Nikola Tesla - Genius or Charlatan
Born in the late 1850's in modern day Croatia, Nikola Tesla was a renown inventor, a mechanical and electrical engineer, and perhaps best known for his contributions to alternating current which he licensed to George Westinghouse.
Quirky, rail thin at one hundred and forty-two pounds, and standing six feet two inches tall, Tesla's nose and chin were very pointed while his head spread into a wedge near the top as was described by one who knew him. This description gave rise to the "theory" Tesla was an alien hybrid due to his appearance, eidetic memory, and intellect. Although never married, he was well invested in New York City social circles, and even a close friend to writer, Samuel Clemmons, better known as Mark Twain.
Tesla and Thomas Edison were protégés, each developing their independent ideas as to the best way to transmit electrical energy - AC alternating current or DC direct current. Tesla had convinced business mogul and financier, J. P. Morgan to fund research and development of the idea of transmitting free electrical energy through the air. Upon realizing no money could be made by giving energy away, Morgan backed our leaving Tesla disillusioned.
But there was much more to the man than just this. Holding two hundred and seventy-eight known patents, Tesla claimed he slept very little, usually only two hours a day. In the early 1900's, the inventor set about to create a "teleforce weapon" which the press labeled as a "death ray." The concept seems uniquely similar to modern day laser weapons. At the time he was unable to interest any government in helping him pursue the idea. In 1937, he claimed to have actually built a working model during a luncheon in his honor.
Another of his controversial ideas was the Tesla Oscillator, purported to have nearly shaken his lab to the ground as well as a nearby skyscraper under construction. According to reports, just prior to the police's arrival, Tesla smashed the compact device weighing in at about two pounds. He thought the oscillating frequency might get out of hand and destroy more than just his building. He and his assistants convinced the police the event was seismic in origin.
Over the years, Tesla made a lot of money on his inventions, but outspent his small fortune with continued experiments encompassing a wide range of fascinating topics. There are even references to H.A.A.R.P., a top-secret military project in Alaska, and topic of my first Bryson McGann novel, H.A.A.R.P.'S FURY. His final patent came in 1928, for the invention of a VTOL aircraft - one that is able to take off vertically and fly conventionally. This concept has been put to use in the well known Osprey, employed by NESSA and U.S. military forces.
Nikola Tesla had more than his share of detractors, denouncing him as a charlatan whose claims were mostly unfounded. Yet, In 1931, Time Magazine posted Tesla's image of their front cover proclaiming, "All the world's his powerhouse." During the final years of his life, Tesla spent his days in a small room in the New Yorker Hotel where he died on January 7, 1943, at the age of eighty-six.
However, Tesla's story does not end there. The next part of the tale is as enigmatic as the man himself. Although the scientist had become a U.S. citizen, the FBI ordered the Alien Property Custodian to confiscate all his notes and belongings upon his death, in spite of his U.S. citizenship. They were packed and sent to the Manhattan Storage and Warehouse Company under the official seal of the OAP. Tesla's belongings were not returned to family heirs until the early 1950's, after the government proclaimed nothing of interest existed within his work.
There is much more to the man than relates in this brief glimpse of a truly remarkable individual's life. Find out even more about Tesla in the biography written by Margaret Cheney, A Man Out of Time.