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Screwed Out of History: Nikola Tesla

By , York, PA
Tesla is almost solely responsible for the world’s current electrical layout. He helped establish robotics, radar, remote control, and he helped expand ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. Yet, practically no one’s heard of him. Why? Well, there are two main reasons. One: he was in competition with a competitive jerk. And two: he, like many brilliant people, was absolutely crazy, to the point where the scientific community didn’t really want anything to do with him.
Let’s start with the jerk: his name is Thomas Edison, and he’s widely credited with the invention of the light bulb. He was also pretentious and spiteful, and he totally tried to steal Tesla’s credit… which kind of worked, considering everyone remembers him, and not Tesla.
Anyway, the two men had initially worked together — well, Tesla worked for Edison –and this is where Tesla was first taken advantage of by the man. Edison had offered $50,000 — over a million bucks, adjusted for inflation — to someone who could fix his crappy and inefficient motors. When Tesla did (probably by staring them down until they worked harder), Edison wrote his deal off as a joke, and continued to pay Tesla $18 per week.
Keep in mind, Tesla was one of the most brilliant humans to have ever lived; it didn’t take long for him to flip Edison the bird and get out of there to start his own company.
Soon enough, Edison’s electricity, direct current (DC) was competing with Tesla’s far superior electricity, alternating current (AC). Edison actually tried to discredit Tesla’s AC by having the first electric chair run on it; this was supposed to discourage people from putting it in their home. He even went so far as to try and get it legally banned for its “danger.” Luckily, people weren’t quite as susceptible to marketing ploys in the 1880?s, so Tesla won that battle.
Had Edison been successful, today’s wires would be the thickness of water pipes, and way more expensive. Then again, had Tesla been completely successful, we wouldn’t even be using wires to transmit power. But more on that later.
The second reason Tesla really isn’t well-known is because, like I said earlier, he was insane. This was a man who only stayed in hotel rooms that were divisible by the number 3, was repulsed by jewelry (especially pearl earrings), and was obsessed with pigeons (he fed them daily in Central Park, kind of like that lady from Home Alone). He also spoke 8 languages, had a relentless photographic memory — Tesla memorized entire books at a time — and could mentally picture even the most complex schematics. This is why he left little to no records of any of his projects; he would literally figure them all out in his head.
Basically, Tesla was the epitome of a mad scientist. Some people blame the mysterious 1908 Tunguska Event — an explosion in Russia that was exponentially larger than the Hiroshima bomb — on some stuff Tesla had been messing around with.
Another legend tells of how Tesla found the resonant frequency of the Earth, and subsequently created an earthquake just for kicks. He also invented the Tesla coil, had plans for a flying machine that would work on ions, made an RC boat (in 1898), and lastly, he spent the later part of his life working on an electric death ray.
By the way, if you haven’t seen what a Tesla coil actually does, it’s worth checking out; they’re pretty awesome. Tesla envisioned an entire power grid of giant Tesla coils which would wirelessly bring electricity directly to your home. Did I mention he lived during the 1800?s?
Anyway, after Tesla died, the FBI came and confiscated what little records he had left. Because seriously, this was some sensitive stuff, and they definitely didn’t want someone walking out with the Earthquaker Automatic.
Somehow, even after all Tesla’s contributions and, quite frankly, feats of insane awesomeness, teachers still decide to present Edison in their classrooms. Which just goes to show you, no matter how hard you work and how much you accomplish — even if you are the freaking Lord of electricity — there will always be someone ready to pee on your parade.

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