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Nikola Tesla - his remote-control science technologies

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Nikola Tesla (1856–1943) was a Serbian-American inventor best known for his contributions to the design of the alternating current electricity supply system and remote-control technologies. He mostly worked on electromagnetic technologies and published little on theory, though his work basically assumed the theory of William Gilbert for magnetism, electricity and gravity of action-at-distance signal-response remote-control physical forces, which was also assumed though not openly acknowledged in Newton's physics.

Tesla was an exceptional inventer, engineer and experimental physicist. But though Tesla's time was young-Einstein time, Einstein never backed Tesla and indeed many may have quite wrongly taken Einstein's photoelectric and relativity physics as seemingly disproving Tesla's confirmed remote-electric physics. Yet in physics it tends to be the theoretical physicists who have the loudest voices, and they all tend to dismiss actual experimental physicists as 'just engineers' as they wrongly mostly dismissed Tesla at the time and still wrongly mostly do now.

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The largely dismissed science of Nikola Tesla

Tesla was the son of an Eastern Orthodox priest and emigrated to the USA in 1884, where he worked for a short time in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. Then he got private finance to set up his own laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and other devices. His alternating current induction motor and related patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money. Tesla conducted a significant range of experiments with different oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging. He also built and demonstrated one of the first wireless remote-control boats.

Throughout the 1890s, Tesla pursued his ideas for wireless remote-power lighting and worldwide wireless remote electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments. In 1893, he made pronouncements on the possibility of wireless communication with his devices. Tesla tried to put these ideas to practical use in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but ran out of funding before he could complete it. Tesla's hopes for some of his technology really far exceeded its more limited if still potentially valuable practical uses some of which did not become apparent till many years later. And after Wardenclyffe he experimented with a series of inventions in the 1910s and 1920s with varying degrees of success. Having spent most of his money and with much of his science dismissed, Tesla then lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills when he died in January 1943.

The early Nikola Tesla

Tesla later wrote that he first became interested in demonstrations of electricity by his high school physics professor, probably Martin Sekulić. Tesla noted that these demonstrations of this "mysterious phenomena" made him want "to know more of this wonderful force". But the young Tesla's being able to perform integral calculus in his head, prompted his teachers to think he was cheating. He then attended a technical university in Austria where he initially did well though clashing with a professor and ending by dropping out.

In 1881, Tesla moved to Hungary to work at the Budapest Telephone Exchange then under construction. But for a first few months he worked as a draftsman in the Central Telegraph Office instead until the Budapest Telephone Exchange became functional. Tesla was allocated its chief electrician position and made many improvements to the Exchange equipment. Then in 1882, Tesla got a job in Paris with the Continental Edison Company, and began working in what was then a new industry installing indoor incandescent electric lighting citywide. The company had a subdivision the Société Electrique Edison that Tesla worked at, in charge of installing the lighting system. There he gained a great deal of practical experience in electrical engineering and was soon designing and building improved versions of generating dynamos and motors. He was also sent to troubleshoot engineering problems at other Edison utilities being built around France and in Germany.

In 1884, Tesla got a move within Edison to the United States at the Edison Machine Works in New York with the task of building the large electric utility in that city. As in Paris, Tesla worked on troubleshooting installations and improving generators. One of the projects given to Tesla was to develop an arc lamp-based street lighting system. Arc lighting was the most popular type of street lighting but it required higher voltages than the then current Edison low-voltage incandescent system and was not put into production.

And within six months Tesla quit Edison and with the help of business investors patented an arc lighting system including an improved DC generator. But his business investors soon dropped Tesla and he struggled for a while. But in 1886, Tesla found new business investors and developed an induction motor that ran on alternating current which was a power system format that was rapidly expanding in Europe and the United States because of its advantages in long-distance, high-voltage electricity transmission. His motor used polyphase current, which generated a rotating magnetic field to turn the motor, a principle that Tesla claimed to have conceived in 1882. This innovative electric motor was patented in May 1888 and was a simple self-starting design that did not need a commutator, thus avoiding sparking and the high maintenance of constantly servicing and replacing mechanical brushes. The money Tesla made from licensing his AC patents to Westinghouse Electric made him independently wealthy and gave him funds to pursue his own interests for a time.

