Minutes of the Edison Medal Meeting, May 18, 1917, with Nikola Tesla's Acceptance Speech on Receiving the Edison Medal
MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS, MELD AT THE ENGINEERING SOCIETIES BUILDING, NEW YORK CITY, FRIDAY EVENING, MAY 18, 1917.*
PRESENTATION OF THE EDISON MEDAL TO NIKOLA TESLA.
President Buck called the meeting to order at 8:30 o'clock.
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, gentlemen, this is the Annual Meeting of the Institute, and the first thing on the program will be the presentation of the Report of the Board of Directors by our Secretary, Mr. Hutchinson.
SECRETARY HUTCHINSON: The annual report of the Institute for the year has been printed and distributed, and it is not my intention to take the time to read it. It consists of a brief resume of the activities of the institute for the entire year, and includes abstracts of the reports of the various committees.
(Secretary Hutchinson then abstracted the Report of the Board of Directors.)
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, the next order of business of the evening will be the announcement of the election of officers and managers for the coming year. The report of the Tellers will be presented by the Secretary, Mr. Hutchinson.
Secretary Hutchinson then presented the report of the Tellers, which showed elections as follows:
President: W. W. Rice, Jr.
Vice-Presidents: Frederich Bedell,
John H. Finney,
A. S. McAllister
Managers: (Term expiring July 31, 1921) Walter A. Hall,
E. H. Martindale,
William A. DelMar,
Treasurer: George A. Hamilton
(The president then declared the foregoing-named gentlemen as duly elected officers and managers of the Institute as indicated.)
THE PRESIDENT: It is our privilege from time to time to honor those in the electrical profession who have rendered conspicuous service towards this advance. We have the pleasure this evening of so honoring Mr. Nikola Tesla. Dr. Kennelly, who is Chairman of the Edison Medal Committee, will tell us what the Edison Medal is and what it stands for. I take pleasure in introducing Dr. A. E. Kennelly.
DR. A. E. KENNELLY: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is my privilege to say a few words to you upon the origin and purpose of the Edison Medal. First of all, many people suppose that the Edison Medal is a medal presented by Mr. Edison. That is a mistake. Mr. Edison has been so busy during his life receiving medals that he has not time for the delivery of any. The Edison Medal owes its existence to the action of a group of his admirers who in a very remarkable Deed of Gift, a printed copy of which I have here, have set apart a fund for the purpose of the annual award of a medal for meritorious achievement in the electrical science and art. This deed of gift originally recited, in 1904, that the medal should be annually awarded for 'the best graduating thesis by the students of electrical engineering in the United States and Canada, but in the years that elapsed between 1904 and 1908, I think I am correct in saying that there were no successful candidates, at least for the medal under those terms, although there may have been many aspirants. It is supposed that the dignity of the medal and the junior character of the tyros restrained them in their modesty from making proper application.
Be that as it may, finding that the applicants held back under the original terms of the deed of gift, the matter was taken up further and the original body of men redrafted the deed and placed it in the hands of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers to award the medal, under the choice of a Committee, annually, for meritorious achievement, as indicated, to any resident of the United States, its dependencies, or Canada, during each administration year. The monument which they raised to Mr. Edison by their act is, I think you will admit, one of the most wonderful that has ever been raised to any scientist.
The Deed of Gift says that there shall be twenty-four members appointed by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, sixteen from the membership at large, three ex officio members, the President, Secretary and Treasurer, and the balance from the Board of Directors.
Every year the medal is due to be awarded. There have been already six medals awarded, not counting the medal which is to be awarded to-night, and the recipients of these medals have been Elihu Thomson, Frank J. Sprague, George Westinghouse, William Stanley, Charles F. Brush, Alexander Graham Bell. I think you will say that is a fitting selection for the galaxy of names that we look forward to in the future, all of them, in honoring Mr. Edison's achievements, which have been so noteworthy, that every household in the land holds his name as a cherished household word. We may look forward to a time say a thousand years hence, when, like this evening, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, or its successors or assigns, shall be convoked, and at which the medal of the year will be awarded to its One Thousand and Seventh recipient, and all that long galaxy of names will represent those individuals who have contributed to the recognition of the achievements of Mr. Edison and his gift to humanity.
In addition to what this deed of gift shows in honor of Mr. Edison himself, there is, of course, the very great honor that it bestows upon the recipient. The Deed of Gift says there shall be twenty-four jurors, which you see is twice the number of jurors that is allowed in the palladium of our liberties, but whereas the jurors of ordinary life convict by unanimous vote, the twenty-four jurors of the Edison Medal convict, at least, by a two-thirds vote, so I think I am correct in saying that their convictions have hitherto been entirely unanimous, and in this particular case I can certainly declare that it has been unanimous.
The galaxy of names that will be produced and has already been produced under this deed of gift will be great and noteworthy. It will not be necessary to look into a "Who's Who" to see who has been great and notorious and worthy of merit in electrical science and art. The historian of the future will simply say - "Give me the list of the Edison Medallists."
This deed of gift is also wonderful in other respects. It has marvelous flexibility and marvelous rigidity in certain directions. It provides for the possibility of a change of personnel, a change of procedure and a change of administration as time and things may change. It only makes one rigid restriction, and that is that the name "Edison Medal" shall never be changed. Times may change and persons and institutions, the Institute itself may go out of existence, and there is provided machinery whereby if the Institute should say it is tired, or it has gone out of existence, or can no longer administer the medal, that the five oldest universities of the country, maintaining a course in electrical engineering, shall be able to place the administration of the medal by their vote in the hands of some new institution, so you see that this is a very wonderful Deed of Gift that I have the honor of bringing to your notice here this evening in connection with the bestowal of this medal. Another great advantage that the medal presents is that its recipient shall be alive, that is to say he must not only have been convicted of great merit and meritorious achievement, but he must also have escaped being run over by automobiles up to the time of the presentation. That represents a great advance over those methods of awarding distinction which depend upon the demise of the individual. You know somebody has said that a great statesman is a successful politician who is dead, but we may say that the Edison Medallist is a great electrician who is alive, and you know it is wonderful how little is known sometimes about a man's demise, however much may be known about his work. The other day I met a negro in the South, and I happened to mention Washington, and what was done by George Washington who died so many years ago, and he said, "For de Lawd's sake, I doant even heard the man was sick." So you see that even George Washington, no matter how meritorious he might have been in electrical matters, could not possibly be the recipient of an Edison medal.
