After his demonstration of wireless communication (radio) in 1894 and after being the victor in the "War of Currents", he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. During this period, in the United States, Tesla's fame rivaled that of any other inventor or scientist in history or popular culture, but due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist. Never having put much focus on his finances, Tesla died impoverished at the age of 86.
The SI unit measuring magnetic flux density or magnetic induction (commonly known as the magnetic field B), the tesla, was named in his honour (at the Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures, Paris, 1960), as well as the Tesla effect of wireless energy transfer to wirelessly power electronic devices which Tesla demonstrated on a low scale (lightbulbs) as early as 1893 and aspired to use for the intercontinental transmission of industrial energy levels in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project.
Aside from his work on electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla has contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States credited him as being the inventor of the radio. Many of his achievements have been used, with some controversy, to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories, and early New Age occultism.
Tesla was born to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan near Gospić, in the Lika region of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. According to legend, he was born precisely at midnight during an electrical storm.
His baptismal certificate reports that he was born on 28 June (N.S. 10 July), 1856, and christened by the Serbian Orthodox priest Toma Oklobdžija. His father was Rev. Milutin Tesla, a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church Metropolitanate of Sremski Karlovci. Milutin was born on 19 February 1819 in the village of Raduc, county Medak in Lika, Austrian Empire, as son of Nikola Tesla (b. 1789 in the military frontier, settled after his service in the Napoleonic Wars in Gospic in 1815) and Ana Kalinić, from the famous frontier Kalinic family. Tesla's family asserted its last name as such in Lika. His paternal origin is thought to be of the Draganić family from the Tara valley area below the geographical entity known as Old Vlach, from one of the local Serb clans; however genealogical research shows that Nikola is from the Herzegovinian noble Komnenović (modern-day Old Herzegovina in Montenegro), from its Orlović subgroup that traces its origin from medieval nobleman Pavle Orlovic that bore Prince Lazar's banner at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. His mother was Đuka Mandić, herself a daughter of a Serbian Orthodox Church priest. She came from a family domiciled in Lika and Banija, but with deeper origins to Kosovo. She was talented in making home craft tools. She memorized many Serbian epic poems, but never learned to read. His godfather, Jovan Drenovac, was a captain in the army protecting the Military Frontier.
Nikola was the fourth of five children, having one older brother (Dane, who was killed in a horse-riding accident when Nikola was five) and three sisters (Milka, Angelina and Marica). His family moved to Gospić in 1862. Tesla went to school in Karlovac. He finished a four year term in the span of three years.
Tesla then studied electrical engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz (1875). While there, he studied the uses of alternating current. Some sources say he received Baccalaureate degrees from the university at Graz. However, the university says that he did not receive a degree and did not continue beyond the first semester of his third year, during which he stopped attending lectures. In December 1878 he left Graz and broke all relations with his family. His friends thought that he had drowned in Mura. He went to Maribor, Slovenia, where he was first employed as an assistant engineer for a year. He suffered a nervous breakdown during this time. Tesla was later persuaded by his father to attend the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague, which he attended for the summer term of 1880. Here he was influenced by Ernst Mach. However after his father died he left the university, having completed only one term.
Tesla engaged in reading many works, memorizing complete books, supposedly having a photographic memory. Tesla related in his autobiography that he experienced detailed moments of inspiration. During his early life, Tesla was stricken with illness time and time again. He suffered a peculiar affliction in which blinding flashes of light would appear before his eyes, often accompanied by hallucinations. Much of the time the visions were linked to a word or idea he might have come across; just by hearing the name of an item, he would involuntarily envision it in realistic detail. Modern-day synesthetes report similar symptoms. Tesla would visualise an invention in his brain in precise form before moving to the construction stage; a technique sometimes known as picture thinking. Tesla also often had flashbacks to events that had happened previously in his life; this began to happen during childhood.
