1913 issues of the Electrical Experimenter magazine, Copyright Gernsback Publications, where they subsequently appeared. These are Figures 66, 67, 79, 81 and 82.

Although the interview spanned several days, it is presented in this work as though it was given at one time; all references to interruptions and resumptions have been removed. The text is printed in standard typewriter pica type, unjustified, in the style of hearing proceedings of that period. No alterations have been made in Tesla's remarks except for 'clean-up' additions, typically references to photographs and diagrams, and fill-in words necessitated by occasional rambling and incomplete sentence structure. These additions are provided in brackets [ ]. Helpful notes ate also cued to the text in brackets.

Date published:
July, 2002
10.9 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches
Page count:


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