Monday, December 28, 2015

A First Class Genius Denied His Due Honor

Most people are not aware that the 20th century actually produced two Einstein geniuses of the highest order. Of course we have Albert Einstein but the other one was Nikola Tesla. His innovations were numerous and touched all areas of society. If the Nobel Prize had an engineering category he would have won it at least three times. One for inventing AC current, another for his phosphorous gas bulb which was far superior to Edison's incandescent bulb, and the DC electric motor which powers almost everything in the entire world. And then we have the invention of the radio which in that time was erroneously credited to Guglielmo Marconi. Perhaps he is better compared to the genius of Isaac Newton who also formalized many concepts in science including the invention of calculus just to give them real meaning. Today we know it as mathematical modeling.

Tesla also devised how to capture the sun's energy with solar panels, invented the wireless transfer of electrical power with the Tesla coil, and experimented with how x-rays might be used to view inside the body. Then we have his original idea of using radio waves to detect the position and speed of planes. Today it is known as RADAR. All of these ideas were so well ahead of their time that it often took decades before industry took a serious look at them. And these are the inventions we are only aware of. It is speculated that he had many more ideas on the drawing board that he had not yet shared with the world before he died. Upon his death the U.S. government wisely confiscated his personal papers for the possibility that some of his ideas may pose a threat to national security if our enemies at the time acted upon them. For example RADAR technology would qualify. It was later invented simultaneously but separately by England and Germany.

I still hold to the view that he should have at least won the Nobel Prize in Physics for several of his inventions because although they were engineered they still fall under the category of physics. For example the transformer (also to his credit) and AC current would qualify. At least that is where (physics for scientists and engineers college course) I learned how these work. If John Bardeen can win the Nobel in physics for the transistor (also engineered) then why can't Tesla?

All of his contributions should have made him the wealthiest man alive. Instead he lived a very modest but often tragic life and died on the verge destitution. While all others were driven by capital, like Tim Berners Lee who had given the world the world wide web, Tesla had freely given away the rights to many of his inventions. This includes his passion to give the world free electricity. He was a true humanitarian who only wanted to make the world a better place for everyone. He is not survived by a wife and children. But his legacy was too big ignore. It will live forever.

For more on this amazing man please view the following:

Top image courtesy of

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