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creativity column

The man who invented the 20th century.

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Imagine being the person who was so plugged into the workings of our universe, that you're regarded in some circles, as having invented the 20th century. The inventions this person created over his eighty-seven years on the planet, particularly in the late 1800s, are the basis for much of our modern lifestyle. 

You may have heard of his discoveries. The radio, fluorescent lighting, the electric motor, remote control, radar, neon lighting, x-rays, wireless communications; he even built the first Hydro-Electric plant at Niagara Falls to prove that water could be used as a practical energy source. He was the first person to record radio waves coming from deep space, thus ushering in the field of radio astronomy. 

His name was Nikola Tesla, and he was a man ahead of his time. He held four doctorate degrees; Philosophy, Physics, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering and possessed an IQ of 200. In 1898, he submitted the patent for a radio-controlled robot-boat which when placed in water could be maneuvered without any visible connection between the boat and operator because it functioned on radio waves. In 1901, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi claimed all the first patents for radio, from plans originally developed by Tesla. It wasn't until sixty-four years later, after both men were deceased, Tesla having died in 1943, that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all of Marconi's radio patents were invalid and awarded them to Tesla's estate. 

Tesla also worked on the way to develop a global system of giant radio towers meant to relay news wirelessly, stock reports, pictures, and even free electricity for one and all. J.P. Morgan, one of the world's most powerful bankers of his era, who financed railroads and helped organize U.S. Steel, General Electric, found out that there would be no way to regulate it and make money from it, so he pulled his funding and gave it to Thomas Edison. 

I believe that Tesla's inventions pushed people way outside of their comfort zones and his discoveries frightened and confused people which undoubtedly contributed to his reclusiveness. Tesla died broke and alone, other than for some pigeons he befriended, on the 33rd floor in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel in New York City. He never married, and he never had any children. He focused every ounce of his energy on his work. It’s shocking when you learn that there is currently no Tesla museum in the United States.

There was an IndieGoGo campaign set up to acquire the land his last remaining laboratory called Wardenclyffe, was located on in Shoreham, New York. The campaign raised over 1.3 million dollars, and the property was purchased in 2012. While there is currently no museum, there are aggressive plans in the works to build one.

My hope is that future generations will come to know the man for more than just being the namesake of Elon Musk's electric car company. He was a genius and a visionary, and he had a clear understanding of what his ultimate legacy would be when he said, "Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have worked, is mine."

William ChildsComment