Nikola Tesla: 10 Greatest Achievements

Nikola Tesla – Greatest Accomplishments

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was one of the greatest inventors of the modern era. Fueled by his ambition to light the world, the genius and prolific inventor had a very successful career. He made huge developmental leaps in things such hydroelectric power generation, shadowgraphy, the magnifying transmitter, and alternating current (AC). The latter was perhaps his most crowning achievement as he was able to demonstrate how safe AC was by sending electricity right through his body to light up a bulb.

While he was alive, majority of his groundbreaking ideas slightly went under the radar as some of his critics called him a mad inventor. It was only after his death that his works got the praise that they rightly deserved.  There was no doubt that the Austrian-born engineer was a genius with extraordinarily amazing ideas, although some of those ideas kind of blurred the line between reality and outright science fiction.

The following are 10 greatest achievements of Nikola Tesla. It also includes the major inventions that he designed and built.

A serial inventor of the highest order

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Austrian-born genius engineer relocated to New York City and thereafter took America by storm. As a result of his out of this world scientific inventions and public showmanship, American’s took to calling him the ‘mad genius’. In no way does this take away from the fact that he was a serial inventor, competing successfully against inventors who were way older and richer than him.

At the time of his death, he had several hundreds of patents to his name. Records from the U.S. Patent Office show that the imaginative genius and inventor registered more than 110 patents in the U.S. Outside the U.S., he held patents in European countries like Great Britain, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and France. He even held patents in Brazil.

Nikola Tesla on the importance of electricity and limitless energy supply

Pioneer of wireless technology

As far back as the early 20th century, Nikola Tesla had started thinking of a way to transmit electricity wirelessly. At the time, it was not only considered an ambitious thought to have but it was also seen as insane; however, Tesla wasn’t your average kind of engineer.

He seriously put his mind into accomplishing such a daunting endeavor as transmitting power without the use of wire. The immaculately dressed genius of an engineer had initially developed the world’s first laser. He was also a pioneer in development of wireless communication. In the mind of Tesla, wireless transmission of energy seemed like the next hurdle that he ought to cross.

Tesla’s Colorado Springs laboratory

Nikola Tesla made huge strides in the advancement of x-ray

German-born physicist and inaugural Nobel Prize winner in physics Wilhelm Rontgen may have discovered (in 1895) a mysterious energy which later came to be known as X-radiation (or Rontgen radiation); however, it was Nikola Tesla who applied the concept to photography. Tesla showed the world how ionizing radiation and electromagnetism could be used to penetrate the body and produce images of our organs that would otherwise not be visible to our naked eyes.

In some accounts, it was claimed that Tesla was aware of x-rays before Rontgen discovered them. However, the verdict is still out on that one. Those who argue in favor of that notion state that Tesla’s original works in X-ray technology got burnt during the 1895 disastrous fire in his lab.

Shadowgraphy was the term Nikola Tesla gave to the images produced by his x-ray machine on his photographic film. His technology used bulbs with higher voltages and thick walls, allowing him to produce relatively clearer images than Rontgen.

As x-ray imaging made its way into the medical arena, Tesla was the first in America to talk about the harmful effects x-rays had on an unprotected body. | Image: X-ray Tesla took of his hand

Reliably measured magnetic flux density

His contributions to the study of magnetic flux density were so groundbreaking that in 1956 the international unit of flux density was named after him. Tesla came out with a very scientific and reliable way of measuring magnetic flux density. In 1882, he had made a startling discovery of the rotating magnetic fields. Magnetic flux density was key in his later works in alternating current (AC).

Tesla’s use of AC (alternate current) trumped DC (direct current) because of its durability, affordability and its easy maintenance.

A leading pioneer of radio technology

Nikola Tesla not only feud with inventor Thomas Edison but also Nobel Prize laureate in Physics Guglielmo Marconi. The disagreement between Tesla and Marconi was over radio technology | Image: Tesla, aged 34, c. 1890. Photo by Napoleon Sarony

Towards the latter part of the 19th century, the two leading titans in radio technology were Nikola Tesla and Italian engineer and inventor Guglielmo Marconi. Tesla was said to be the first among the two to transmit and receive radio signals that were set to the same frequency. Tesla filed for his wireless radio technology patent in 1897, and in 1900, was granted. Tragically a fire in the lab of the genius incinerated all evidence of his work.

On the other hand, Marconi filed his (a wireless telegraphy device) in 1901 and was turned down because it had similar features as Tesla’s 1900 designs.

The truth of the matter is that Marconi’s wireless telegraphy device did not work so well at the onset. With the backing of many influential English men as well as Thomas Edison himself, the Italian was able to move quickly with his radio technology. Marconi was then able to incorporate Tesla’s alternating signals and transmit radio signals across the English Channel. The U.S. Patent Office in 1904 reversed its decision, declaring Marconi the inventor of wireless telegraphy. For his development in wireless telegraphy, Marconi won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909.

However, it was Tesla who had the last laugh (posthumously). A few months before Tesla’s death, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Tesla, declaring him the inventor of the radio.

Tesla’s wireless transmission device used alternating signals which allowed him to take it longer distance than Italian inventor and engineer Guglielmo Giovanni’s original device which used only two circuits.