We have recently received the sad news in this country of the demise of the great English electrical engineer Silvanus P. Thomson, a man who had many admirers and many friends in this country, many students here, a man whose name and work is dear to so many of us, and efforts are now being made to contribute to a fitting memorial for him by the purchase of his library as an appendix to the great library of the British Institution of Electrical Engineers, and a notice is given on page 126 of the May Proceedings of the Institute regarding that movement, and you will find it a very worthy movement. Subscription lists are open to the members of this Institute, as a matter of courtesy, and a matter of recognition, that so many of his friends in this country could be allowed to give some contribution to this great Thomson Memorial. It is a fact, as I dare say many of you know, that the funds for Lord Kelvin's Memorial Window in Westminster Abbey were largely raised in America, more largely, I believe, than they were in England itself. In this case I am led to believe that they do not want the funds so much, as they want the names of sympathizers with the project, the support of those who recognize the work and merit of Silvanus P. Thomson. But how much better it would be if we were presenting a memorial to Silvanus P. Thomson living, as we are able to do in the case of the Edison Medal, than presenting a memorial to Silvanus P. Thomson passed away.
Then one thing more: This deed of gift between its lines suggests a third and by no means least important purpose, and that is a safeguard, lest we forget. We in this time and of this continent, particularly we of the electrical profession, with our faces ever turned to the rising sun, are so apt to forget that there has been a preceding night of trouble, difficulty and dismay, and that the tools of our trade which lie to our hand were only secured by hard work and toil against all sorts of distress and discouragements. The Edison Medal is our means for reviving your memories of the past and pointing out that the things we look upon as the sunshine of heaven now have been arrived at by the hard work, the inspiration, or, as Edison himself would say, the perspiration of those who have worked in the past.
We remember that beautiful book, "The Twins", where Budge and Toddy the children always insisted at all times of the day and night to see the wheels go 'round and have their father's watch opened for them. The medallist to-night was a man who saw in his mind wheels going around when there was no means of getting alternating current motors to rotate, when the alternating current would do everything but make wheels go 'round, and he devised the rotating magnetic field so prophetically in his mind's eye that the rotating magnetic wheel would set wheels going 'round all over the land and all over the world, and the vision is carried out, and we recognize that vision here, and the Medal is partly as a reminder that we should not forget the fact, that the medallist also made the phenomenon of high frequency known to us all practically for the first time, and that what he showed was a revelation to science and art unto all time.
For this third purpose the Edison Medal has been created, and we may look far forward into the future and see it given year after year for, let us hope, a thousand years from now, in the year 2917, to witness the ceremony which we may well expect will be furnished at that time. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Kennelly has referred to the struggles of the past, and we are very fortunate in having with us to-night one who was associated with Mr. Tesla in .his struggles of the past. Gentlemen, I want to introduce to you Mr. Charles A. Terry, who will tell us something about these struggles and the early work of Mr. Tesla, for which we assign to him the Medal to-night.
CHARLES A. TERRY: Mr. Kennelly spoke of the thousandth award of the Medal. I think there is a peculiar significance in the fact that Mr. Tesla is to receive the seventh medal - the seventh in most calculations is considered a most excellent number to have.
The convolutions of the brain of one man impel him to paint upon canvas the visions of his soul; another conceives beauty of form which he must express in plastic art or in architectural structure; others are driven by an inner force to devote their lives to the discovery of the secrets of unexplored regions of the earth, or to search out the mysteries of the stars; some find themselves compelled by an irresistable desire to learn through archeological research the forgotten achievements of ancient races; still others seek to ascertain and formulate the physical laws which govern the processes of nature, and men with other talents find themselves urged by a like persistent force to devise and disclose new means whereby those laws may be utilized for the further benefit of mankind.
It is this God-given desire to accomplish and to give, that has produced the Michelangelos, the Galileos, the Sir Christopher Wrens, the Livingstons, Newtons, Franklins, Westinghouses, Edisons and scores of other makers of history; men whose names we retain in affectionate remembrance, because they earnestly responded to the call from within and by patient toil conceived thoughts and discovered things of value which they promulgated for the benefit of their fellow men.
Although hope of reward may and properly should exist as an added impulse to such endeavors, the chiefly effective force compelling to the long hours of hard work and personal sacrifices of such men is the "I must" which speaks from within the soul, and with our truly great men the desire for reward is better satisfied by a consciousness of achieving their aims and by the just commendation of their fellows than by material gain, except insofar as the latter may aid in the further advancement of their tasks.
Fortunately, men generally are not jealous nor envious of the doers of great deeds and the givers of large benefits, but from the depths of their hearts are grateful and they are satisfied only when evidence of their gratitude can be brought home to the giver.
It is because of this desire to show gratitude to, and appreciation of, one of our fellow members, whose name history will rightly record in the same distinguished class with those we have mentioned that we are gathered to-night.
Twenty-nine years ago this month, there was presented before this Institute, a paper of unusual import. It is entitled "A New System of Alternate Current Motors and Transformers". The author, Nikola Tesla, was then only 31 years of age, and but four years a resident of this country. His early life was spent near his birthplace not far from the Eastern Adriatic Coast. His father a Greek Clergyman and his mother, herself of an inventive mind, secured for their young son a comprehensive training in mathematics, physics and philosophy. At the age of 22 he had completed his studies in engineering at the Polytechnic School in Gratz and also a course in the University of Prague; and in 1881 began his practical work at Budapest. In 1883 he was located in Strasbourg, engaged in completing the lighting of a newly erected railway station. Shortly after finishing this task he came to the United States. Mr. Tesla's first work in this country was upon new designs of direct current arc and incandescent lighting systems for the Edison Company.
