Nikola Tesla's life is the epic American story of youth against the establishment and good against evil. We all must ask why Dr. Tesla's timeless inventions aren't taught in our schools, universities and national museums. It is the American story: Nikola Tesla, a Serbian immigrant genius, came to America with his alternating current design, four cents and a dream for success in America.
We enjoy modern conveniences in our everyday lives that are possible because of Dr. Tesla's inventions and vision. You probably used at least ten of Tesla's inventions before you left your house today. Did you use a blow dryer, turn on lights, use a microwave, use a washer or dryer? All of these devices work because of Tesla's basic technology patents issued from 1886-1893. Tesla was hundreds of years ahead of his time, a workaholic who devoted his life to science, never to marry. Dr. Tesla also invented the method for generating electricity at Niagara Falls in 1896, a basic technology that continues to power our world today.
Tesla came to America in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison, and familiar with Edison's direct current system, Tesla offered to improve its performance. Edison agreed to pay Tesla $50,000 if he was successful. Upon completing this monumental task, Tesla went to collect the agreed money. When asked for payment by Tesla Edison replied, "You don't understand American humor." Thus began a rivalry between Edison and Tesla that led to the "War of Currents." Edison hated Tesla because Alternating Current was 100 times superior to Direct Current, and Edison was unable to monetize his DC system.
However, there's more to Tesla's story than just the popular "War of Currents." The Gilded Age created a financial environment that produced some of the world's wealthiest and most ruthless businessmen of all time, "the Robber Barons." Financiers J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Cornelius Vanderbilt ruled both industry and the finances of the United States of America. These powerful men controlled the likes of Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and other captains of industry and technology at the turn of the century.
J.P. Morgan launched litigation against Westinghouse in an effort to control the generation and distribution of electricity, creating General Electric as a mechanism to monopolize the electric industry as he did with other industries. In 1899, Tesla agreed to a financial relationship with Morgan for the development of the Wardenclyffe wireless laboratory in Shoreham, NY. Morgan wanted to monopolize radio communication and he bet that Tesla would be the man who would be first to create a global commercial radio network. Tesla felt that free electricity and wireless communication was a right for all people. Tesla worked against all odds to create a worldwide wireless transmitter tower at Wardenclyffe that would be used for radio and all forms of communications, with its principal use for the unmetered wireless distribution of electricity.
Guglielmo Marconi's first successful international radio transmission on December 12, 1901 outraged Morgan, who felt he had lost both the driving force of his Wardenclyffe investment and control of radio. Further, when he discovered that Wardenclyffe was intended by Tesla to be a world wireless energy and communications network, and not merely a radio communications system, Morgan ceased funding. Guglielmo Marconi continued to file for patents that Tesla had already been issued in 1893. Soon after the failure of Wardenclyffe, J.P. Morgan backed Marconi, creating Marconi America, which would eventually become the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). In 1903, Tesla's 17 radio patents issued by the U.S. Patent Office were revoked and reissued to Guglielmo Marconi. Six years later, Marconi would accept the Nobel Prize for Physics based on Nikola Tesla's patents.
After Wardenclyffe was shut down, Tesla became a recluse, feeding pigeons in Central Park and eventually dying penniless. However, he still filed patents to the end of his life, including the controversial "death ray" or ( "weapon of peace") device. Upon Tesla's death, the U.S. government removed hundreds of thousands of notes, personal diaries and papers from his office at the New Yorker Hotel. Although seemingly forgotten in the last years of his life as the father of electricity and radio, 2,000 people attended his funeral including Major LaGuardia who gave a speech and offered the condolences of President and Mrs. Roosevelt, as well as heads of state and other important officials.
Tesla was so far advanced that we would be 100 years behind in technology if not for his accomplishments. For example, in 1898, one of Tesla's crowning achievements was demonstrated at Madison Square Garden, where he presented the world's first wireless, remote-control vessel. High society and industrial leaders arrived in horse and buggy to witness this spectacle. Although the general population did not understand his work, Tesla became the most famous man in the world, sought after by reporters, prestigious institutions and high society when the electric power station at Niagara Falls went online in 1896.
My partner, Wilhelm Cashen, and I recently took a simple one-question survey to the streets of Los Angeles, interviewing people from all professions asking, "Do you know who Nikola Tesla is?" A shocking 92 percent did not know him. Wil and I have studied the story of Dr. Nikola Tesla's life for the past 12 years. Wilhelm is a genius in his own right: an engineer specializing in robotics and mathematics who created the first electric American pickup truck. I have studied Tesla's life in-depth. Both of our insights into Tesla's life will allow our work to provide the audience with a unique perspective into Tesla's life and accomplishments. It took us five years to create the script "Electricity," ensuring that both Tesla the man and his technology, as well as his greater contributions to technology, are portrayed accurately. Nikola Tesla now lives in our soul and words, and it is our hope that Electricity will help Change History for one man: Nikola Tesla.
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