Nikola Tesla is very well known for the development of the Tesla Coil concept (circa 1890), AC motor (circa 1883), Rotating magnetic field (circa 1882), Radio (circa 1897). But how about his not-so-well-known discoveries? The following are ten I have gathered from the NY Times archives and IEEE XPlore. The NY Times archives are an incredible source of full copies of the Times’ newspapers dating back to the late 19th century. I highly recommend a subscription to my readers, not only to the NY Times newspaper, but as a bonus you can get access to the archives as well.
The following slide-show images and discussion will be, no doubt, controversial. I fully expect many of my readers to refute some of these ideas. Please do give me your comments and share with our audience for a great discussion, but have your facts available to back up your commentary as most of my professional readers usually do.
Discovery of cosmic radiation. “Apparatus for the Utilization of Radiant Energy”, US-Patent 685,957, issued on November 05, 1901 to Nikola Tesla (mmage courtesy of Ref 1).
On February 6, 1932 Tesla commented to the editor of the NY Times that: “You have given considerable space to the subject of cosmic rays, which seems to have aroused general attention to an unusual degree. Inasmuch as I discovered this wonderful phenomenon and investigated it long before others began their researches your readers may perhaps be interested in my own findings.”
Tesla’s original idea was published in a series of articles, published from 1896 to 1898, on Roentgen rays (eventually called X-rays) and radioactivity in The Electrical Review.
His experiments in 1896 were greatly advanced through his invention of a new form of vacuum tube that could handle Megavolts. Tesla claimed that a radioactive body is simply a target that is continuously bombarded by small “bullets” projected from all parts of the universe. He was able to solve this mystery in 1899 with mathematical and experimental proof that the Sun and other heavenly bodies in the universe emitted great rays of energy in tiny particles animated by velocities faster than the speed of light (That was Tesla’s comment. I would have expected Einstein to disagree).
CERN has made some other comments on cosmic rays, but it looks like Tesla preceded CERN’s attribution of the discovery to August 1912.
Tesla commented that these rays had tremendous penetrative power that enabled them to traverse thousands of miles of solid matter without losing speed. We now know that it is far more than that. He added that ahile passing through space filled with cosmic dust, they generate a secondary radiation of constant intensity that reaches the Earth. His vacuum tube experiments bore his theory out.
Tesla may not have been 100 percent correct in all of his hypotheses in this area, but his theory was pretty good for the late 19th century.
Reference 1: Nikola Telsa’s radiations and the cosmic rays by Andre Waser, July 2000.
Next: Wireless electrical lighting
Tesla readiing by electric light. Image courtesy of Ref. 2.
On July 9, 1891, the NY Times reported that Tesla’s “alternating high frequency currents,” revealed that year to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (AIEE) at Columbia College, would produce electric light, stronger than ever produced to date, “without wires of pipes.” He went on to say that although wires from a station leading to the building to be lighted will still be used, but lamps may be carried around by hand and the walls and ceilings would not be defaced.
Tesla said that he had first discovered this phenomenon when he saw sparks from an ordinary induction coil similar to those from a static frictional electric machine. The currents in those coils were alternating from 100 to 200 “vibrations per second.” Tesla then created a machine that produced 20,000 “alternations per second” with which he experienced some very interesting results.
By connecting a wire to one of the terminals of the coil, streams of light emanated in all directions. He then set a platinum wire inside a glass bulb and the huge force of the current “set the platinum to spinning about in a veritable cone of illumination.” Later he created a sort of lamp from a glass bulb that had the air extracted from its interior. Inside that bulb was a button of refractory material attached to a wire leading to the outside of the bulb. The lamp glowed brightly from the machine that produced 20,000 “alternations per second,” which lit the bulb wirelessly.
123 years later Witricity reported that its Highly Resonant Wireless Power Transfer technology was distinct from Tesla’s creations – and was efficient enough to be economically viable. A marked improvement from Tesla’s creation and, granted that it used a magnetic field in the air and not an electric field, but Tesla wirelessly lit the first bulb in 1891.
Tesla coils have lit up even non-functioning, burned out fluorescent bulbs 50 feet away or more.
Reference 2: Tesla Memorial Society of New York
Next: Radiation therapy
The concept of radiation therapy and the medical use of X-rays
Roentgen’s letter to Tesla dated July 20th, 1901. Translated”: “Dear Sir! You have surprised me tremendously with the beautiful photographs of wonderful discharges and I tell you thank you very much for that. If only I knew how you make such things! With the expression of special respect, I remain yours devoted, W. C. Roentgen.” Image Courtesy of the Tesla Museum, Belgrade, Serbia; document no. MNT, CXLIV, 152.
On March 12, 1896, the NY Times reported in Views on Tesla’s Ideas that medical doctors were interested in Tesla’s theory of X-rays. Nikola Tesla had determined that X-rays were a stream of material particles that can strike a plate with great velocity. He showed that small metallic objects or chalky/bony deposits could be detected within the human body and that X-rays might be able to project a “suitable chemical” into any part of the body which could make the process a valuable therapeutic agent.