Throughout all these years his desire had been to find an opportunity to demonstrate the truth of a conviction which-became fixed in his mind while studying direct current motors in school at Gratz in 1878; the conviction was that it should be possible to create a rotating magnetic field without the use of commutators. While at Strasbourg, Tesla had succeeded in producing the rotation of a pivoted iron disc placed in a coil traversed by alternating currents, a steel bar being projected into the coil in the neighborhood of the disc. His conception of the reason for this rotation at that time was that a lag occurred in the subsidence of the magnetism of both the disc and the steel bar between successive current waves, and that the mutual repulsions caused the disc to revolve. By some fortunate process of reasoning he conceived while in Budapest (in 1882) that by using two or more out-of-phase alternating currents respectively passing through geometrically displaced coils it would be possible to develop his long sought progressively shifting magnetic field.
Lack of funds and facilities for working out his theory compelled still further postponement, but in 1885 Tesla had the good fortune to interest men of means in a direct current arc light which he had devised, and subsequently a laboratory was equipped for him in Liberty Street, New York, and here at last he found opportunity to demonstrate the correctness of his long cherished theory. In 1887 he was able to exhibit to his business associates and to Professor William A. Anthony, whose expert opinion they sought, motors having such progressively shifting fields without the use of commutators, as he had foreseen nine years before.
Having thus demonstrated the correctness of his theory and the feasibility of its application, it remained for Tesla to work out various practical methods of applying the principle, and the rapidity and wonderful way in which he surrounded the entire field of constant speed, synchronous, induction and split-phase motors is beautifully set forth in his paper of May 18th, and in the numerous patents issued May 1st, 1888, and succeeding years, covering the forms of electric motors which have since become the almost universal means for transforming the energy of alternating currents into mechanical energy.
It is somewhat difficult to eliminate from our minds the developments of the past thirty years which have now become every day features of the electrical industry, and to realize the meagreness of the then existing knowledge of alternating current phenomena. The commercial use of alternating current systems of distributions was then scarcely two years old. The Gaulard & Gibbs system of series transformers had been used abroad in a limited way for a slightly longer period but the multiple arc system based upon the so-called "Stanley Rule" which initiated the great development of the present system, was not put in practical operation in the pioneer Great Barrington plant until March 1886. It was then recognized that while the alternating current possessed wonderful possibilities for electrical distribution for lighting purposes, two almost necessary devices were lacking to render it a complete success, one a meter, the other a power motor. Professor Elihu Thomson promptly devised a successful form of meter, the motive portion of which comprised a laminated field and armature, the coils of the latter being periodically close-circuited during revolution by a commutator. To fill the demand for a power motor, however, the most promising device then suggested was a series commutator motor with laminated field and armature cores, but no satisfactory results had been obtained. Such was the situation when Tesla's achievement was announced in the Institute paper to which reference has been made.
His Honor Judge Townsend of the United States Circuit Court, in an opinion rendered in August, 1900, as the outgrowth of some patent litigation on the Tesla inventions, concisely defines the underlying characteristic of the Tesla motor as follows:
"Tesla's invention, considered in it essence, was the production of a continuously rotating or whirling field of magnetic forces for power purposes by generating two or more displaced or differing phases of the alternating current, transmitting such phases, with their independence preserved, to the motor, and utilizing the displaced phases as such in the motor."
Among the first to recognize the immense importance of Mr. Tesla's motors were Mr. Westinghouse and his advisors, Mr. T. B. Kerr, Mr. Byllesby, Mr. Shallenberger and Mr. Schmid, and in June Mr. Westinghouse secured an option which shortly resulted in the purchase of the patents, thus bringing under one ownership the alternating current transformer system of distribution, and the Tesla motor. It is interesting to here note that Mr. Shallenberger had about two weeks before the publication of the Tesla patents independently devised an alternating current meter, the principle of operation of which was that of the Tesla motor, and whatever might have been Mr. Shallenberger's natural disappointment upon finding himself thus anticipated, he at once recognized that to Mr. Tesla belonged the honor of being the first to solve the great fundamental problem of an alternating current motor. A warm friendship between these two men began at once and continued throughout Mr. Shallenberger's life, and Mr. Tesla rejoiced to accord to Mr. Shallenberger full credit for the latter's brilliant work in producing what is now the standard meter for alternating currents.
As illustrating the generous gentleness of Tesla's character, I wish to here quote from testimony given by him in 1903. Referring to Shallenberger, Tesla said:
"I clearly remember that in the first days when I came to Pittsburgh he took me to lunch at the Duquesne Notel, and when I told him that I was sorry that I had anticipated him, I saw tears in his eyes. That incident I remember vividly; but what has preceded it I cannot remember now. Perhaps it is because this impression was so vivid that it has destroyed the preceding ones, which were weaker."'
It is characteristic of Tesla that he should so deeply regret the disappointments of another.
Owing in a measure to the circumstance that the then prevailing rate of alternation of the alternating current system was 16,000, the commercial introduction of Tesla motors was somewhat retarded during the first few years, that rate being found less adapted to the motor work than a lower rate. Today, however, wherever alternating current systems are used Tesla motors abound. Without such motors the alternating current system would have remained seriously restricted in its use.
Before passing to a consideration of other of Tesla's activities, it will be appropriate to refer again to the opinion of Judge Townsend, from which I quote the following:
"The Tesla discovery for which these patents were granted revolutionized the art of electrical power transmission, as well demonstrated in the record from both judicial and scientific standpoints."