Soon thereafter, Tesla hastened from Paris to his mother's side as she lay dying, arriving hours before her death in April, 1882. Her last words to him were: "You've arrived, Nidžo, my pride." After her death, Tesla fell ill. He spent two to three weeks recuperating in Gospić and the village of Tomingaj near Gračac, his mother's birthplace.
Tesla claims he was offered US$50,000 (~ US$1.1 million in 2007, adjusted for inflation) if he redesigned Edison's inefficient motor and generators, an improvement in both service and economy. Tesla said he worked night and day to redesign them and gave the Edison company several profitable new patents in the process. During 1885, when Tesla inquired about the payment on the work, Edison replied to him, "Tesla, you don't understand our American humor" and reneged on his promise. With Tesla's salary of US$18 per week, the bonus would have amounted to over 53 years pay. The amount was equal to the initial capital of the company. Tesla resigned when he was refused a raise to US$25 per week.
Tesla eventually found himself digging ditches for a short period of time – coincidentally for the Edison company. Edison had also never wanted to hear about Tesla's AC polyphase designs, believing that DC electricity was the future. Tesla focused intently on his AC polyphase system, even while digging ditches.
|Electromechanical devices and principles developed by Nikola Tesla:|
In April 1887, Tesla began investigating what would later be called X-rays using his own single node vacuum tubes (similar to his patent ). This device differed from other early X-ray tubes in that they had no target electrode. The modern term for the phenomenon produced by this device is bremsstrahlung (or braking radiation). We now know that this device operated by emitting electrons from the single electrode through a combination of field emission and thermionic emission. Once liberated, electrons are strongly repelled by the high electric field near the electrode during negative voltage peaks from the oscillating HV output of the Tesla Coil, generating X-rays as they collide with the glass envelope. He also used Geissler tubes. By 1892, Tesla became aware of what Wilhelm Röntgen later identified as effects of X-rays.
In the early research, Tesla devised several experimental setups to produce X-rays. Tesla held that, with his circuits, the "instrument will [... enable one to] generate Roentgen rays of much greater power than obtainable with ordinary apparatus". He also commented on the hazards of working with his circuit and single node X-ray producing devices. Of his many notes in the early investigation of this phenomenon, he attributed the skin damage to various causes. One of the options for the cause, which is not in conformity with conventional X-ray production, was that the ozone generated rather than the radiation was responsible. He believed early on that damage to the skin was not due to the Roentgen rays, but the ozone generated in contact with the skin, and to a lesser extent, Nitrous acid. Tesla held that these were in fact longitudinal waves, such as those produced in waves in plasma. In a plasma or a confined space, there can exist waves which are either longitudinal or transverse, or a mixture of both. There are known examples of this and these plasma waves can occur in the situation of force-free magnetic fields. His hypotheses and experiments were confirmed by others.
Tesla continued research in the field and, later, observed an assistant severely "burnt" by X-rays in his lab. He performed several experiments prior to Roentgen's discovery (including photographing the bones of his hand; later, he sent these images to Roentgen) but didn't make his findings widely known; much of his research was lost in the 5th Avenue lab fire of March 1895.
A "world system" for "the transmission of electrical energy without wires" that depends upon the electrical conductivity was proposed in which transmission in various natural media with current that passes between the two point are used to power devices. In a practical wireless energy transmission system using this principle, a high-power ultraviolet beam might be used to form a vertical ionized channel in the air directly above the transmitter-receiver stations. The same concept is used in virtual lightning rods, the electrolaser electroshock weapon, and has been proposed for disabling vehicles.
Tesla demonstrated "the transmission of electrical energy without wires" that depends upon electrical conductivity as early as 1891. The Tesla effect (named in honor of Tesla) is the archaic term for an application of this type of electrical conduction (that is, the movement of energy through space and matter; not just the production of voltage across a conductor).
