For this math/physics nerd, Nikola Tesla is a superhuman superhero. He was an inventor, scientist, engineer, and all-around badass. Tesla had a the skills of an electricity prodigy, whatever that is. I’m just making up that term. But in my opinion, it’s the best term to describe him. And how can you argue? He invented the radio. I know, I know. You think Marconi invented the radio. There’s a debate, and I’m on the side of Tesla. Nikola Tesla also invented the AC motor. It ushered in a technological revolution that is often called the Second Industrial Revolution. He also went onto calibrate that alternating current motor, and that motor led to the invention of combustion-powered steel ships, the airplane, mass commercialization of automobiles, refrigeration, etc… The guy was eccentric as all get-out, and many people thought he was a mad scientist. Maybe he was the Doc Brown of the late 1800’s.
Although Nikola Tesla became a very famous person in America, he received no royalites for his AC system invention, and thus he was always begging for capital to fund his research. And when he died at the age of 86, he was broke as a joke. He was my kind of guy. He followed his passion, even though it ultimately cost him everything. I can only imagine how tough it must have been to be ostracized in the scientific community and then die penny-less with no friends. That had to suck. And on a side note: when Tesla died, the government took all of his documents and locked them up Raiders of the Lost Ark style. When Tesla’s homeland of Croatia came looking for his stuff, they were pissed to find the US government agents whistling with their hands in the pockets, looking down at the ground and kicking rocks. Yeah. Some people think there are some really awesome inventions waiting to be discovered in Tesla’s documents.
But it turns out that Tesla had a workshop called Wardenclyffe, a 16-acre estate on Long Island . This place is magical. It’s the stuff of legends. Secret underground tunnels are rumored to surround the place. There are giant batteries with no documentation. Also, there are half-finished experiments still sitting in the same place they were 50 years ago! I’m surprised Nicholas Cage didn’t use it in one the National Treasure sequels. The truth is that the place was only the first in a web of towers that Tesla wanted to place all over the globe. Tesla believed that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly in a manner similar to radio waves. That was a crazy idea at the time, but now it doesn’t sound all that impossible or impractical.
Today, Wardenclyffe is practically waiting to become a museum, but not really. It’s just sitting there. The tower was blown up during WWI because the US feared that the German army would use it as a landmark to guide submarines. Furthermore, the US feared the german spies may try to use it for bad things. And as Tesla was constantly in debt, he could not afford to even keep the land. The place eventually ended up in the hands of George Boldt (of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel) in 1922 for $20,000.
According to this article in the New York Times (here), the property is being listed as mere real estate for $1.6 million. They will bulldoze the entire property for you if you want. But thankfully a group of science fans are trying to churn up some interest in buying it and turning it into a museum. Furthermore, some other people are moving to have the entire site declared a historic place. Apparently, if they can get it listed in a national list run by the government, then it would be off limits to demolitionists. Is that even a word?
So there. I hope you enjoyed my post about my science hero, Nikola Tesla. Like a musician who dies with unpublished song ideas, I truly believe that the world lost a lot of great electricity ideas when Nikola Tesla passed from this realm to the next. It’s still funny to me that guys like Tesla were able to make such advancements with tools from the late 1800s. It’s like all those guys were the original steam-punkrockers! His mind was the type that we may never experience again. And that’s a shame. Or is it? They’d probably use his mind for evil in today’s world. Bastards.