In the closing passage of the opinion, Judge Townsend pays further tribute to Tesla in the following words:
"It remained to the genius of Tesla to capture the unruly, unrestrained, and hitherto opposing elements in the field of nature and art and to harness them to draw the machines of man. It was he who first showed how to transform the toy of Arago into an engine of power, the "Laboratory experiment" of Baily into a practically successful motor; the indicator into a driver. He first conceived the idea that the very impediments of reversal in direction, the contradictions of alternations, might be transformed into power-producing rotation, a whirling field of force.
What others looked upon as only invincible barriers, impassable currents, and contradictory forces, he brought under control and by harmonizing their directions taught how to utilize in practical motors in distant cities the power of Niagara."
Imagination developed to a high degree is a marked characteristic of all great inventors, so it is of our great poets, artists, philosophers, generals, and, in fact, of all great originators of thought and motion: The power to picture in the mind things not yet existent is an underlying characteristic of most great men. But imagination to be effective must be combined with a just sense of proportion, a logical appreciation of limitations, and a capacity for unremitting application. Mr. Tesla combines these qualities in a marked degree, and particularly does he possess the faculty of projecting his thought far into unexplored regions, not only of science but of philosophy. His passion for searching out the ultimate is charmingly evidenced by the following extract from his lecture before this Institute at Columbia College, May 20th, 1891;
"In how far we can understand the world .around us is the ultimate thought of every student of nature. The coarseness of our senses prevents us from recognizing the ulterior construction of matter, and astronomy, this grandest and most positive of natural sciences, can only teach us something that happens, as it were, in our immediate neighborhood; of the remoter portions of the boundless universe, with its numberless stars and suns, we know nothing. But far beyond the limit of perception of our senses the spirit still can guide us, and so we may hope that even these unknown worlds — infinitely small and great — may in a measure become known to us. Still, even if this knowledge should reach us, the searching mind will find a barrier, perhaps forever unsurpassable, to the true recognition of that which seems to be, the mere appearance of which is the only and slender basis of all our philosophy.
Of all the forms of nature's immeasurable, all-pervading energy, which, ever and ever changing and moving, like a soul animates the inert universe, those of electricity and magnetism are perhaps the most fascinating."
The impress made upon the world by the deeds of a great inventor cannot be measured by the number of patents which he has received nor by the monetary reward secured nor by the mere exploitation of his name. Often his greatest gifts are in the form of inspiring contributions to the literature, filled with suggestions of lines of thought which lead others to work in untried fields. This is especially true of a series of lectures delivered by Mr. Tesla upon the subject of high frequency, high potential currents. The first of the series was given at Columbia College in 1891, before this Institute. During 1892 and 1893 this lecture with additional data and experiments was repeated in London, Paris, Philadelphia and St. Louis.
Referring to an interesting interview with Mr. Tesla appearing in a New York daily in 1893 regarding the St. Louis lecture the Editor of the Electrical World says:
"Mr. Tesla, in his own graceful way, tells the story of his life and the history of some of his more important inventions. Perhaps there is no living scientist in whose life and work the general public takes a deeper interest, especially in this country."
Tesla's fundamental purpose was to publish the results of an extended research and of a series of experiments patiently conducted at his laboratory and elsewhere through many years. During these lectures he exhibited to the audience numerous experiments displaying striking and instructive phenomena. He also described many novel pieces of apparatus such, for instance, as his high-frequency generator and induction coils and his magnetically quenched arc. Mr. Erskine Murray in his treatise upon Wireless Telegraphy, referring to certain of these early inventions of Tesla says:
"Among many other inventions, made as early as 1893, perhaps the most important to wireless telegraphists is his method of producing long trains of waves of high frequency, and of transforming them to higher voltage. After several unsuccessful attempts he completed an alternator which could be run at 30,000 periods per second, and designed a form of transformer capable of transforming these currents to very high voltage. He also showed that his transformer, or "Tesla coil" as it is usually called nowadays, could transform currents of much higher frequencies than were obtainable from his alternator, even currents of 100,000 or 1,000,000 periods per second, such as are produced by the oscillatory discharge of a Leyden jar."
The London lecture was given under the auspices of the British Institution of Electrical Engineers and because of the intense public interest manifested after its announcement the ample capacity of the Theatre of the Royal Institution was required to accommodate the audience.
At the completion of the lecture Prof. Aytron spoke as follows:
"It is my most pleasing duty to propose a very hearty vote of thanks to our lecturer, who has entertained us, it is true, for two hours, but we would willingly wait for another hour's similar entertainment."
Mr. Fleming in his authoritative book on wireless telegraphy and telephony pays the following tribute:
"In 1892 Nikola Tesla captured the attention of the whole scientific world by his fascinating experiments on high frequency electric currents. He stimulated the scientific imagination of others us well as displayed his own, and created a widespread interest in his brilliant demonstrations.
Amongst those who witnessed these things no one was more able to appreciate their inner meaning than Sir William Crookes."
An article by E. Raverot appearing in the Electrical World of March 26, 1892, closes a review of the Tesla Paris lecture with the following appreciative comment:
"One sees from this lecture the deep interest which the works and discoveries of Mr. Tesla have inspired among physicists since the first appearance of his publication, and it is with great satisfaction that we are able to express the feeling of admiration which his experiments have inspired in us."
In his London lecture delivered in February, 1892, Tesla had occasion to describe a special construction of insulated cable designed to guard against electro-static disturbances, but immediately added the following significant prediction:
"But such cables will not be constructed, for ere long intelligence — transmitted without wires — will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism. The wonder is that, with the present state of knowledge and experiences gained, no attempt is being made to disturb the electrostatic or magnetic condition of the earth and transmit, if nothing else, intelligence."
This was Tesla's prophecy twenty-five years ago.
