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Nikola Tesla

electrical engineer, inventor
Born: 7/9/1856
Birthplace: Smiljan Lika, Croatia

A brilliant but eccentric inventor, Tesla is responsible for many of the innovations in modern electrical machinery and generation. He came to the U.S. after studying in Austria and Czechoslovakia and working in Paris, and worked briefly with Thomas Edison but left a year later to open his own laboratory (1885). He was forced out of his own lab because of his lack of interpersonal and business skills, but founded another firm in 1887 in which he invented an electro-magnetic motor using alternating current. Because he sold the patents to Westinghouse a year later, he failed to realize the vast profits from his invention. He continued to invent, introducing innovations to high-frequency electricity, including the Tesla coil, an air-core transformer. His system of alternating current proved successful and provided light for the Chicago World's Fair (1893), leading to the construction of the Niagara Falls hydroelectric generating plant (1896). He foresaw applications for electricity that would not become reality until decades later, including pulsed radar, solar power, interplanetary radio communication, but was unable to convince others of the feasibility of his visions. He refused the 1912 Nobel Prize in physics because he did not wish to share it with Thomas Edison, whom Tesla claimed was not a true scientist. The most lasting reward he received was the honor of having a unit of magnetic flow density, the tesla, named after him.

Died: 1/7/1943