Most who pursue things Teslian know the sundry details of his early work in Polyphase, and his subsequent discovery of high frequency alternating current. Few however manage to isolate, identify, and comprehend his most important single discovery, the phenomenon through which all of his supposed oudandish claims were actually made possible. The discovery has not been adequately described among those who claim to know something beyond the initiatory facts concerning his work. Those who believe that only experimentation will reveal the truth concerning Tesla may be in for a sad defeat. Indeed, those who undertake the reproduction of Teslian transformers know the disappointment and subsequent disinterest which has followed so many others before.
Few are honesc enough to admit the possibility that their own failed experimental reproductions are entirely due to their own misunderstanding. Those who publish the plans for such designs have already contaminated the process with a fundamental and failure-prone misunderstanding. Old electrical experimenter’s texts are no better. By the end of the last Century, so much misinformation concerning the essential Teslian component, the Tesla Transformer, had brought a complete and devastating chaos to the field. When experimental results therefore contradict statements made by Tesla, the usual conclusions find soured agreement with the low opinions of Tesla which academicians hold. In the rare instance that they are able to manage a positive remark, usually one of mock indulgence, the accolades address his early work with Polyphase. Other than these occasional smug comments, most academicians view Tesla as a “poet-scientist” who made too much of standard phenomena. Nothing can be further from the truth.
After completing his initial work in Polyphase and High Frequency Alternating Currents, Tesla made a singular discovery which forever altered the course and nature of his experimental research. Whether purposefully or inadvertently, this singular discovery has been completely overlooked even by those who claim to know his work best. A single article and statements made in several of his Lectures absolutely affirm the conviction that Tesla, while working with violently abrupt electrical discharges, discovered a new force.
Indeed, it was through the development and application of this new physical agency, his greatest discovery, that Tesla encountered unexpected and devastating hostility throughout both the academic and the financial worlds. The monstrous social forces which drove him into self-exile did not, however, stop him from continuing his most important applications of this energetic species. Living in New York City until his passing in 1943, Nikola Tesla continued to conduct small experiments in applications which recall his discovery of radiant electrical energy. Few of his experiments were conducted without an accompanying assortment of reliable witnesses.
Throughout his lifetime in New York City there were many notables who observed these developments with greatest fascination. Among those who were awestruck by the things they saw were Samuel Clemens, Marguerite Merington, Robert Underwood Johnson, Edward Hewitt, Kolman Czito, Fritz Lowenstein, George Scherff, Dr. John Hammond, Lee de Forest, and Dr. Anton Kammela, Several mysterious professionals who assisted Tesla in his actual tests runs were simply referred to as “Mr. Uhlmann, Mr. Ailey, and Mr. Myers”. Apart from this scant information, we do not know more of these witnesses to his works. Along with these personages were a number of his private machinists. His secretaries, a number including Dorothy Skerritt and Muriel Arbus, bore witness to his persistent experimentation. The office at 8 E.40th Street off Fifth Avenue also served as a small laboratory workshop. All of this was moved to the Hotel New Yorker in his later years. Thus whether on the large scale, by which his younger years of experimenting were performed, or on the small scale, which characterized his last years, there are several witnesses to his continuous exertions and successes. What Tesla stated in the press, throughout his career, were always supported by a great number of experimental proofs.
Tesla spent his student years in the Polytechnic Institute at Graz, Austria. While thoroughly engrossed in deep study of the “electrical mysteries”, young Nikola Tesla observed the operation of an alternating current generator in a lecture hall demonstration. This was the high frontier of his day, and he was very much impressed with the apparent efficiency of this design. When compared with the older Gramme machines, this alternating current generator was a true engineering marvel. The complete absence of commutator bands in the housing allowed the complete elimination of sparking losses, a greatly increased efficiency in output current being the result. The AC generator did not sizzle as it turned, it hummed. The problem was in the form of current which emerged. It alternated with a regular tempo, first surging one way, and then the other. Used for every application save one, motors, the AC generator outperformed any device which formerly comprised the electrical arsenal of apparatus.
Slowly, methodically, young Tesla began developing a conceptual model for a new system of power distribution based on alternating current. Consumers could be given a superior electrical supply, one which would replace every Edisonian model then so much the revolution. The Tesla systems could supply power for most electrical appliances. Most, but not all. Motors proved to be die problem. How to manage the continuous rotation of a motor operated by an alternating current proved too taxing for any other mind. Tesla himself was completely baffled for a time with this perplexing problem, but not because he could not solve it. Tesla knew he already had the answer, a familiar experience for one who received inspiration through vision. Tesla was awaiting the moment when the revelation would flash before his eyes. Ready for that instant, he would simply write down what he perceived in the ecstasy of his visions.
This vision proved nearly impossible to release until, while strolling in a park, he chanced to behold a beautiful sunset. Moved to emotion, Tesla began quoting a melodious poem written by his favored author, Goethe. During this dramatic rendition, Tesla suddenly became enraptured with the vision of a swirling vortex in the very heart of the sun. In this momentary episode, Tesla demonstrated both his absolute reliance on vision and his ability to materialize the same. The use of several superimposed alternating currents managed the formation of a swirling magnetic vortex, one in whose grip an armature was forcibly and continuously dragged around upon its axle. Tesla Polyphase revolutionized the world. Tesla became a multimillionaire literally overnight. Together with George Westinghouse, he harnessed Niagara Falls, establishing forever the hydroelectric resource. Tesla continued seeking new ways to improve his Polyphase system, developing means for raising the frequency of current alternations into new and formerly unknown levels. He designed and tested a few new high frequency alternators, high speed rotating machines which produced up to 30,000 alternations per second. Tesla also found it possible to send such high frequency alternations through a single wire.
- PROLOGUE — Symbols and Models
- CHAPTER 2