In his lecture before the National Electric Light Association at St. Louis in March, 1893, Mr. Tesla elaborated certain views regarding the importance of resonance effects in this field and stated:
"I would say a few words on a subject which constantly fills my thoughts and which concerns the welfare of all. I mean the transmission of intelligible signals or perhaps even power to any distance without the use of wires."
He then announced that his conviction had grown so strong that he no longer looked upon the plan of transmitting intelligence as a mere theoretical possibility, and referring to the existing belief of some that telephony to any distance might be accomplished "by induction through the air", concisely set forth his theory as follows:
"I cannot stretch my imagination so far, but I do firmly believe that it is practical to disturb by means of powerful machines the electro-static condition of the earth and thus transmit intelligible signals and perhaps power."
Enlarging upon this theory, he states that, although we have no possible evidence of a charged body existing in space without other oppositely electrified bodies being near, there is a fair probability that the earth is such a body, for by whatever process it was separated from other bodies it must have retained a charge and that the upper strata of the air may be conducting and contain this opposite charge. He further expanded the theory that with proper means for producing electrical oscillations it might be possible to produce electrical disturbances sufficiently powerful to be perceptible by suitable instruments at any point on the Earth's surface. He thus forecast the theory at present accepted by leading scientists as the true basis of wireless telegraphy.
Continuing the same line of thought Mr. Tesla in an interview which appeared in the New York Herald in 1893 said:
"One result of my investigations, the possibility of which has been proven by experiment, is the transmission of energy through the air. I advanced that idea some time ago, and I am happy to say it is now receiving some attention from scientific men.
The plan I have suggested is to disturb by powerful machinery the electricity of the earth, thus setting it in vibration. Proper appliances will be constructed to take up the energy transmitted by these vibrations, transforming them into suitable form of power to be made available for the practical wants of life."
Testifying in a patent suit regarding these early predictions Mr. John Stone Stone, the well-known authority on wireless telegraphy has but recently made the following striking comment:
"I misunderstood Tesla. I think we all misunderstood Tesla. We thought he was a dreamer and visionary. He did dream and his dreams came true, he did have visions but they were of a real future, not an imaginary one. Tesla was the first man to lift his eyes high enough to see that the rarified stratum of atmosphere above our earth was destined to play an important role in the radio telegraphy of the future, a fact which had to obtrude itself on the attention of most of us before we saw it. But Tesla also perceived what many of us did not in those days, namely, the currents which flowed away from the base of the antenna over the surface of the earth and in the earth itself."
Seldom is it that an art springs into being through the efforts of one man alone, but rather as a growth to which many have contributed. This is peculiarly true of the wireless art, and without detracting in the slightest from the honor which is justly due to those who have brought the system to its present wonderful efficiency, it is just to accord to Tesla highest praise not alone for his exposition of principles as set forth in his lectures but also for the more definitive work which followed, much of which is evidenced by his many patents dealing with the wireless art.
Before leaving this branch of Tesla's work, I wish to quote again from the testimony of Mr. Stone, presenting his view of the indebtedness of the wireless art to Tesla:
"Some of those whose work or whose writings during that early period must be noted are Nikola Tesla, Prof. Elihu Thomson, Prof. M. I. Pupin, Prof. Lodge, Prof. Northrup, Prof. Pierce, Hutin & Leblanc, Mr. Marconi and myself. Among all these, the name of Nikola Tesla stands out most prominently. Tesla, with his almost preternatural insight into alternating current phenomena that had enabled him some years before to revolutionize the art of electric power transmission through the invention of the rotary field motor, knew how to make resonance serve, not merely the role of microscope to make visible the electric oscillations, as Hertz had done, but he made it serve the role of a stereopticon to render spectacular to large audiences the phenomena of electric oscillations and high frequency currents.*****He did more to excite interest and create an intelligent understanding of these phenomena in the years 1891-92-93 than any one else, and the more we learn about high frequency phenomena, resonance and radiation today, the nearer we find ourselves approaching what we at one time were inclined, through a species of intellectual myopia, to regard as the fascinating but fantastical speculations of a man who we are now compelled, in the light of modern experience and knowledge, to admit was a prophet. He saw to the fulfillment of his prophesies and it has been difficult to make any but unimportant improvements in the art of radio-telegraph without traveling part of the way at least, along a trail blazed by this pioneer who, though eminently ingenious, practical and successful in the apparatus he devised and constructed, was so far ahead of his time that the best of us then mistook him for a dreamer."
Another well recognized wireless authority, Professor Slaby in a personal letter to Tesla took occasion to say:
"I am devoting myself since some time to investigations in wireless telegraph, which you have first founded in such a clear and precise manner. It will interest you, as father of this telegraph, to know, etc."
Throughout Tesla's work with high potential currents he had persistently in mind the wireless transmission of power in large quantities. It was in the furtherance of this line of investigation that he expended large amounts of money and years of labor at Wardenclyffe, Long Island, and at Telluride, Colorado. Late in 1914 he secured a patent upon an application filed twelve years before upon an apparatus for transmitting electric energy with which he hopes to be able to transmit unlimited power with high economy to any distance without wires. While as yet these efforts have not resulted in commercial exploitation, the future may prove that his dream of thus transmitting energy in substantial amounts is of that class which in time come true, as in the case of his dream of wireless telegraphy.
Another use to which Tesla adapted the results of his high frequency investigations was the control of the movements of torpedoes and boats. In 1898 he patented such an apparatus and also built and successfully operated such a craft. The movements of the propelling engine, the steering and other mechanisms were controlled wirelessly from the shore or other point through a distance of two miles. Apparently this, like some of his other inventions, was ahead of its time. Tesla, however, evidenced his entire faith in the future of the apparatus in an interview which appeared in 1898 from which I quote:
"But I have no desire that my fame should rest on the invention of a merely destructive device, no matter how terrible. I prefer to be remembered as the inventor who succeeded in abolishing war. That will be my highest pride. But there are many peaceful uses to which my invention can be put, conspicuously that of rescuing the shipwrecked.