On 30 July 1891, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States at the age of 35. Tesla established his 35 South Fifth Avenue laboratory in New York during this same year. Later, Tesla would establish his Houston Street laboratory in New York at 46 E. Houston Street. There, at one point while conducting mechanical resonance experiments with electro-mechanical oscillators he generated a resonance of several surrounding buildings but, due to the frequencies involved, not his own building, causing complaints to the police. As the speed grew he hit the resonant frequency of his own building and belatedly realizing the danger he was forced to apply a sledge hammer to terminate the experiment, just as the astonished police arrived. He also lit vacuum tubes wirelessly at both of the New York locations, providing evidence for the potential of wireless power transmission. Some of Tesla's closest friends were artists. He befriended Century Magazine editor Robert Underwood Johnson, who adapted several Serbian poems of Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (which Tesla translated). Also during this time, Tesla was influenced by the Vedic philosophy teachings of the Swami Vivekananda.
When Tesla was 36 years old, the first patents concerning the polyphase power system were granted. He continued research of the system and rotating magnetic field principles. Tesla served, from 1892 to 1894, as the vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the forerunner (along with the Institute of Radio Engineers) of the modern-day IEEE. From 1893 to 1895, he investigated high frequency alternating currents. He generated AC of one million volts using a conical Tesla coil and investigated the skin effect in conductors, designed tuned circuits, invented a machine for inducing sleep, cordless gas discharge lamps, and transmitted electromagnetic energy without wires, building the first radio transmitter. In St. Louis, Missouri, Tesla made a demonstration related to radio communication in 1893. Addressing the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the National Electric Light Association, he described and demonstrated in detail its principles. Tesla's demonstrations were written about widely through various media outlets. Tesla also investigated harvesting energy that is present throughout space. He believed that it was just merely a question of time when men will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature, stating:
Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point of the universe.|30px|30px|"Experiments With Alternate Currents Of High Potential And High Frequency" (February 1892)
At the 1893 World's Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, an international exposition was held which for the first time devoted a building to electrical exhibits. It was a historic event as Tesla and George Westinghouse introduced visitors to AC power by using it to illuminate the Exposition. On display were Tesla's fluorescent lamps and single node bulbs. An observer noted:
Tesla also explained the principles of the rotating magnetic field and induction motor by demonstrating how to make an egg made of copper stand on end in his demonstration of the device he constructed known as the "Egg of Columbus".
Also in the late 1880s, Tesla and Edison became adversaries in part due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over the more efficient alternating current advocated by Tesla and Westinghouse. Until Tesla invented the induction motor, AC's advantages for long distance high voltage transmission were counterbalanced by the inability to operate motors on AC. As a result of the "War of Currents," Edison and Westinghouse went nearly bankrupt, so in 1897, Tesla released Westinghouse from contract, providing Westinghouse a break from Tesla's patent royalties. Also in 1897, Tesla researched radiation which led to setting up the basic formulation of cosmic rays.
When Tesla was forty-one years old, he filed the first basic radio patent (). A year later, he demonstrated a radio-controlled boat to the US military, believing that the military would want things such as radio-controlled torpedoes. Tesla had developed the "Art of Telautomatics", a form of robotics, as well as the technology of remote control. In 1898, a radio-controlled boat was demonstrated to the public during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden. These devices had an innovative coherer and a series of logic gates. Tesla called his boat a "teleautomaton" and said of it, "You see there the first of a race of robots, mechanical men which will do the laborious work of the human race. Radio remote control remained a novelty until the 1960s. In the same year, Tesla devised an "electric igniter" or spark plug for Internal combustion gasoline engines. He gained , "Electrical Igniter for Gas Engines", on this mechanical ignition system. Tesla lived in the former Gerlach Hotel, renamed The Radio Wave building, at 49 W 27th St. (between Broadway and Sixth Avenue), Lower Manhattan, before the end of the century where he conducted the radio wave experiments. A commemorative plaque was placed on the building in 1977 to honor his work.
