A brief biography of Nikola Tesla and his Earthquake machine.
Nikola Tesla was a visionary far ahead of his time. Over the course of his life, Tesla was granted over 700 patents worldwide and created countless other inventions that were not patented. He worked as an electrical engineer, for Thomas Alva Edison, and then independently as an inventor. In 1975 Tesla was inducted into the Inventor’s Hall of Fame.
Nikola Tesla was born July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika, which was part of the Austo-Hungarian Empire. Milutin Tesla, his father, was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother, Djuka Mandic, was an inventor of household appliances. Tesla studied at the Polytechnic Institute in Graz Austria and the University of Prague. At first, he intended to specialize in physics and mathematics. However, he soon became fascinated with electricity. His career began in 1881 as an electrical engineer with a telephone company in Budapest. His childhood dream was to come to America and harness the power of Niagara Falls. Tesla was introduced to Thomas Edison by Charles Batchelor, who was a close friend of Edison and an inventor, in 1884. Batchelor said to Edison “I know two great men, one is you and the other is this young man.” Tesla pointed out the fault in Edison’s direct current, DC, electrical powerhouses that had been built along the Atlantic seaboard. He felt that alternating current, AC, was a better choice than direct current. When Edison powered his lamps with direct current they were weak and inefficient. This was because DC could not provide the power needed. This caused it to only work well for two miles, which made a DC power station required every two miles. Tesla suggested the building of AC generators that would send electrical energy along lines first one way then another. This turned into a bitter war between the two men. Tesla eventually won because AC was the superior technology. Tesla’s AC induction motor is considered one of the ten greatest discoveries of all time
Following a fire in his laboratory, Tesla moved to 46 Houston St. in Manhattan. Starting a few years before he had started pondering about the significance of waves and resonance. He designed and built a device to provide a stable source for the frequencies of AC. He hoped to overcome friction because that caused loss of power. He constructed a piston suspended in a cylinder. He bypassed using a camshaft to reduce friction. Resonant frequency is a natural frequency in every object. If an object can match and amplify the resonant frequency of another object, any material may literally be shaken to pieces. Tesla used this idea to create a machine that could match and amplify the resonant frequency of other objects. This machine would become known as his “earthquake machine”. By 1897 Tesla had perfected his earthquake machine. He first tested it by attaching it to a steel bar. He tuned it to the bar’s resonant frequency, and soon the bar began trembling. The trembling increased and then the bar broke. Tesla was pleased, but not pleased enough as he went to try it out on a building. As reported by A.L. Besnon, who reported for the The World Today in 1911, he wrote, “He put his little vibrator in his coat-pocket and went out to hunt a half-erected steel building. Down in the Wall Street district, he found ten stories of steel framework without a brick or a stone laid around it. He clamped the vibrator to one of the beams, and fussed with the adjustment until he got it. Tesla said finally the structure began to creak and weave and the steel-workers came to the ground panic-stricken, believing that there had been an earthquake. Police were called out. Tesla put the vibrator in his pocket and went away. Ten minutes more and he could have laid the building in the street. And, with the same vibrator he could have dropped the Brooklyn Bridge into the East River in less than an hour.”
There are technologies in today’s age that are based on Tesla’s earthquake machine. One example would be a reciprocating saw. The blade is forced back and forth by a motor, similar to Tesla’s design. Many others of Tesla’s inventions are still in use, both directly and as the basis for many designs. Because of this, Tesla is considered a pioneer in many fields. Some of the inventions that were influenced by Tesla’s inventions are fluorescent lighting, laser beams, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla turbines, and vertical take-off aircraft.