It will be perfectly feasible to equip our lifesaving stations with life cars, or boats, directed and controlled from the shores, which will approach stranded vessels and bring off the passengers and crews without risking the lives of the brave fellows who are now forced to fight their way to the rescue through the raging surf. It may also be used for the propulsion of pilot boats, for carrying letters or provisions or instruments to inaccessible regions******."
On March 12th, 1895, Mr. Tesla met with a disastrous loss by the destruction of his laboratory at 33 and 35 South 5th Avenue, New York. In the Electrical Review of March 20th, 1895, there is published an interview with Mr. Tesla regarding this fire. In it he says:
"I am congratulating myself all the time it is no worse. I begin all over again, but I have the knowledge and experience of what has gone before, and fortunately I was able to show with completed apparatus that my ideas and theories are correct. Had the fire occurred a few months ago I should have been robbed of the opportunity of many highly successful demonstrations."
In his laboratory were stored a vast quantity of 'old models and trial apparatus with which he would have been unwilling to part for any amount of money. He further states that he was at the time engaged upon four main lines of work and investigation: his oscillator, and improved method of electric lighting, the transmission of intelligence without wires, and, an investigation relating to the nature of electricity. Mr. Tesla deeply appreciated the expressions of sympathy received from his many friends and with unabated zeal applied himself to a continuation of the work thus unfortunately interrupted.
Another field of investigation in which Mr. Tesla has contributed valuable material is related to the Roentgen Ray. In the Electrical Review of March and April, 1896, there appeared a number of communications from Mr. Tesla which while giving full credit to Roentgen for his magnificent discovery made public much additional data derived from his own careful experiments in this line of research. From an editorial in the Electrical Review of March 18th, 1896, the following is quoted:
"The announcement of Nikola Tesla's achievements in the new art first published in the Electrical Review of March 11th, in the author's own modest language has added fresh impetus to the work in this direction. His disruptive discharge coil has been universally used where the best results in radiography have been obtained, and his two marked improvements, namely, the single electrode tube and his method of rarefaction, promise great results. Other important points about Tesla's work are the fine details he has obtained in his radiographs, the great distance at which the radiographs have been made, and brief time of exposure."
"Mr. Tesla is pursuing quietly his work and giving all credit to Roentgen; and it is significant, we think, that the first radiograph he produced in his laboratory was the name of the discoverer. We wish that such courtesies among scientists would always be practiced."
Mr. J. Mount Bleyer commenting upon these investigations said:
"The results obtained by Tesla are simply marvelous, but are just what I expected."
Among the many other inventions to which Mr. Tesla has devoted much time and energy may be mentioned a thereto-magnetic motor and a gyro-magnetic generator, antisparking dynamo brush and commutator, auxiliary brush regulation of direct current dynamos, uni-polar dynamos, mechanical and electrical oscillators, electro-therapeutic apparatus, the oxidation of nitrogen by high frequency currents, and an electrolytic registering meter. The last named device was based upon an exceedingly interesting theory. The current to be measured was passed through two parallel conductors arranged in series. The current established a difference of potential between these conductors proportional to the strength of the current passing. This results in a transference of the metal from one conductor to the other, thereby decreasing the resistance of one and increasing that of the other. From such variations in resistance of one or both, the current energy expended is computed.
One other line of endeavor entirely outside of electricity to which Tesla has given much attention is the development of a bladeless steam turbine in which the friction of the passing steam as distinguished from its direct impact is availed of. The steam is admitted between plain parallel rotating discs and passing spirally from the circumference toward the axial center imparts energy to the discs. Such a turbine can be run at exceedingly high temperatures, is readily reversible and having no blades is extremely simple and free from liability to accidental derangement. With great ingenuity Tesla has succeeded in producing such machines of considerable power and having exceedingly interesting characteristics. It is to be hoped that with his indefatigable zeal Tesla will soon succeed in perfecting the commercial application of this invention.
It is not possible in this brief survey even to touch upon many of the lines of Mr. Tesla's activities, but we must content ourselves with this inadequate presentation of typical evidences of the fascinating genius of this man whom we delight to welcome as a citizen of our country - the country which he twenty-five years ago adopted as his own - the country of which he once said:
"When I arrived upon your hospitable shores I eagerly applied myself to work and to learn, and I have persevered in that course. If I have made any special success in this country, I attribute it largely to a feature which is characteristic of both the English and American races; that is, their keen and generous appreciation of any work that they think is good."
Mr. Tesla, we would indeed be woefully lacking in the attributes which you so kindly ascribe to us were we not most cordially appreciative of your work, work which we know is good.
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, we are fortunate in having with us to-night another man who has been familiar with Mr. Tesla's work for many years and can tell us something further about his work. I introduce Mr. B. A. Behrend.
B. A. BEHREND: Mr. Chairman: Mr. President of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers: Fellow Members: Ladies and Gentlemen:
BY AN EXTRAORDINARY COINCIDENCE, it is exactly twenty-nine years ago, to the very day and hour, that there stood before this Institute Mr. Nikola Tesla, and he read the following sentences: ._
"To obtain a rotary effort in these motors was the subject of long thought. In order to secure this result it was necessary to make such a disposition that while the poles of one element of the motor are shifted by the alternate currents of the source, the poles produced upon the other elements should always be maintained in the proper relation to the former, irrespective of the speed of the motor. Such a condition exists in a continuous current motor; but in a synchronous motor, such as described, the condition is fulfilled only when the speed is normal.