In 1899, Tesla decided to move and began research in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he would have room for his high-voltage, high-frequency experiments. Upon his arrival he told reporters that he was conducting wireless telegraphy experiments transmitting signals from Pikes Peak to Paris. Tesla's diary contains explanations of his experiments concerning the ionosphere and the ground's telluric currents via transverse waves and longitudinal waves. At his lab, Tesla proved that the earth was a conductor, and he produced artificial lightning (with discharges consisting of millions of volts, and up to 135 feet long). Tesla also investigated atmospheric electricity, observing lightning signals via his receivers. Reproductions of Tesla's receivers and coherer circuits show an unpredicted level of complexity (e.g., distributed high-Q helical resonators, radio frequency feedback, crude heterodyne effects, and regeneration techniques). Tesla stated that he observed stationary waves during this time.
Tesla researched ways to transmit power and energy wirelessly over long distances (via transverse waves, to a lesser extent, and, more readily, longitudinal waves). He transmitted extremely low frequencies through the ground as well as between the earth's surface and the Kennelly-Heaviside layer. He received patents on wireless transceivers that developed standing waves by this method. In his experiments, he made mathematical calculations and computations based on his experiments and discovered that the resonant frequency of the Earth was approximately 8 Hertz (Hz). In the 1950s, researchers confirmed that the resonant frequency of the Earth's ionospheric cavity was in this range (later named the Schumann resonance).
In Colorado, Tesla carried out various long distance power transmission experiments. Tesla effect is the application of a type of electrical conduction (that is, the movement of energy through space and matter; not just the production of voltage across a conductor). Through longitudinal waves, Tesla transferred energy to receiving devices. He sent electrostatic forces through natural media across a conductor situated in the changing magnetic flux and transferred power to a conducting receiving device (such as Tesla's wireless bulbs).
In the Colorado Springs lab, Tesla observed unusual signals that he later thought may have been evidence of extraterrestrial radio communications coming from Venus or Mars. He noticed repetitive signals from his receiver which were substantially different from the signals he had noted from storms and earth noise. Specifically, he later recalled that the signals appeared in groups of one, two, three, and four clicks together. Tesla had mentioned before this event and many times after that he thought his inventions could be used to talk with other planets. There have even been claims that he invented a "Teslascope" for just such a purpose. It is debatable what type of signals Tesla received or whether he picked up anything at all. Research has suggested that Tesla may have had a misunderstanding of the new technology he was working with, or that the signals Tesla observed may have simply been an observation of a non-terrestrial natural radio source such as the Jovian plasma torus signals.
Tesla left Colorado Springs on 7 January 1900. The lab was torn down and its contents sold to pay debts. The Colorado experiments prepared Tesla for his next project, the establishment of a wireless power transmission facility that would be known as Wardenclyffe. Tesla was granted for the means of increasing the intensity of electrical oscillations. The United States Patent Office classification system currently assigns this patent to the primary Class 178/43 ("telegraphy/space induction"), although the other applicable classes include 505/825 ("low temperature superconductivity-related apparatus").
Since the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Marconi for radio in 1909, Thomas Edison and Tesla were mentioned as potential laureates to share the Nobel Prize of 1915 in a press dispatch, leading to one of several Nobel Prize controversies. Some sources have claimed that due to their animosity toward each other neither was given the award, despite their enormous scientific contributions, and that each sought to minimize the other one's achievements and right to win the award, that both refused to ever accept the award if the other received it first, and that both rejected any possibility of sharing it.
In the following events after the rumors, neither Tesla nor Edison won the prize (although Edison did receive one of 38 possible bids in 1915, and Tesla did receive one bid out of 38 in 1937). Earlier, Tesla alone was rumored to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize of 1912. The rumored nomination was primarily for his experiments with tuned circuits using high-voltage high-frequency resonant transformers.
