• Manitoba Electrical Museum

July 10 - Nikola Tesla's Birthday

Picture of Nikola Tesla in The Manitoba Electrical Museum

Happy birthday Nikola Tesla!

On this day in 1865 Nikola Tesla was born to a Serbian family in what is now the country of Croatia. Rumour has it that he was born during a thunderstorm. Tesla is most famous for his leadership in the invention of alternating current (AC), a form in which electric power is delivered to the majority of businesses and residences today. AC is the standard for many of the appliances we use, such as refrigerators, dishwashers, and toasters.

Nikola Tesla’s work allowed the electrical distribution system to be significantly more efficient, without which we probably wouldn’t have the capacity to rely so much on our electronics and appliances today. He can easily be considered one of the most important people of the last millennium and was on the cover of Time Magazine on July 20, 1931, for his 75th birthday.

Tesla Coil in action from Wikimedia Commons.

Tesla was not only famous for contributing to the development of alternating current. Among his many inventions, he is credited with designing the Tesla coil, an electrical resonant transformer circuit that creates high-range voltages of “wireless” electricity. It is still widely used in radio technology as well as in electrotherapy and violet ray medical devices. Additionally, Tesla coils were used for CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) displays in vintage TVs and in welding devices.

It’s less commonly known that Tesla contributed to biomedical research with the development of radiology and high-frequency electrotherapy. He was one of the first to use X-rays for medical purposes, laying the foundations of radiology, and was the first to point out the harmful effects of X-ray radiation.

Tesla also designed the induction motor, which worked together with AC and allowed large amounts of electricity to be transmitted over great distances. He was one of the main engineers to design the Edward Dean Adams Power Plant, based on his 25 Hz AC power system. This Hydroelectric plant brought power to Buffalo, New York in November 15, 1896, and was the first large-scale, AC generating plant in the world.

Prior to designing AC, Tesla worked for the Continental Edison Company in France and immigrated to New York in 1884 to work at Edison Machine Works. Both of these companies belonged to Thomas Edison. In later years, Tesla was a key player in what was dubbed “the war of the currents” (AC versus DC), competing against Thomas Edison.

100 Dinars from Serbia from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1943 at the age of 86, Nikola Tesla died in his room at the Hotel New Yorker in New York City. Throughout his lifetime and after his death, his contributions to the field of science were celebrated in many ways. The unit of magnetic flux density is named in his honour. On multiple occasions, Nikola Tesla was on Yugoslav dinar when Yugoslavia was still a country. Currently, Tesla is on the Serbian 100 Dinara and according to a BBC news article, Croatia wants Tesla’s face on its euro coins despite Serbia's strong disapproval. And of course, we can’t forget that Elon Musk was inspired by Tesla in his development of Tesla electric cars.

Further Readings:


https://www.pbs.org/tesla/index.html https://www.energy.gov/articles/war-currents-ac-vs-dc-power https://www.essr.org/content-essr/uploads/2019/06/ESSR_Pub_Nikola-Tesla.pdf

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