July 10, 1856 NIKOLA TESLA WAS BORN IN SMILJAN
Born into the Serbian family of Orthodox priest Milutin Tesla and Georgina “Ðuka” Tesla, nee Mandic. At that time the village of Smiljan, near Gospic (today in Croatia) lay in the military border zone (often referred to in Lika as the Military Frontier), a special region of the Habsburg Monarchy under the Emperor Franz Joseph I.
1862 ENROLLS IN FIRST GRADE OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN SMILJAN
1863 MOVES WITH FAMILY TO GOSPIC
1863-1870 COMPLETES ELEMENTARY SCHOOL AND LOWER TECHNICAL SCHOOL IN GOSPIC
Completed four years of elementary school in 1867 as an excellent pupil, and his name was entered in the school’s “Golden Book”.
1870-1873 ATTENDS SENIOR SECONDARY TECHNICAL SCHOOL IN KARLOVAC
The Rakovac senior secondary technical school was at that time a highly regarded institution at which pupils prepared for advanced technical studies.
1874 CONTRACTS CHOLERA
Despite his father’s demand that he not return to Gospic, where a cholera epidemic was raging, on graduating he returned home and became seriously ill. He would remain in bed for a full nine months.
1875-1877 STUDIES TECHNICAL SCIENCES IN GRAZ
The Joanneum Polytechnic in Graz was one of four schools in Austria-Hungary which trained engineers.
1878. MATICA SRPSKA IN NOVI SAD REJECTS APPLICATION FOR STIPENDIUM
Matica Srpska had already rejected his first application, submitted on October 14, 1876. In his new application to the “celebrated Matica Srpska”, he asked for a stipendium to complete “engineering studies” in Vienna or Prague, but was refused a second time. Apparently he did not regard this as a slight from the oldest and most highly-regarded Serbian cultural, literary and scientific institution because, as a world-famous scientist, he became a member in 1902.
1878-1879 FIRST EMPLOYMENT IN MARIBOR
Worked in a local technical company. Having insufficient funds to support himself, he was expelled by the city administration on March 8 and returned to Gospic under police escort.
1880 STUDIES NATURAL PHILOSOPHY AT THE CHARLES UNIVERSITY IN PRAGUE
1881 EMPLOYED AS ENGINEER IN BUDAPEST
Thanks to family friend Ferenc Puskas, who was working with his brother Tivadar on installing the first telephone exchange in Budapest, Tesla obtained employment as a “chief electrician” in the Central Telephone Office. Here he built his first invention, a device for voice amplification on the telephone.
February 1882 INVENTION OF THE ROTATING MAGNETIC FIELD
Walking with his friend Anton Szigety in the Budapest City Park, watching the setting sun and reciting verses from Goethe’s “Faust”, he discovered the principle of creating a rotating magnetic field with alternating current.
1882 EMPLOYED BY CONTINENTAL EDISON IN PARIS
At the end of the year, on the recommendation of Tivadar Puskas, Thomas Edison’s principal representative in Europe, Tesla began work repairing Edison’s machines, spending time in a number of places in France and Germany.
1883 IN STRASBOURG BUILD’S WORLD’S FIRST INDUCTION MOTOR
Sent to Strasbourg to repair a direct current electrical system which could not be successfully commissioned. According to the diary he kept at the time, he worked on the repair from October 14, 1883, to February 24, 1884.
1884 TRAVELS TO AMERICA AND WORKS FOR THOMAS EDISON
Tesla realized that in Europe there was no understanding and support for his revolutionary discovery, so he accepted the offer of Charles Batchelor, a close associate of Edison and his representative in Europe, to work in the main Edison factory in New York. In June he went to Edison with a note in which Batchelor had written: “I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man.”
1885 FOUNDS HIS FIRST COMPANY
in January he founded the Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing Company in New York.
1887 FOUNDS THE TESLA ELECTRIC COMPANY
He founded the new company with the goal of applying his inventions in the field of polyphase alternating current. In his new laboratory he built his first polyphase induction motors and generators.
1888 UNITED STATES PATENT OFFICE APPROVES HIS PATENTS FOR AN INDUCTION MOTOR AND A SYSTEM FOR THE PRODUCTION, TRANSMISSION AND DISTRIBUTION OF ELECTRICAL ENERGY
The basic patents for the polyphase system, “Electro Magnetic Motor” no. 381.968, “Electrical Transmission of Power” no. 382.280, “System of Electrical Distribution” no. 381.970, and another four patents were granted to him on May 1. From 1888-1891 he secured a total of 36 patents which allowed him to completely develop what was known as the Tesla Polyphase System, and created the basis for the second industrial revolution.