In 1889, Tesla traveled to the Exposition Universelle in Paris and learned of Heinrich Hertz's experiments on electromagnetic radiation, including radio waves. Tesla found this new discovery "refreshing" and decided to explore it more fully in repeating, and then expanding on, these experiments. Tesla tried modifying a Ruhmkorff coil to create his own Tesla coil with an air gap instead of insulating material between the primary and secondary windings and an iron core that could be moved to different positions in or out of the coil. In 1891, aged 35, Tesla became a naturalized citizen of the United States and patented his Tesla coil.

From then Tesla experimented with transmitting power both by magnetic inductive and electric capacitive coupling using high AC voltages generated with his Tesla coil. He attempted to develop a wireless electric lighting system based on near-field either inductive or capacitive coupling and did a series of public demonstrations where he lit Geissler tubes and even incandescent light bulbs from across a stage. He spent most of the decade working on variations of this new form of remote-lighting, and in 1893 Tesla said that he was sure a system like his could eventually conduct "intelligible signals or perhaps even power to any distance without the use of wires".

An observer of a Tesle remote-power demonstration at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago noted: "two hard-rubber plates covered with tin foil were about fifteen feet apart and were terminals of wires leading from transformers. When the current was turned on, electric lamps or tubes which had no wires connected to them, but could lay on a table between the suspended plates or could be held in the hand in almost any part of the room, were made luminous. These were the same experiments and apparatus shown by Tesla in London about two years previous, "where they produced so much wonder and astonishment". And in 1894, Tesla was experimenting on what he referred to as radiant energy of "invisible" kinds being X-rays.

Tesla did like many scientists have real funding problems and his experiment ideas often needed large funds. Science theory is generally cheaper than experiment and often draws easier funding from governments or universities of which Tesla could attract none. Yet science really rests on experiment and Tesla really believed in and practiced well confirmed and publicized physics experiments. That his science experiments maybe leaned more directly towards technologies may be in part because he felt that might better attract funding than 'undirected' experiment though that may maybe not always give the best science possible.

Tesla and Radio Remote-Control

In 1898, Tesla demonstrated a boat operated by a coherer-based radio remote-control — which he called a "telautomaton" — to the public during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden in New York. Some of the crowd that witnessed the demonstration made outrageous claims about the workings of the boat, such as magic, telepathy, and being piloted by a trained monkey hidden inside. There were others at the same time working on related issues like Marconi on radio, though on action-at-distance remote-communication rather than remote-control. But on remote-control the physics profession really failed to back Tesla, or indeed Marconi, though Tesla did try to sell this idea to the U.S. military for a radio-controlled torpedo, but they showed little interest and radio remote-control remained a novelty until World War I and afterward, when a number of countries began using it in military programs. But increasing work on action-at-distance radio etcetera did not prompt any physics re-evaluation of action-at-distance physics theory which somehow very wrongly remained ridiculed by 'theorists' and insubstantially studied. The mass of physics theorists ignoring physics experimentalists and ignoring a mass of physics experiments that did not suit them, as earlier physics theorists had really ignored magnets and apples falling on heads, but this was early Einstein thought-physics time. Tesla did try further demonstrating his "Teleautomatics" or radio remote-control to little effect then. However his remote-control science did still become very popular many years later with universal remote-control TV, remote-control toys and much other remote-control becoming common from around the 1960s especially. His remote-power was not really implemented till the 2010s in the form of remote-chargers for different electric devices. But popular interest in Tesla has also held up well despite his unwarranted dismissal by a large majority of professional physicists at the time and perhaps his showing how science-funders can severely restrict science progress.

Of course Tesla's remote-science substantial dismissal did follow on from a majority of physicists long failing to properly consider William Gilbert's 1600 action-at-distance remote physics which was basically backed by Newton. And indeed the majority of philosophers doing likewise, other than maybe George Berkeley with his perhaps rather fanciful immaterialist signal-response philosophy ?

Tesla from 1884 to 1943 and Einstein from 1933 to 1955 were both working in physics in America, but Einstein never backed Tesla or his physics. So how exactly did physics get away with ignoring Tesla's confirmed and publicized experiments - basically by lying and misinterpreting them as had also been done earlier with Newton's light experiments and with William Gilbert's experiments ?

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