In 1915, Tesla filed a lawsuit against Marconi attempting, unsuccessfully, to obtain a court injunction against Marconi's claims. After Wardenclyffe, Tesla built the Telefunken Wireless Station in Sayville, Long Island. Some of what he wanted to achieve at Wardenclyffe was accomplished with the Telefunken Wireless. In 1917, the facility was seized and torn down by the Marines, because it was suspected that it could be used by German spies.
Before World War I, Tesla looked overseas for investors to fund his research. When the war started, Tesla lost the funding he was receiving from his patents in European countries. After the war ended, Tesla made predictions regarding the relevant issues of the post-World War I environment, in a printed article (20 December 1914). Tesla believed that the League of Nations was not a remedy for the times and issues. Tesla started to exhibit pronounced symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in the years following. He became obsessed with the number three; he often felt compelled to walk around a block three times before entering a building, demanded a stack of three folded cloth napkins beside his plate at every meal, etc. The nature of OCD was little understood at the time and no treatments were available, so his symptoms were considered by some to be evidence of partial insanity, and this undoubtedly hurt what was left of his reputation.
At this time, he was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, renting in an arrangement for deferred payments. Eventually, the Wardenclyffe deed was turned over to George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria, to pay a US$20,000 debt. In 1917, around the time that the Wardenclyffe Tower was demolished by Boldt to make the land a more viable real estate asset, Tesla received AIEE's highest honor, the Edison Medal.
Tesla, in August 1917, first established principles regarding frequency and power level for the first primitive RADAR units. In 1934, Émile Girardeau, working with the first French RADAR systems, stated he was building RADAR systems "conceived according to the principles stated by Tesla". By the 1920s, Tesla was reportedly negotiating with the United Kingdom government about a ray system. Tesla had also stated that efforts had been made to steal the so called "death ray". It is suggested that the removal of the Chamberlain government ended negotiations.
On Tesla's seventy-fifth birthday in 1931, Time magazine put him on its cover. The cover caption noted his contribution to electrical power generation. Tesla received his last patent in 1928 for an apparatus for aerial transportation which was the first instance of VTOL aircraft. By the end of 1931, Tesla released "On Future Motive Power" which covered an ocean thermal energy conversion system. In 1934, Tesla wrote to consul Janković of his homeland. The letter contained a message of gratitude to Mihajlo Pupin who had initiated a donation scheme by which American companies could support Tesla. Tesla refused the assistance, choosing instead to live on a modest pension received from Yugoslavia, and to continue his research.
In 1936, Tesla wrote in a telegram to Vladko Maček: "I'm equally proud of my Serbian origin and my Croatian homeland. Long live all Yugoslavs.
The bulk of the theory was developed between 1892 and 1894, during the period that he was conducting experiments with high frequency and high potential electromagnetism and patenting devices for their utilization. It was completed, according to Tesla, by the end of the 1930s. Tesla's theory explained gravity using electrodynamics consisting of transverse waves (to a lesser extent) and longitudinal waves (for the majority). Reminiscent of Mach's principle, Tesla stated in 1925 that:
There is no thing endowed with life—from man, who is enslaving the elements, to the nimblest creature—in all this world that does not sway in its turn. Whenever action is born from force, though it be infinitesimal, the cosmic balance is upset and the universal motion results.
Tesla was critical of Einstein's relativity work, calling it:
...[a] magnificent mathematical garb which fascinates, dazzles and makes people blind to the underlying errors. The theory is like a beggar clothed in purple whom ignorant people take for a king ... its exponents are brilliant men but they are metaphysicists rather than scientists ...
Tesla also argued:
I hold that space cannot be curved, for the simple reason that it can have no properties. It might as well be said that God has properties. He has not, but only attributes and these are of our own making. Of properties we can only speak when dealing with matter filling the space. To say that in the presence of large bodies space becomes curved is equivalent to stating that something can act upon nothing. I, for one, refuse to subscribe to such a view.
