Inventor Nikola Tesla was born on this day in history, July 10, 1856, in what is now Croatia.
Tesla’s father was a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church, notes Encyclopedia Britannica.
His mother, while uneducated, was “highly intelligent.”
The younger Tesla took a keen interest in science at a young age. Around the age of six, he started to conduct experiments, according to the website for the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in New York.
“His keen interest in nature and the way things work, combined with intelligence and curiosity, led to childhood inventions such as a motor powered by June bugs, air piston gun and frog-catching device,” said the website.
“In elementary school he built water turbines and dreamed of using Niagara Falls to generate power, a dream that he saw come to life in 1896,” the site added.
As a young adult, Tesla worked at the Budapest Telephone Exchange and at a job installing lights in Paris.
At both of these jobs, Tesla was able to invent improvements to existing technology.
In Budapest, Tesla “improved the equipment and developed an amplifier” — while in Paris, “Tesla made improvements to Edison’s dynamos and created an automatic regulator,” said the Tesla Science Center.
Tesla would move to the United States in 1884, at the age of 28.
He arrived in New York City “with four cents in his pocket,” said the website Tesla Universe.
That same year, Tesla met Thomas Edison.
Edison “essentially hired Tesla on the spot” and put him to work on the electrical system of the ocean liner “Oregon,” the first ship with electric lighting.
“The set of dynamos that powered the ship were badly damaged and Edison was amazed to learn that Tesla had repaired him,” said Tesla Universe.
Tesla and Edison’s relationship would deteriorate the following year, said Tesla Universe, reportedly after Edison reneged on an offer to pay Tesla $50,000 for improving Edison’s direct current generator.
Despite Tesla’s work to improve the generator, Edison refused to pay him, reportedly saying, “You don’t understand our American humor.”
Tesla invented the “Tesla coil” in 1891 — the same year he became a U.S. citizen.
Among Tesla’s notable achievements are patents for the alternating-current dynamo, transformer, and motor, said Encyclopedia Britannica.
Those patents were sold to George Westinghouse in May 1888.
“The transaction precipitated a titanic power struggle between Edison’s direct-current systems and the Tesla-Westinghouse alternating-current approach, which eventually won out,” said Encyclopedia Britannica.
In 1891 — the same year he became a U.S. citizen — Tesla invented the “Tesla coil,” “an air-core transformer with primary and secondary coils tuned to resonate,” according to California State University, Long Beach.
“Tesla conceived it to be a means to transmit electrical power without wires,” said the same source.
Eventually, Tesla would acquire nearly 300 patents throughout his life, said the Tesla Science Center.
He was particularly interested in the concept of a wireless energy transmission system.
In his later years, he reportedly became rather eccentric, and had a fixation on the pigeons that lived near his hotel.
Despite his lasting impact on electricity as we know it, Tesla himself died in debt and alone on Jan. 7, 1943, in the hotel room where he lived, said Tesla Universe.
In the modern era, the name Tesla is most commonly associated with a brand of electric cars.
Tesla, Inc. was founded as Tesla Motors in 2003 by entrepreneurs Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, notes Encyclopedia Britannica.
Elon Musk joined the company the following year — and became its largest shareholder.
The company was named in honor of Nikola Tesla, inventor of the AC motor that powers the company’s cars.
Tesla Motors produced its first car, the Roadster, in 2008 — and in October 2008, Musk was named CEO.
In 2010, the company went public.
Production of the Roadster ceased in 2012, said Encyclopedia Britannica, and the company changed its name to Tesla, Inc. in 2017.
Now, the company sells several models of cars–Model S, Model 3, Model Y, and Model X–along with solar panels and the “Powerwall.”
The Powerwall is a battery system that can power a home in case of a power outage, says its website.
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