Dr. Cyrus Edson, who was formerly Health Commissioner, stated that it was a fact that it was possible to de-compose certain chemicals by the use of light. This is how photography works. He also said that the X-ray “vibrations,” when passing through the skull, should affect the delicate nerve tissue of the brain and stimulate them. He went on to say that Tesla’s deductions were in harmony with Newtonian theory and we could expect marvelous results from X-rays that we have not even dreamed of yet.
Reference 3: From the Radiology Society of North America, Nikola Tesla and the discovery of X-Rays
Next: Wireless telegraphy before Marconi
This short article was translated in to English by Jorge Silva: “Wireless Telegraphy in Portugal Paris, 24, on 08.40 P.M. – Electrical engineer Galbraille left for Lisbon to implement Tesla’s system of wireless telegraphy, to communicate easily between New Jersey and the Portuguese coast” Image courtesy of Ref 4.
Nikola Tesla held the original US patent for the wireless transmission of data. See his patents for Wireless Transmission of Electrical Energy here.
On March 22, 1901, the NY Times had a very brief article stating that Nikola Tesla was in Pittsburgh making a contract with the Westinghouse Electric Company, for the manufacture of mechanical devices to be used in his experiments on wireless telegraphy to be transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean without wires.
In 1896, in a Scientific American article, it was reported: “Very recently Mr. Tesla has announced that he has completed his wireless telegraph to such an extent as to permit of telegraphy through the earth for a distance of 20 miles or more, and his experiments satisfy him of the feasibility of wireless telegraphy on a much more extended scale. In fact, he aims at nothing less than the establishment of a system of telegraphy that shall include the whole earth, and by which items of news may be distributed from one political or commercial center to every other such center throughout the world. This, Mr. Tesla claims, is possible without the interference of one set of signals with another. He has constructed and tested both transmitting and receiving apparatus, and has found that a surprisingly small expenditure of energy is required. It is impossible at this writing to secure details of the apparatus, but it is known that he utilizes the static equilibrium of the earth. This he disturbs at one point, making signals which can be distinguished at one or more distant points.”
“In his earlier experiments in high frequency currents Mr. Tesla attained a frequency of 10,000 per second; now 2,000,000 oscillations per second is not deemed extraordinary. It is said that the success of the system is assured, but he will not come before the public until every detail is completed. It is understood that the transmission of power from place to place by means of a similar system is contemplated.” Courtesy of Early Radio History.
Tesla’s system was used in Portugal that year (1901) to communicate between New Jersey and the coast of Portugal, reportedly before Marconi made his transatlantic radio transmission on December 12, 1901.
Next: Oceanic and geothermal energy
Oceanic and geothermal energy
Nikola Tesla proposed to utilize the warmth of one layer brought into contact with the colder temperature of another in order to operate great power plants. Image courtesy of the NY Times article on November 8, 1931.
Tesla predicted a new power sources according to a November 8, 1931 NY Times article. Tesla designed two power plants: the first was to harness heat beneath the Earth’s surface and the second would harness the difference in temperature between the upper and lower depths of the ocean.
These potential power sources had been tried before, but Tesla’s ideas incorporated new developments that could make his designs more cost efficient. He had reasoned that there was a 50 degree Fahrenheit temperature difference between the surface of the sea (82 degrees) in tropical regions and that of a depth three miles below (32 degrees due to an ice-cold polar stream flow).
On land, these relationships were reversed where the temperature increases by about one degree for every 64 feet of depth into the Earth. Although these relationships were known for many years, a recent development by an engineer had enabled the operation of engines via steam in a high vacuum environment from the warm surface water and then condensed by the cold water down in the depths of the ocean.
It is known that water can boil at temperatures far below 212 degrees Fahrenheit at low pressure. Tesla mentioned a “cryophorus” which was a classical device that demonstrated this water principle and a pre-cursor to the heat-pipe that was first invented by W.H. Wollaston, an English scientist early in the nineteenth century. Tesla was far ahead of modern day technology with this concept.
Next: Electrical treatment of cancer.
High voltage electricity as a treatment for cancer
The Lakhovsky multiwave oscillator was based upon Nikola Tesla’s theories of the beneficial effects of high-frequency current treatments in the human body.
On September 7, 1932, the NY Times reported that Cancers lead to Electrosurgery. After the successful treatment of internal cancers with high-frequency currents had been reported the previous day to the American Congress of Physical Therapy, in session at the Hotel New Yorker, by its new president, Dr. Gustav Kolischer, Chicago urologist, a corroborating statement from Dr. Nikola Tesla, electrical inventor, was presented.
In 1890, Tesla experimented with high-frequency current to stimulate the nerves, facilitate digestion, promote sleep, and improve mental work. Tesla commented that using high-frequency current in the body can produce local effects that can be produced which interfere with malignant cancer growth. He went on to say that the high-frequency current, in breaking down the cancer cells, would not scatter them through the bloodstream to propagate in other parts of the body such as some surgical procedures might do.
In modern times, the IEEE Spectrum reported on June 1, 2004 that researchers are trying to kill tumors by zapping them with high-voltage, nanosecond electric pulses in an article entitled A High-Voltage Fight against Cancer
This article first appeared on EE Times’ Planet Analog website.
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