1889 TRAVELS TO EUROPE AND VISITS BIRTHPLACE
For the first time since his arrival in the US, Tesla returned to Europe, taking part in the Exposition Universelle in Paris and visiting his mother and sister in Gospic.
1890 BEGINS EXPERIMENTS WITH HIGH FREQUENCY CURRENTS
This new field of alternating current would be at the center of his research throughout the last decade of the nineteenth century.
1891 INVENTS THE RESONANT TRANSFORMER
Patent no. 454.622 for this new device was granted on June 23. Today it is known throughout the world as the Tesla Coil.
July 30, 1891 GRANTED AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP
1892 LECTURES IN LONDON AND PARIS AND VISITS BIRTHPLACE FOR THE LAST TIME
On February 3, at the Royal Society in London, Tesla gave a lecture entitled “Experiments with Alternate Current of High Potential and High Frequency”. Present were the most significant scientific figures of that time, including William Crookes, James Dewar, J.J. Thomson and many others. He would repeat this lecture in Paris on February 19, before members of the Société Française de Physique and the International Association of Electrical Engineers. Learning that his mother was close to death, he arrived in Gospic on April 15, just in time to say goodbye to the person he loved most of all.
June 2, 1892 FIRST AND ONLY VISIT TO BELGRADE
At the invitation of a delegation from the Belgrade Municipality and the Association of Engineers who had visited him in Budapest, he travelled to Belgrade, where he spent 31 hours. He stayed at the Hotel Imperijal, and visited Kalemegdan and the National Museum, as well as giving a lecture at the university on his latest research and discoveries. King Aleksandar I Obrenovic received him with the highest honors. By decree of the royal regents, in the name of the king, Tesla was decorated with the Order of St. Sava, second rank. This was the first decoration he received for his scientific work.
1893 GREAT SUCCESS AT THE CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR
The World’s Fair was declared “The World of Tomorrow” and dedicated to the four-hundredth anniversary of Columbus discovering America. Pavilions were lit with the help of twelve of Tesla’s two-phase generators, each producing 1,000 horsepower at a frequency of 60 Hz.
1894 ELECTED CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE SERBIAN ROYAL ACADEMY
Although this was one of the first significant acknowledgements of his successful scientific work and invention, the Serbian Royal Academy would not unanimously elect him as a “real” member until February 16, 1937.
1895 TESLA’S LABORATORY BURNS DOWN
On March 14, a major fire burst out in 35 Fifth Avenue where Tesla’s laboratory was located. It destroyed all his machine prototypes, hundreds of light bulbs of his original design, books, letters and valuable technical documentation.
1896 WORLD’S FIRST HYDROELECTRIC PLANT, BASED ON TESLA’S PATENTS, BEGINS OPERATION
On the night between November 15 and 16, the first large alternating current hydroelectric plant was put into operation on the Niagara River. The first kilowatts were transmitted from Niagara to the city of Buffalo, about forty kilometers away. Of the twelve patents used in construction of this plant, nine belonged to Nikola Tesla.
1897 ESTABLISHES THE BASIS OF RADIO TECHNOLOGY
Tesla built a new and bigger radio station and transmitted radio signals over a distance of more than forty kilometers. He submitted two key patent applications for radio. “System of Transmission of Electrical Energy”, no. 645,576, describes a system of four resonant circuits tuned to the same frequency and a system of transmitting and receiving antennas. Patent no. 649,621, “Apparatus for Transmission of Electrical Energy”, describes the radio apparatus.
1898 DEMONSTRATES OPERATION OF “TELEAUTOMATON” BOAT
At the first exhibition on electrical apparatus in Madison Square Gardens, he demonstrated the famous experiment in which he controlled the movement of a model boat remotely using radio waves. He submitted a patent application under the title “Method of and Apparatus for Controlling Mechanism of Moving Vehicle or Vehicles”, no. 613,809 on July 1. It was granted by the US Patent Office on November 8 that year. Aware of the great importance of this patent, he protected it in eleven countries.
1899 EXPERIMENTS IN COLORADO SPRINGS
He went to Colorado Springs on May 18 intending, as he put it, “to construct a high-frequency generator of great power, to perfect a method for the individualization and mutual isolation of the transmitted energy and to determine the laws governing the transmission of power through the earth and the atmosphere”. From June 1, 1899, to January 7, 1900, his collected research notes contain various recorded values and calculations, many diagrams, remarks or comments on the daily experiments and the use of new configurations of instruments, apparatus and the connections between them.
