Monday, May 19, 2014

My Inventions and Other Writings by Nikola Tesla

 My first impressions from Tesla's own writings, published originally by Hugo Gernsback (often regarded as one of the founding fathers of the Science Fiction publishing industry) in The Electrical Experimenter, were that the man was a bit of a grandiose braggart, as well as being completely obsessive-compulsive. Perhaps his saving grace was that his obsession with his projects led him to pursue them so diligently that he often came up with incredible inventions, though it is difficult to understand how a man so brilliant could also be convinced of the truth of some radically improbable, even mystical, ideas.

One of the amazing things about Tesla's mind was that he had developed the ability to completely visualize in his head a working model of whatever piece of machinery he planned to build - a mental CAD, if you will.

As a very young man, fresh out of school, he was hired by the telegraph office of the Hungarian government and put in charge of designing and implementing their telephone exchange.

"I made several improvements in the Central station apparatus and perfected a telephone repeater..."

He was the first to perfect a method of generating alternating current and running electrical machinery with AC, as well as inventing a turbine engine, and radio transmission long before Marconi's feat.

This is a difficult book to read. Although Tesla prided himself on his very organized mind, and way of thinking, his writings do not reflect that, and seem to bounce all over the place, with unfinished thoughts and gaps in logic throughout. Brilliant but erratic. His tendency to believe that he could accomplish anything he could imagine, and he accomplished a great deal, make it difficult to sort out which of his ideas are mere flights of fancy, and actually not possible, versus those he merely never got round to completing. Transmitting electrical power wirelessly around the world?

One of his more intriguing ideas seems to presage the whole idea of mutually assured destruction that dominated the Cold War. He envisioned a fleet of dirigibles which contained a machine designed by him which would call lightning from the sky, wreaking utter destruction on ground targets below. Whichever country obtained it first could enforce peace upon the world.

Still searching for a good Tesla bio.

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