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Nikola Telsa - Before his time or right on time?

  1. Jan 6, 2012 #1
    So after getting into physics I repeatedly heard of this great man and after investigating him a little more I realized he was one of the greatest minds of the 19th/20th century. I never remember hearing about him in high school which is somewhat disgraceful but irrelevant. This man started the modern day technological revolution and had many ideas way ahead of his time. Do you think hes was better off being born when he was (racial prejudices, government mistreatment of non-native born citizens etc.) or could he have accomplished so much more if born a few decades later. Also any information on him that isn't in the first five pages of Google would be much appreciated :)
     
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  3. Jan 6, 2012 #2
    I think he was more beneficial to have lived at the same time as Edison, so the War of Currents could take place, if he hadn't lived then we might be stuck with direct current today.
     
  4. Jan 7, 2012 #3

    Drakkith

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    I think he was in the right place at the right time and had enough knowledge to make a difference.
     
  5. Jan 7, 2012 #4
    There are several biographies of Tesla out there. I've read three or four. He was a fascinating character.

    You have to be careful when assessing his greatness because one of the things he was great at is creating his own legend. A lot of the things his fans say about him today were notions he created about himself. He courted newspaper reporters and spent a lot of time giving interviews, and he had a way of describing his work/research that strongly invited characterizations of him as a radical, visionary, genius. He spun himself very well, much more often than he was able to back it up with practical results. The revolutionary turbine, the earthquake generator, the magnifying transmitter, none of these panned out, but still somehow their legend is repeated today as if they had. That's really due to the air of creative genius he was able to suggest when he talked about himself, just by being convinced, himself, deep down, that what he was doing was really pretty remarkable and visionary. If you pare the legend down to the things he invented that actually worked and had practical value, he's quite a bit less stunning.

    His showmanship served him well in the age he inhabited, and he might not do so well with it in today's world.
     
  6. Jan 7, 2012 #5
    It was a magical time and he was one of the more flamboyant magicians. Think about all the magical inventions of the time and his don't seem all that special. However, I have heard him described as a visionary which seems appropriate. For Edison genius was one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration, but for Tesla it was at least an equal part artistic expression.
     
  7. Jan 7, 2012 #6

    Chi Meson

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    Tesla had said of Edison "...but a little bit of calculation would have saved 90 percent of his labor."
    [or words to that effect]

    I always give Tesla his due in my Physics classes, but warn against the "Teslamaniacs" on the web. Nikolai was on that crazy edge of genius, and apparently toward the edge he was just over that edge.

    Some of his followers are pure crackpot conspiracy nuts who think he was an alien genius whose ideas were stolen by the government after they poisoned him and used his destruction machines once against the Russians and decided they were too dangerous and destroyed them and the blueprints and erased memories and tried to expunge Tesla from all history and scientific records but THEY FORGOT ABOUT ME AND NOW THE WORD IS OUT AH HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAA!
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2012
  8. Jan 7, 2012 #7
    Tesla didn't take his own advice which is one reason I refer to him as being as much an artist as anything else.
     
  9. Jan 8, 2012 #8
    He wasn't a magician he invented alternate current, the radio, the remote control, the ac induction motor and merely envisioned all the other things he might be able to invent. Just by looking at what he invented he was one of the most remarkable minds of the 19/20th century. Its sad to see him discredited on a PHYSICS forum of all places. I am not a telsamaniac or a crackpot I was just hoping for some further insight on the man who invented commercial electricity. I mean why even mention all the stuff he thought he could create when what he created was so damn important and ingenious.
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2012
  10. Jan 8, 2012 #9
    I'm confused by this.
     
  11. Jan 8, 2012 #10

    Drakkith

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    I have yet to see where anyone has discredited him.
     
  12. Jan 8, 2012 #11
    Calling him a Magician and crediting his genius to his flamboyancy
     
  13. Jan 8, 2012 #12
    As far as I know, Benjamin Franklin was the kite flyer. He's usually credited as the "discoverer" of electricity, though that's not exactly accurate. He merely demonstrated that lightning and static electric discharges are the same thing on a different scale.
     
  14. Jan 9, 2012 #13
    Tesla realised what could be done with electricity at a time when few others did.

    http://www.pbs.org/tesla/ll/ll_warcur.html

    We tend to think and talk about his more flamboyant ideas, yet he had practical knowledge.

    http://www.teslasociety.com/exhibition.htm
     
  15. Jan 9, 2012 #14
    Duh I meant thats where Edison got the idea In the biography he mentions that, Thank you for pointing that out fixed it
     
  16. Jan 9, 2012 #15
    I'v seen this type of question asked one to many times without anyone really going into it so... What would the world really look like if someone went back with a time machine and plucked him out of history? Would we be ten to twenty years behind the times or would somehow his absence been a boon technologically? From what I know he did spend a fortune of his family's wealth in his life time chasing his ideas. Would that wealth have been better spent in someone else's hands? Is there really any way to know if the world would have been better or worse off without him? Or suppose he was born now would he really be able to fulfill his dreams of splitting the earth in two with our current technology?
     
  17. Jan 9, 2012 #16

    Drakkith

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    Neither of which diminishes the impact of his inventions and are just one aspect of his personality. Furthermore, please refrain from attributing the views of 1 person to being the views of everyone here on PF.
     
  18. Jan 9, 2012 #17

    Drakkith

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    How can we possibly know this? Offhand I would guess that we would still be pretty much the same. Had we used DC instead of AC for power transmission there would have been a large push for improvements, probably leading to better, safer, more efficient designs for DC earlier than we actually developed them.
     
  19. Jan 9, 2012 #18
    I wasn't saying it was the views of everybody, just everywhere I read about him he is either a genius or a nut job.
     
  20. Jan 9, 2012 #19
    Tesla wasn't unique in knowing AC was better than DC for long distance transmission. Every competent EE of the day figured it out. It was an obvious consequence of the fact AC can be easily transformed to higher voltages. With DC, you're stuck with the generation voltage, and the lower the voltage the more limited the effective transmission distance. The transformer effect requires the current be constantly changing. DC is unchanging. Tesla wasn't so much a genius for knowing AC was better as Edison was a dolt for not knowing it.

    Westinghouse, who was the mover and shaker behind it all (Tesla was making no attempt to implement his inventions, himself) examined a lot of patents for AC transmission and AC operated motors. Tesla had covered everything in his patents, as Edward pointed out, and dealing with one inventor was obviously a advantage over dealing with several, so he approached Tesla first, and Tesla bent over backward to be cooperative and help engineer it all.

    The fact is, without Tesla, AC would probably only have been delayed for as long as it took Westinghouse to get the patents he needed from other sources. Other people had invented AC motors (the common induction motor), and IIRC Tesla admitted that one of them preceded him by a couple years. (It was one of those cases where the guy didn't bother to put in for a patent right away, so Tesla beat him on that front, without either of them knowing the other existed.)
     
  21. Jan 9, 2012 #20

    Drakkith

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    Interesting Zooby. I've never really read up on Tesla that much, all I remember is something about AC vs DC and other tidbits.
     
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