1900 PUBLISHES ARTICLE “THE PROBLEM OF INCREASING HUMAN ENERGY”
Tesla published this article in the magazine of his great friend Robert Underwood Johnson. It attracted extraordinary interest from the public because of its many scientific ideas on energy as an important aspect of our civilization.
1901-1902 BUILDS LABORATORY WITH TRANSMISSION TOWER ON LONG ISLAND
Construction of the laboratory and tower for his World System of Wireless Transmission began in 1901, designed by the renowned American architect Stanford White. It was completed in 1902, although the tower, as originally envisaged, was never finished. According to Tesla’s plan, signals from the transmission tower would be sent wirelessly through the Earth, which is a conducting body, and received anywhere on Earth.
1903-1906 UNSUCCESSFUL ATTEMPTS TO COMPLETE THE WORLD SYSTEM
The great business magnate and financier of this project, John Pierpont Morgan, withdrew from further investment. Tesla wrote him many letters attempting to persuade him to continue investment in the project, but without success. He would finally leave Long Island in 1906 and turn to research and inventions in mechanical engineering.
April 18, 1905 PATENTS “ART OF TRANSMITTING ELECTRICAL ENERGY THROUGH THE NATURAL MEDIUMS”
He had applied for this patent, no. 787,412, five years earlier, on May 16, 1900. In it he described the concept of “stationary waves”, which he found to have wavelengths of from 25 to 70 kilometers. From his own research he concluded that waves of this kind could propagate through the earth in all directions. Tesla’s intention was to confirm the idea of the resonance of the planet. He expected that these resonances would be 6, 18 and 30 Hz.
1907 BUILDS THE FIRST WORKING MODEL OF A BLADELESS TURBINE
In the field of mechanical engineering, Tesla discovered the original principle of the propulsion of fluids which he applied to pumps, turbines, compressors and fans. This finding, which he had conceived in 1890 and formulated at the beginning of 1902, was first presented to scientific experts on June 1, 1906, and applied in practice during 1907.
1908 BEGINS COLLABORATION WITH THE AMERICAN AND BRITISH MANUFACTURING COMPANY
He contracted with John H. Hadley, the owner of this Bridgeport company, to work on machines for ship propulsion. He worked on building these until 1911.
1909 FOUNDS TESLA PROPULSION COMPANY
The goal of the new company, based at 165 Broadway, New York, was the exploitation of his mechanical engineering inventions.
1913 APPLIES FOR FOUNTAIN PATENT
He partnered with renowned New York artist and designer Louis Tiffany to begin work on a fountain for the interior of Tiffany’s jewelry stores. He applied for the patent on October 28. For the next few years he would work on designing and constructing several different models of fountain, but without much commercial success.
1914 OPENS NEW OFFICE
He found new business premises in the Woolworth Building, at that time the tallest building in the world, at 233 Broadway. Lacking funds to pay the rent, he was forced to leave after several months.
1915 FIRST AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ARTICLE
In the article “Some Personal Recollections”, published in Scientific American on June 5, Tesla spoke for the first time about his life and his inventions, especially his wonderful discovery of the rotating magnetic field in Budapest in 1892.
1916 SELLS LICENSE FOR SPEEDOMETER PATENT
The license was bought by the Boston company Waltham Watch, one of the largest American companies making precision instruments, watches and speedometers. According to Tesla’s documentation, the company sold about 60,000 speedometers, mostly built into mass-manufactured vehicles.
1917 BEGINS THINKING ABOUT RADAR
In an exclusive interview published in the magazine Electrical Experimenter in August 1917 under the title “Tesla’s Views on Electricity and the War” just four months after the United States of America entered the First World War, Tesla presented the first technical description of what would later become known as radar. The author of the article wrote that “Dr. Tesla had invented, among other things an electric ray to destroy or detect a submarine under water at a considerable distance”.
May 18, 1917 AWARDED THE GOLD EDISON MEDAL
The medal, awarded by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, was created in 1904. It was awarded to Tesla on December 13, 1916, for his discoveries in the field of polyphase and high-frequency currents. It was formally presented at a ceremony at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on May 18, 1917.
1918 BEGINS WORKING WITH ALLIS-CHALMERS
This company, one of the largest manufacturers of steam turbines offered collaboration in the production and testing of his steam and gas turbines. During the following two years, two Tesla steam turbines, of 200 and 500 kilowatts, were tested. Because of unsatisfactory results and Tesla’s claims that the working conditions were unsatisfactory, the collaboration came to an end.
1919 PUBLISHES “MY INVENTIONS”
He published his famous autobiography “My Inventions” in six instalments in the well-known popular scientific magazine Electrical Experimenter. The magazine was founded and edited by his friend and great admirer, the inventor Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967).
