top of page

Nikola Tesla, A Man 100 Years Ahead Of His Time

Written by Ardil Ulucay

Nikola Tesla, born in 1856 in Austria, Hungary, was an ethnic Serb, and he emerged as a visionary inventor, physicist, and electrical engineer. Despite facing financial challenges and a solitary end, his life was marked by groundbreaking contributions that shaped the modern world. To understand this brilliant man, we must first dive into his childhood [2, 4].

As we mentioned before, Tesla's journey began in Austria-Hungary in 1856, and his early passion for electricity led him to study at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria. A shift from physics and mathematics to electrical engineering marked the beginning of Tesla's groundbreaking career. His move to the United States in 1884 marked the start of a collaboration with Thomas Edison, which later became a fierce rivalry over the choice between direct and alternating current. Tesla's brilliance in developing the AC system would set the stage for transformative changes in the electrical industry [2, 4].

Tesla's pivotal contribution to electrical engineering lies in his development of alternating current (AC) electricity. In the late 19th century, Tesla's disagreement with Thomas Edison over the use of direct current (DC) versus alternating current (AC) became legendary. Edison advocated for DC, claiming it was cheaper and safer, while Tesla championed AC, which proved to be the superior method for transmitting electricity over long distances. Tesla's AC system, comprising generators, transformers, transmission layouts, and motors, became the standard power in the 20th century [1].

While Tesla's AC system revolutionized the electrical industry, his visionary goal went beyond: he had a crazy idea for the time, he aimed to provide the entire world with free electricity. The concept centered around wireless transmission of power, utilizing giant towers to collect electrical energy from the Earth's atmosphere and distributing it wirelessly to receivers globally. Although Tesla built a large-scale prototype in Colorado Springs and secured a patent for electric power transmission, financial constraints prevented the full realization of this ambitious vision. Imagine how different our world would be if he would manage to achieve this feat [3, 5].

In 1891, Tesla unveiled one of his most famous inventions, the Tesla coil, an electrical transformer designed to increase voltage using high-frequency alternating current. Beyond its initial purpose, the Tesla coil became famous for its spectacular effects which were arcs of lightning-like electricity that could travel through the air, powering or potentially damaging nearby electronic devices. Despite its high voltage, the coil's high frequency generally allows people to approach it without almost no risk of injury. Tesla's coil not only became a staple in scientific exhibitions but also played a pivotal role in developing radio technology. And ended up giving us this famous picture [4].

This famous picture was created by Dickenson V. Alley, and it was created by combining two pictures which made it one of the first photoshopped pictures as well. Tesla later used this to market and showcase his work to the public.

In his later years, Nikola Tesla faced a series of challenges that cast a shadow on his once illustrious career. Despite his groundbreaking contributions to electrical engineering, financial difficulties plagued Tesla, and he struggled to secure funding for his ambitious projects. One of his major setbacks was the failure of the Wardenclyffe Tower that we have mentioned before, which aimed to demonstrate the wireless transmission of energy. The disagreement with his financial supporter, J. Pierpont Morgan, led to the abandonment of the project, leaving Tesla in dire straits [4].

As Tesla's financial woes deepened, so did his eccentricities. He became increasingly reclusive, preferring solitude and displaying unconventional behaviors, such as his aversion to shaking hands and a germ phobia that prompted him to wear white gloves. His unconventional claims, including the development of a "death ray" and communication with extraterrestrial beings, further isolated him from the scientific community. Tesla spent his later years living in relative obscurity, often relying on the support of friends.

Nikola Tesla passed away on January 7, 1943, in the Hotel New Yorker, where he had lived for the last decade of his life. At the time of his death, Tesla's financial situation was precarious, and he died virtually penniless. Tesla gained more recognition in the years after his death, the U.S. Supreme Patent Court granted him recognition by declaring him the true inventor of the radio, settling a historical dispute with Guglielmo Marconi; the public was more enthusiastic to read and acknowledge his research. Although he was unable to see this Tesla is still hailed as one of the greatest minds that ever grazed the surface of this world.


  1. Tesla's wireless power. (2018, February 9). Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe.

  2. Tesla (1856). (n.d.). U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

  3. Unlimited energy for all: Exploring Nikola Tesla's vision for free electricity and its potential impact on the world. (2023, March 27). LinkedIn.

  4. The wizard in the mountains. (2023, July 14). History Colorado.

  5. Tesla coil. (2023, October 2). Encyclopedia Britannica.


bottom of page