...the relativity theory, by the way, is much older than its present proponents. It was advanced over 200 years ago by my illustrious countryman Ruđer Bošković, the great philosopher, who, not withstanding other and multifold obligations, wrote a thousand volumes of excellent literature on a vast variety of subjects. Bošković dealt with relativity, including the so-called time-space continuum ...'.
Tesla worked on plans for a directed-energy weapon from the early 1900s until his death. In 1937, Tesla composed a treatise entitled "The Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media" concerning charged particle beams. Tesla published the document in an attempt to expound on the technical description of a "superweapon that would put an end to all war". This treatise of the particle beam is currently in the Nikola Tesla Museum archive in Belgrade. It described an open ended vacuum tube with a gas jet seal that allowed particles to exit, a method of charging particles to millions of volts, and a method of creating and directing nondispersive particle streams (through electrostatic repulsion).
His records indicate that it was based on a narrow stream of atomic clusters of liquid mercury or tungsten accelerated via high voltage (by means akin to his magnifying transformer). Tesla gave the following description concerning the particle gun's operation:
[The nozzle would] send concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 200 miles from a defending nation's border and will cause armies to drop dead in their tracks.The weapon could be used against ground based infantry or for antiaircraft purposes. Tesla tried to interest the US War Department in the device. He also offered this invention to European countries. None of the governments purchased a contract to build the device. He was unable to act on his plans.
Another of Tesla's theorized inventions is commonly referred to as Tesla's Flying Machine, which appears to resemble an ion-propelled aircraft. Tesla claimed that one of his life goals was to create a flying machine that would run without the use of an airplane engine, wings, ailerons, propellers, or an onboard fuel source. Initially, Tesla pondered about the idea of a flying craft that would fly using an electric motor powered by grounded base stations. As time progressed, Tesla suggested that perhaps such an aircraft could be run entirely electro-mechanically. The theorized appearance would typically take the form of a cigar or saucer.
Tesla may have suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder, and had many unusual quirks and phobias. He did things in threes, and was adamant about staying in a hotel room with a number divisible by three. Tesla was also noted to be physically revolted by jewelry, notably pearl earrings. He was fastidious about cleanliness and hygiene, and was by all accounts mysophobic. He greatly disliked touching human hair other than his own as well as round objects.
Tesla was obsessed with pigeons, ordering special seeds for the pigeons he fed in Central Park and even bringing some into his hotel room with him. Tesla was an animal-lover, often reflecting contentedly about a childhood cat, "The Magnificent Macak". Tesla never married. He was celibate and claimed that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Nonetheless there have been numerous accounts of women vying for Tesla's affection, even some madly in love with him. Tesla, though polite, behaved rather ambivalently to these women in the romantic sense.
Tesla was prone to alienating himself and was generally soft-spoken. However, when he did engage in a social life, many people spoke very positively and admiringly of him. Robert Underwood Johnson described him as attaining a "distinguished sweetness, sincerity, modesty, refinement, generosity, and force". His loyal secretary, Dorothy Skerrit, wrote: "his genial smile and nobility of bearing always denoted the gentlemanly characteristics that were so ingrained in his soul". Tesla's friend Hawthorne wrote that "seldom did one meet a scientist or engineer who was also a poet, a philosopher, an appreciator of fine music, a linguist, and a connoisseur of food and drink".
Nevertheless, Tesla displayed the occasional cruel streak; he openly expressed his disgust for overweight people, once firing a secretary because of her weight. He was quick to criticize others' clothing as well, demanding a subordinate to go home and change her dress on several occasions.
Tesla was widely known for his great showmanship, presenting his innovations and demonstrations to the public as an artform, almost like a magician. This seems to conflict with his observed reclusiveness; Tesla was a complicated figure. He refused to hold conventions without his Tesla coil blasting electricity throughout the room, despite the audience often being terrified, though he assured them everything was perfectly safe.
In middle age, Tesla became very close friends with Mark Twain. They spent a lot of time together in his lab and elsewhere.
