Croatian inventor's biography glimpses into his genius

July 28, 2009|By TRISTAN PREJEAN / Special to Pulse

Book review: "Nikola Tesla - A Spark of Genius" by Carol Dommermuth-Costa (1994, Lerner Publications Co.)

"Craaaasssshhhh. Boooooommmm."

On the night of Nikola Tesla's birth, there was a terrible thunderstorm in Smiljan, Croatia.

As he was born at midnight on July 10, 1856, the midwife assisting the birth turned to Nikola's mother and said, "Your new son is a child of the storm."

"No," Mrs. Tesla replied, "He is a child of the light."

Nikola Tesla showed great promise as an inventor from the time he was born. His mother, Djuka (DOO-Kuh), came from a family of inventors.

Nikola said his mother probably had the greatest influence on him becoming an inventor. Nikola also showed great promise in designing his own inventions.


Around the age of 6, Tesla designed a simple motor. He made an axle out of two sticks fastened together like a cross, then placed a disk on it.

In Croatia, there were so many June bugs they were thought of as pests. Tesla thought they could be put to good use. So he glued four of them onto the disk. When they buzzed their wings, the disk would turn. Tesla really was a child prodigy.

Tesla achieved more than would be thought possible in his lifetime. One of his greatest inventions was the alternating current motor, which he created in 1882.

Tesla had been pondering the concept for years. Now, finally, he had it. Once this goal had been reached, though, Tesla had many years of frustration ahead of him.

At first, no one would believe in him or his "alternating-current nonsense," yet when he finally got companies to back him, they would use him for their own gain or cheat him.

In the 1890s, things began to look better. Tesla designed a new invention in his lab, the high-frequency alternating-current transformer.

Also known as the Tesla coil, it could change a low voltage to a high voltage with a safer lower electrical current than other transformers. Wireless transmission is another invention of his that has been disputed for many years.

While he was in St. Louis, Tesla sent a message from a five-kilowatt transmitter to a receiver 30 feet away -- wirelessly. This technology was what would become known as radio.

Nikola Tesla had many goals in his life, but one of the main goals was to help the planet. He wanted electricity to be freely and readily available to all, and hoped that everyone in the world would be able to enjoy his inventions. Tesla tried this, but was foiled by greedy company owners and salespeople.

In one of his labs, Tesla tried to fill the Earth with electricity using one of his own inventions. The company that supplied him with electricity soon heard of this. They quickly responded by shutting off his power and told him to stop what he was doing or they would no longer allow him to use electricity from their plants.

Greedy company owners seeking their own gain thwarted many of his ideas. Tesla could have accomplished much more in his lifetime if selfish, greedy men had not hindered him.

Tesla had a huge impact on the whole world. His findings revolutionized lighting systems, making lights safer, extending work hours, and supplying many more people with electric light. With the discovery of AC electricity, DC was discarded as a way of lighting buildings and homes.

Tesla's inventions made living and working easier and more enjoyable. He certainly had a great effect on everything and everyone.

I think that Nikola Tesla was a very great man. His accomplishments changed the world.

I would recommend this biography very highly to others. It was an extremely informationative book, the basics behind alternating and direct currents were explained, and some of Tesla's inventions and how they worked were mentioned. "Nikola Tesla -- A Spark of Genius" was a book I greatly enjoyed.

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