Electricity, radio, x-rays, radar, wireless communications, these things undeniably plays a very significant role in our cities. It helped shaped the cities of today and continues to make them tick.
These technologies and inventions also have one thing in common. These are invented by the man named Nikola Tesla.
Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in modern-day Croatia. He eventually moved to USA where he pursued his scientific discoveries and inventions.
For some of us, the name Tesla may only be synonymous with an electric car or some us may also not know the person at all. But Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest scientists of our time that is somewhat under-appreciated. Tesla ushered us into second industrial age; the electric age.
So let me count the ways in which Tesla’s inventions shaped our current urban life.
The Alternating Current (AC)
Simply put, without AC there wouldn’t be electricity to power our cities. This invention ignited what was to be known as The War Of The Currents with Thomas Edison’s DC system.
Edison’s DC system required a power plant for every square mile, costly distribution wires and couldn’t transmit electricity over long distances. Tesla’s AC system, on the other hand, enables power to be sent over long distances using smaller wires but with high voltage. Despite the long battle over patents, rights, usage, and what-not, it was Tesla’s AC system that powered the world.
We all think that it was Guglielmo Marconi that pioneered radio transmission, wrong. Marconi’s work was based on Tesla’s research. After Marconi made his famous transatlantic radio transmission, Tesla only remarked that it was made possible using 17 of his patents.
Years before wireless communication actually take into place, Tesla has been dabbling with that. Ever heard of the Wardenclyffe Tower? It was designed and built by Tesla to facilitate wireless communications. Sadly, financial problems, investment, and support caused the project to be abandoned. Imagine what the world would be like if this project reached its full potential.
Tesla together with George Westinghouse designed and built the first hydroelectric plant in Niagara Falls in 1895. He believed that the future of energy is in renewable sources. A real visionary considering that during his time it was oil and coal that powered the world.
Those are just some of the inventions and research made by Tesla not to mention the Radar, X-Rays, Neon Lights, Remote Control, etc. Imagine what our modern city life would be without those.
Tesla is a real genius. He spoke eight languages (Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin), has a photographic memory, can memorise a complete book and recite the contents, and can visualise entire diagrams and details of his inventions in his mind. Tesla died broke and alone in a New York hotel. He was one of those under-appreciated, revolutionary thinkers of our time. Only in the last few years did we see a resurgence of interest in his life and works.
Tesla may not be the popular guy but his inventions and work certainly make the cities of today a better place to live in.