Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla Articles

Newspaper and magazine articles related to Nikola Tesla

Tesla, Father of Radio

June, 1987
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I have followed with interest Radio-Electronics' "Antique Radios" column, but I was disappointed with the treatment of Tesla in the installment that appeared in the March issue. Far from being among the inventors "who worked with electricity, but were not involved with wireless," Yugoslav-born Nikola Tesla, as early as his lecture at the Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia, in March, 1893, suggested a system consisting of "an electrical oscillator, or source of alternating current," one of the terminals of which would connect to Earth, the other to "an insulated body of large surface." That, he thought, might be used to transmit "intelligence, or perhaps even power, to any distance....I am firmly convinced that this can be done and hope that we shall live to see it done."

Tesla continued, taking out several patents, and in 1899 gave a demonstration of radio remote control in Madison Square Garden, New York City. Model boats in a large tank were started, steered, and stopped by radio waves from a short distance.

If that is so, why then isn't Tesla hailed as the inventor of radio? Hugo Gernsback had the answer. In his article "Nikola Tesla, the Father of Wireless," written on the occasion of Tesla's death, (January 7, 1943) he says:

"By 1900 Tesla had patented a wireless system, much of which was used later to make commercial wireless possible.... These very means were used much later by Marconi and others who appropriated Tesla's ideas.

"Tesla in due time brought suit against Marconi, but could not establish his patent rights in court and blamed his failure on the paucity of technical knowledge of the times, of the lawyers and the court. When, many years later, his language had become clear, even to a mediocre technician, his patents had run out. Nevertheless, there would have been no wireless transmission without Tesla's fundamental work."

Gernsback did not know it, but at that very time, proceedings that would rectify the injustice were under way. On June 21, 1943, the Supreme Court disallowed Marconi's fundamental patent, on the basis of "earlier work by Tesla" and others. It's a true pity that Tesla did not live six more months!

Not only did Tesla outline the concepts - he was active in developing the instruments used in practical work. He devised the rotary spark gap and was the inventor of the oscillating arc, later adapted and used by de Forest for phone and in much marine telegraphy. He pioneered the high-frequency generator, used by Fessenden in the first telephone broadcast, and which became the standard high-power transmitter until it was superseded by tubes in the 1920's.

(former Editor, Radio-Electronics)


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