"The object has been attained by placing within the ring properly subdivided cylindrical iron core wound with several independent coils closed upon themselves. Two coils at right angles are sufficient, but a greater number may be advantageously employed. It results from this disposition that when the poles of the ring are shifted, currents are generated in the closed armature coils. These currents are the most intense at or near the points of the greatest density of the lines of force, and their effect is to produce poles upon the armature at right angles to those of the ring, at least theoretically so; and since this action is entirely independent of the speed - that is, as far as the location of the poles is concerned - a continuous pull is exerted upon the periphery of the armature. In many respects these motors are similar to the continuous current motors. If load is put on, the speed, and also the resistance of the motor, is diminished and more current is made to pass through the energizing coils, thus increasing the effort. Upon the load being taken off, the counter-electromotive force increases and less current passes through the primary or energizing coils. Without any load the speed is very nearly equal to that of the shifting poles of the field magnet.
"It will be found that the rotary effort in these motors fully equals that of the continuous current motors. The effort seems to be greatest when both armature and field magnets are without any projections."
Not since the appearance of Faraday's Experimental Researches in Electricity has a great experimental truth been voiced so simply and so clearly as this description of Mr. Tesla's great discovery of the generation and utilization of polyphase alternating currents. He left nothing to be done for those who followed him. His paper contained the skeleton even of the mathematical theory.
Three years later, in 1891, there was given the first great demonstration, by Swiss engineers, of the transmission of power at 30,000 volts from Aauffen to Frankfort by means of Mr. Tesla's system. A few years later this was followed by the development of the Cataract Construction Company, under the presidency of our member, Mr. Edward D. Adams, and with the aid of the engineers of the Westinghouse Company. It is interesting to recall here to-night that in Lord Kelvin's report to Mr. Adams, Lord Kelvin recommended the use of direct current for the development of power at Niagara Falls and for the transmission to Buffalo.
The due appreciation or even enumeration of the results of Mr. Tesla's invention is neither practicable nor desirable at this moment. There is a time for all things. Suffice it to say that, were we to seize and to eliminate from our industrial world the results of Mr. Tesla's work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric cars and trains would stop, our towns would be dark, our mills would be dead and idle. Yea, so far reaching is this work, that it has become the warp and woof of industry.
The basis for the theory of the operating characteristics of Mr. Tesla's rotating field induction motor, so necessary to its practical development, was laid by the brilliant French savant, Prof. Andre Blondel, and by Prof. Kapp of Birmingham. It fell to my lot to complete their work and to coordinate, - by means of the simple "circle diagram," - the somewhat mysterious and complex experimental phenomena. As this was done twenty-one years ago, it is particularly pleasing to me, upon the coming of age of this now universally accepted theory, - tried out by application to several million horse power of machines operating in our great industries, - to pay my tribute to the inventor of the motor and the system which have made possible the electric transmission of energy. HIS name marks an epoch in the advance of electrical science. From THAT work has sprung a revolution in the electrical art.
We asked Mr. Tesla to accept this medal. We did not do this for the mere sake of conferring a distinction, or of perpetuating a name; for so long as men occupy themselves with our industry, his work will be incorporated in the common thought of our art, and the name of Tesla runs no more risk of oblivion than does that of Faraday, or that of Edison.
Nor indeed does this Institute give this medal as evidence that Mr. Tesla's work has received its official sanction. His work stands in no need of such sanction.
No, Mr. Tesla, we beg you to cherish this medal as a symbol of our gratitude for the new creative thought, the powerful impetus, akin to revolution, which you have given to our art and to our science. You have lived to see the work of your genius established. What shall a man desire more than this? There rings out to us a paraphrase of Pope's lines on Newton:
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night
God said, 'Let Tesla be,' and all was light.
THE PRESIDENT: It is easy, I think, for engineers and scientists to take for granted things that have been done in years past. When we sit under an apple tree and see the apples fall, it is an obvious phenomenon of nature. We can understand the laws of gravitation, but to Sir Isaac Newton, many years ago, this phenomenon, which to us to-day is so simple, helped him to an act of creative imagination of the most extraordinary kind.
So, later on, the phenomenon of electromagnetic induction, which to us to-day has become a matter of second nature, to Faraday was an act of the most extraordinary creative imagination.
Thirty years ago when Mr. Tesla was doing his very great work, we sometimes forget the conditions of electrical engineering which prevailed at that time. Direct-current or continuous current was universally used, and the conceptions of electrical engineers with respect to electric currents were all unidirectional, so to speak. We had not arrived at that conception of currents which went first in one direction and then in another, to say nothing of electrical currents which differed by phase relations, and the work of Nikola Tesla at that time in his great conception of the rotary field seems to me one of the greatest feats of imagination which has ever been attained by human mind. To-day we take the rotary field motor, the rotary field transmission, as a matter of course, because we have become used to it, and we forget what it required of the human intellect to create it thirty or thirty-five years ago.
At the time the great Niagara Falls enterprise was instituted, we were under the direct-current regime. As Mr. Behrend says, such a great authority on electrical engineering as Lord Kelvin, and also Mr. Edison, recommended direct-current for transmission of energy from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, and as a system for universal use in their great waterpower development. I think we all realize to-day where we should be at the present time if direct-current had been used in the development of that enterprise. There would have been a radiating copper mine running out from Niagara Falls which would have wrecked the enterprise in the first year of its existence. Mr. Tesla came along with his great mind and at the psychological moment devised the principle which made that enterprise a success, and made hundreds of other enterprises all over the world an equal success. We owe him the greatest possible debt of gratitude for what he has done for electrical engineers.