1921-1925 BUSINESS COLLABORATION WITH BAD
He began working with the automotive company of Edward G. Bad. He proposed manufacturing a completely new type of automobile motor based on his own original concept.
1923 SUBMITS TWO PATENT APPLICATIONS FOR CHEMICAL TECHNOLOGY
On June 15, he applied for patents for “Process of Treating and Transporting Sulfur” and “Apparatus for Treating and Transporting Sulfur” under the numbers 645,568 and 645,569. The evaluation process was rather lengthy but, in June 1926, the patents were granted, with minor corrections required by the Patent Office. However, Tesla failed to pay the twenty-dollar tax within the legal deadline of six months, so his application was considered withdrawn.
1928 FINAL PATENT
In his 72nd year he was granted his final patent for “Apparatus for Aerial Transportation”. He was the first to imagine a flying machine with vertical take-off and landing, a combination of helicopter and fixed-wing which would be powered by his turbines.
1931 CELEBRATES 75TH BIRTHDAY
On his 75th birthday he received greetings from more than seventy esteemed pioneers of science and technology of the day, Nobel laureates and important business magnates. Among them were Albert Einstein, Lee de Forest and many others. The American journalist Kenneth Swezey compiled a special book with these greetings which Tesla kept in his safe to the end of his life.
1934 OBITUARY FOR KING ALEKSANDAR
In the New York Times he published an obituary for the murdered King Aleksandar I Karadordevic of Yugoslavia.
1934-1941 PROPOSES PROJECTS IN TELEGEODYNAMICS
Tesla used the newly-coined term “telegeodynamics” to describe a technology for transmitting energy mechanically through the earth. He offered his mechanical oscillators and transmission and receiving apparatus to renowned American companies such as Texas, Westinghouse and Buffalo. These devices could be used to transmit signals and messages through the earth in navigation and industry and for the production of various revolutionary effects.
1935-1938 TESLA’S SECRET WEAPON
On April 20, 1935, Tesla signed a contract with the Soviet trade representatives in New York, the Armtorg Trading Corporation. It dealt with protecting the Soviet Union from enemy aggression by building an impenetrable wall created by a new weapon. In this contract he undertook to, within a deadline of four months, submit a detailed project with drawings of installations which could generate a potential of 50 million volts, fire a beam of concentrated particles at a distance of at least 150 kilometers, with a maximum velocity of at least 50 kilometers a second, and produce devastating effects at the target.
1936 SURVIVES TRAFFIC ACCIDENT
During one of his regular walks through the streets of New York he was hit by a car. He was severely injured and took several months to recover. The injury made it impossible to maintain his carefully nurtured rhythm of life and contributed to his gradual weakening and eventual death.
1942 MEETS KING PETAR II KARAÐORÐEVIC IN THE NEW YORKER HOTEL
King Petar II Karadordevic came to Washington that year to visit the American President. Because he wanted to meet Tesla, he travelled on to New York and met with the great scientist in his apartment in the New Yorker Hotel. The young king wrote later in his diary that Tesla’s words were very touching and that both of them wept.
January 7, 1943 NIKOLA TESLA DIES AT 86
Tesla died in his sleep, in his apartment on the 33rd floor of the New Yorker Hotel, where he had spent the last nine years of his life. A memorial service was held on January 10, broadcast live by Radio New York. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia read the eulogy, which was written by Louis Adamic, the Slovenian writer, essayist and translator. Croatian violinist Zlatko Balokovic and the Sloven choir performed the Serbian patriotic song “Tamo daleko” (Far Away) at the memorial. The Royal Yugoslav Government Information Centre organized the ceremony of Tesla’s funeral and published an announcement about the protocol for it. Tesla’s remains lay in the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home. The funeral service was held on January 12, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. A delegation of thirty Yugoslav officers contributed to the ceremony. Nikola Tesla was interred in the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale on January 12, 1943. Two and a half months after his death, on March 25, 1943, at the request of Sava Kosanovic,
the remains of Nikola Tesla were cremated.
1960 HIGHEST RECOGNITION OF NIKOLA TESLA
In 1960, Nikola Tesla’s immeasurable contribution to science was recognized. The 11th General Conference on Weights and Measures, held in Paris from October 11 to 20, 1960, passed a resolution naming the unit of magnetic induction in the International System of Units (Si system) the “tesla”. Thus Tesla joined fifteen of the greatest scientific giants, such as Newton, Faraday, Volta, Hertz, Ampère and Kelvin, and took his place in the temple of science for all time.