Tesla remained bitter in the aftermath of his incident with Edison. The day after Edison died the New York Times contained extensive coverage of Edison's life, with the only negative opinion coming from Tesla, who was quoted as saying: Shortly before he died, Edison said that his biggest mistake had been in trying to develop directed current, rather than the vastly superior alternating current system that Tesla had put within his grasp.
Tesla was good friends with Robert Underwood Johnson. He had amicable relations with Francis Marion Crawford, Stanford White, Fritz Lowenstein, George Scherff, and Kenneth Swezey. Tesla made his first million at the age of forty, but gave away nearly all his royalties on future innovations. Tesla was rather financially inept, but he was almost entirely unconcerned with material wealth. He ripped up a Westinghouse contract that would have made him the world's first billionaire, in part because of the implications it would have on his future vision of free power, and in part because it would run Westinghouse out of business, and Tesla had no desire to deal with the creditors.
Tesla lived the last ten years of his life in a two-room suite on the 33rd floor of the Hotel New Yorker, room 3327. There, near the end of his life, Tesla showed signs of encroaching mental illness, claiming to be visited by a specific white pigeon daily. Several biographers note that Tesla viewed the death of the pigeon as a "final blow" to himself and his work.
Tesla believed that war could not be avoided until the cause for its recurrence was removed, but was opposed to wars in general. He sought to reduce distance, such as in communication for better understanding, transportation, and transmission of energy, as a means to ensure friendly international relations.
Like many of his era, Tesla, a life-long bachelor, became a proponent of a self-imposed selective breeding version of eugenics. In a 1937 interview, he stated: In 1926, Tesla commented on the ills of the social subservience of women and the struggle of women toward gender equality, indicated that humanity's future would be run by "Queen Bees". He believed that women would become the dominant sex in the future.
In his later years Tesla became a vegetarian. In an article for Century Illustrated Magazine he wrote: "It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit." Tesla argued that it is wrong to eat uneconomic meat when large numbers of people are starving; he also believed that plant food was "superior to it [meat] in regard to both mechanical and mental performance". He also argued that animal slaughter was "wanton and cruel".
In his final years he suffered from extreme sensitivity to light, sound and other influences.
Tesla died of heart failure alone in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel, some time between the evening of 5 January and the morning of 8 January 1943, at the age of 86. Despite having sold his AC electricity patents, Tesla was destitute and died with significant debts. Later that year the US Supreme Court upheld Tesla's patent number, in effect recognizing him as the inventor of radio.
Immediately after Tesla's death became known, the government's Alien Property Custodian office took possession of his papers and property, despite his US citizenship. His safe at the hotel was also opened. At the time of his death, Tesla had been continuing his work on the teleforce weapon, or death ray, that he had unsuccessfully marketed to the US War Department. It appears that his proposed death ray was related to his research into ball lightning and plasma, and was imagined as a particle beam weapon. The US government did not find a prototype of the device in the safe. After the FBI was contacted by the War Department, his papers were declared to be top secret. The so-called "peace ray" constitutes a part of some conspiracy theories as a means of destruction. The personal effects were seized on the advice of presidential advisers; J. Edgar Hoover declared the case most secret, because of the nature of Tesla's inventions and patents. One document states that "[he] is reported to have some 80 trunks in different places containing transcripts and plans having to do with his experiments [...]". Charlotte Muzar reported that there were several "missing" papers and property.
Tesla's family and the Yugoslav embassy struggled with the American authorities to gain these items after his death due to the potential significance of some of his research. Eventually, his nephew, Sava Kosanoviċ, won possession of some of his personal effects, which are now housed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia. Tesla's funeral took place on 12 January 1943, at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan, New York City. His body was cremated and his ashes taken to Belgrade, Yugoslavia in 1957. The urn was placed in the Nikola Tesla Museum, where it resides to this day.