The first remote controlled-device

Greatest Achievements of Nikola Tesla | Tesla intended to deploy his remote-controlled boat to aid shipwrecked people and navy men at sea, or boats torpedoed during battles

At the 1898 electrical exhibition at New York’s Madison Square Gardens, Nikola Tesla dazzled patrons with his remote control boat. Not only was the boat the first of its kind, but it was also the first remote-controlled device in history.

Using radio technology, Tesla was able to make the boat move in a slightly rudimentary manner as the drones we see today. The inventor used radio waves to switch on the lights of the boat as well as the boat’s propeller.

Due to the mind-blowing nature of this invention, Tesla did not even bother to seek a patent. There was not a single individual at the time that could have pulled off such a scientific invention as Tesla did using “tele automation”. The technology went on to inspire everyday gadgets that we use today, for example the T.V. remote control and other wireless devices.

Applications of fluorescent bulbs and neon lamps

He was not the individual who invented or discovered fluorescent lights. Neither was the Croatian-born engineer the inventor of neon lamps. However, what he did with those items are some of the reasons why his name still reverberates today.

Tesla created the first neon signs, which he proudly displayed at the 1893 World’s Columbia Expedition (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair).  In developing those signs, he put electrons in vacuum tubes. Prior to that, he had passed electrical particles through gasses, creating four different types of lighting. For example black light turned into visible lights.

Tesla showed the world the practical application of neon lamps. To his credit, we have neon signs littered across the streets of the world.

Nikola Tesla made Alternative Current (AC) the dominant power system

Tesla’s efforts showed how Alternative Current (AC) was efficient and way more reliable than DC (direct current). This allowed AC to become the dominant power system | Image: Drawing from U.S. Patent 381,968, illustrating the principle of Tesla’s alternating current induction motor

In the early 20th century a fierce battle raged in the world of engineering between Alternative Current (AC) and Direct Current (DC). It put Tesla and his former boss and fellow inventor Thomas Edison at odds as both men argued in favor of the other electric power transmission technique.

Tesla emerged the victor as he was able to prove the efficiency and durability of AC over DC. Edison’s preferred means of power transmission DC allowed electricity to continuously flow in one direction. What this meant was that Edison had to build power stations every two miles in order to mitigate for the deficiency in DC. With too many accidental electrocutions involving DC, Tesla’s AC was the better option as AC periodically reverses the direction.

It must be noted that Tesla was not the one who invented or discovered AC. What Tesla is most praised for is for demonstrating how AC offered greater efficiency and long-distance power transmission.

Nikola Tesla created an induction motor that runs on AC current

The induction motor created by Nikola Tesla was a big game-changer in electricity transmission. It remains one of the greatest achievements of the inventor as it has widespread usage and applications, particularly in domestic and industrial appliances.

Tesla is said to have manufactured the induction motor that runs on AC after being promised by Thomas Edison to receive $50,000 for the invention. Unfortunately, the relationship between the two inventors soured, leading Tesla to part ways with Edison’s company.

Tesla’s induction motor was the first time where mechanical energy could be obtained from electrical energy. Considering the fact that many of the domestic and industrial equipment in use today rely on that key conversion technique, the world does indeed owe a great deal of gratitude to Tesla.

Every electric motor in use today can be traced to Tesla’s induction motor. His invention made it made possible for all electricity to be converted into mechanical energy, making it applicable for widespread usage, including in blow dryers, power tools, and vacuums.

The world’s first hydro-electric power plant

Another very monumental invention of Nikola Tesla came in the form of hydro-electric power generation. Largely relying on the designs and collaboration of Tesla, the Adams Power Plant Transformer House was able to tap into the immense power of the Niagara Falls.

The hydro-electric power plant, which was built under the leadership of Pittsburg industrialist George Westinghouse, started operation on November 16, 1896. It powered the city of Buffalo, New York. The city’s officials were blown away by how efficient and reliable Tesla’s hydro-electric power was quickly ordered for additional generators.

Tesla’s works in hydro-electricity became the standard for modern hydroelectric power plants. It opened the door wide open for many countries across the world to adopt the technology.

More Nikola Tesla Accomplishments

famous inventors

Major accomplishments of Nikola Tesla | Image: Serbian-American futurist and renowned inventor Tesla sitting in front of a spiral coil used in his wireless power experiments at his East Houston St. laboratory

Other accomplishments of Nikola Tesla that helped light up the world include:

  • Invented in 1891, the Tesla Coil deployed two coils – primary and secondary – in shooting out lightning bolts. Tesla’s idea with the coil was to power cities wirelessly. Today, the invention is mainly used for entertainment purposes as well as seen in science fairs and museums. Regardless, the Tesla coil has helped our modern era gain greater understanding of the nature of electricity, including its production, transfer, and application.
  • The Tesla coil, which measured at 52 feet in diameter, could spew millions of electricity volts. The over 100-foot long lightning bolts it shot made it the biggest artificial lightning produced at the time. Similar to the Tesla coil was the magnifying transmitter which made standing charges of electrical energy.
  • The Tesla turbine, a bladeless and smoothed-disc combustion motor, was different from the piston engine used in automobiles at the time. It’s been stated that Tesla’s remarkable turbine had more than 60% efficiency rate. Such efficiency figures are very rare in the automobile industry, even to this day.
Tesla's inventions

The Tesla turbine chalked more than 60% fuel to energy conversion rate | Image: Tesla’s bladeless turbine design

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