Tesla had been feeding pigeons for years. Among them, there was a very beautiful female white pigeon with light gray tips on its wings that seemed to follow him everywhere. A great deal of rapport developed between them. As Tesla confessed, he loved that pigeon: "Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me." If the pigeon became ill, he would nurse her back to health and as long as she needed him and he could have her, nothing else mattered and there was purpose in his life.
One night as he was lying in bed, she flew in through the window and he knew right away that she had something important to tell him: she was dying. "And then, as I got her message, there came a light from her eyes - powerful beams of light". "...Yes," "...it was a real light, a powerful, dazzling, blinding light, a light more intense than I had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in my laboratory."
Tesla admitted to O'Neill that when that particular pigeon died, something went out of his life. Before that time, he could complete the most ambitious programs he could ever dream of but after the pigeon flew into the beyond, he knew his life's work was done for good.
The SI unit tesla (T) for measuring magnetic flux density or magnetic induction (commonly known as the magnetic field B) was named in Tesla’s honour at the Conférence Générale des Poids et Mesures, Paris in 1960. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) of which Tesla had been vice president also created an award in recognition of Tesla. Called the IEEE Nikola Tesla Award, it is given to individuals or a team that has made outstanding contributions to the generation or utilization of electric power, and is considered the most prestigious award in the area of electric power. The Tesla crater on the far side of the Moon and the minor planet 2244 Tesla are also named after him.
Tesla was featured on several Yugoslav- and Serbian dinar notes and coinage. The largest power plant complex in Serbia, the TPP Nikola Tesla is named in his honour. On 10 July 2006 the biggest airport in Serbia (Belgrade) was renamed Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport in honor of Tesla’s 150th birthday.
Tesla (company) was a large, state-owned electrotechnical conglomerate in the former Czechoslovakia. It was renamed in Tesla's honour from previous Electra on 7 March 1946. Some of its subsidiaries still trade in Czech Republic.
An electric car company, Tesla Motors, named their company in tribute to Tesla. Their website states: The namesake of our Tesla Roadster is the genius Nikola Tesla [...] We‘re confident that if he were alive today, Nikola Tesla would look over our car and nod his head with both understanding and approval.
The Croatian subsidiary of Ericsson is also named 'Ericsson Nikola Tesla d.d'. ('Nikola Tesla' was a phone hardware company in Zagreb before Ericsson bought it in the 1990s) in honour of Tesla's pioneering work in wireless communication.
The year 2006 was celebrated by UNESCO as the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, scientist ), as well as being proclaimed by the governments of Croatia and Serbia to be the Year of Tesla. On this anniversary, 10 July 2006, the renovated village of Smiljan (which had been demolished during the wars of the 1990s) was opened to the public along with Tesla's house (as a memorial museum) and a new multimedia center dedicated to the life and work of Tesla. The parochial church of St. Peter and Paul, where Tesla's father had held services, was renovated as well. The museum and multimedia center are filled with replicas of Tesla's work. The museum has collected almost all of the papers ever published by, and about, Tesla; most of these provided by Ljubo Vujovic from the Tesla Memorial Society. in New York. Alongside Tesla's house, a monument created by sculptor Mile Blazevic has been erected. In the nearby city of Gospić, on the same date as the reopening of the renovated village and museums, a higher education school named Nikola Tesla was opened, and a replica of the statue of Tesla made by Frano Krsinic (the original is in Belgrade) was presented.
In the years after, many of his innovations, theories and claims have been used, at times unsuitably and controversially, to support various fringe theories that are regarded as unscientific. Most of Tesla's own work conformed with the principles and methods accepted by science, but his extravagant personality and sometimes unrealistic claims, combined with his unquestionable genius, have made him a popular figure among fringe theorists and believers in conspiracies about "hidden knowledge". Some conspiracy theorists even in his time believed that he was actually an angelic being from Venus sent to Earth to reveal scientific knowledge to humanity. This belief is maintained in present times by followers of Nuwaubianism.