And so again, in another field of endeavor in which he was most conspicuous, that of high voltage and high frequency alternating-current, he devised and discovered phenomena which were entirely new to electrical engineers, and he introduced to the world the conception of alternating-current as being elastic or oscillating media. The direct-current engineers at the time never thought of the electric current being something that could oscillate, and Mr. Tesla showed it could, and he also showed many of the phenomena which resulted from oscillating currents. From his work followed the great work of Roentgen, who discovered the Roentgen rays, and all that work which has been carried on throughout the world in the following years by J. J. Thompson and others, which has really led to the conception of modern physics. His work, as has been stated, antedated that of Marconi and formed the basis of wireless telegraphy, which is one of the most scientific applications of the present day, and so on throughout all branches of science and engineering we find from time to time some important evidence of what Tesla has contributed to the sciences and engineering of the present day. So, Mr. Tesla, you hear to-night the many compliments which have been paid to you, but they are not bouquets merely cast for the adornment of the occasion - they have been given with the sincere appreciation of the electrical profession, and we give this medal to you in recognition of this, with full appreciation of what you have done for us, and with great hope that you may continue to contribute to our profession in the future. (Great applause)
NIKOLA TESLA: Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen. - I wish to thank you heartily for your kind sympathy and appreciation. I am not deceiving myself in the fact, of which you must be aware, that the speakers have greatly magnified my modest achievements. One should in such a situation be neither diffident nor self-assertive, and in that-sense I will concede that some measure of credit may be due to me for the first steps in certain new directions; but the ideas I advanced have triumphed, the forces and elements have been conquered, and greatness achieved, through the co-operation of many able men some of whom, I am glad to say, are present this evening. Inventors, engineers, designers, manufacturers and financiers have done their share until, as Mr. Behrend said, a gigantic revolution has been wrought in the transmission and transformation of energy. While we are elated over the results achieved we are pressing on, inspired with the hope and conviction that this is just a beginning, a forerunner of further and still greater accomplishments.
On this occasion, you might want me to say something of a personal and more intimate character bearing on my work. One of the speakers suggested: "Tell us something about yourself, about your early struggles." If I am not mistaken in this surmise I will, with your approval, dwell briefly on this rather delicate subject. Some of you who have been impressed by what has been said, and would be disposed to accord me more than I have deserved, might be mystified and wonder how so much as Mr. Terry has outlined could have been done by a man as manifestly young as myself. Permit me to explain this. I do not speak often in public, and wish to address just a few remarks directly to the members of my profession, so that there will be no mistake in the future. In the first place, I come from a very wiry and long-lived race. Some of my ancestors have been centenarians, and one of them lived one hundred and twenty-nine years. I am determined to keep up the record and please myself with prospects of great promise. Then again, nature has given me a vivid imagination which, through incessant exercise and training, study of scientific subjects and verification of theories through experiment, has become very accurate and precise, so that I have been able to dispense, to a large extent, with the slow, laborious, wasteful and expensive process of practical development of the ideas I conceive. It has made it possible for me to explore extended fields with great rapidity and get results with the least expenditure of vital energy. By this means I have it in my power to picture the objects of my desires in forms real and tangible and so rid myself of that morbid craving for perishable possessions to which so many succumb. I may say, also, that I am deeply religious at heart, although not in the orthodox meaning, and that I give myself to the constant enjoyment of believing that the greatest mysteries of our being are still to be fathomed and that, all the evidence of the senses and the teachings of exact and dry sciences to the contrary notwithstanding, death itself may not be the termination of the wonderful metamorphosis we witness. In this way I have managed to maintain an undisturbed peace of mind, to make myself proof against adversity, and to achieve contentment and happiness to a point of extracting some satisfaction even from the darker side of life, the trials and tribulations of existence. I have fame and untold wealth, more than this, and yet - how many articles have been written in which I was declared to be an impractical unsuccessful man, and how many poor, struggling writers, have called me a visionary. Such is the folly and shortsightedness of the world!
Now that I have explained why I have preferred my work to the attainment of worldly rewards, I will touch upon a subject which will lend me to say something of greater importance and enable me to explain how I invent and develop ideas. But first I must say a few words regarding my life which was most extraordinary and wonderful in its varied impressions and incidents. In the first place, it was charmed. You have heard that one of the provisions of the Edison Medal was that the recipient should be alive. Of course the men who have received this medal have fully deserved it, in that respect, because they were alive when it was conferred upon them, but none has deserved it in anything like the measure I do, when it comes to that feature. In my youth my ignorance and lightheartedness brought me into innumerable difficulties, dangers and scrapes, from which I extricated myself as by enchantment. That occasioned my parents great concern more, perhaps, because I was the last male than because I was of their own flesh and blood. You should know that Serbians desperately cling to the preservation of the race. I was nearly drowned a dozen times. I was almost cremated three or four times and just missed being boiled alive. I was buried, abandoned and frozen. I have had narrow escapes from mad dogs, hogs and other wild animals. I have passed through dreadful diseases - have been given up by physicians three or four times in my life for good. I have met with all sorts of odd accidents - I cannot think of anything that did not happen to me, and to realize that I am here this evening, hale and hearty, young in mind and body, with all these fruitful years behind me, is little short of a miracle.
But my life was wonderful in another respect - in my capacity of inventor. Not so much, perhaps, in concentrated mentality, or physical endurance and energy; for these are common enough. If you inquire into the career of successful men in the inventor's profession you will find, as a rule, that they are as remarkable for their physical as for their mental performance. I know that when I worked with Edison, after all of his assistants had been exhausted, he said to me: "I never saw such a thing, you take the cake." That was a characteristic way for him to express what I did. We worked from half past ten in the morning until five o'clock the next morning. I carried this on for nine months without a single day's exception; everybody else gave up. Edison stuck, but he occasionally dozed off on the table. What I wish to say particularly is that my early life was really extraordinary in certain experiences which led to everything I ever did afterwards. It is important that this should be explained to you as otherwise you would not know how I discovered the rotating field. From childhood I was afflicted in a singular way - I would see images of objects and scenes with a strong display of light and of much greater vividness than those I had observed before. They were always images of objects and scenes I had actually seen, never of such as I imagined. I have asked students of psychology, physiology and other experts about it, but none of them has been able to explain the phenomena which seems to have been unique, although I was probably predisposed, because my brother also saw images in the same way. My theory is that they were simply reflex actions from the brain on the retina, superinduced by hyper-excitation of the nerves. You might think that I had hallucinations, That is impossible. They are produced only in diseased and anguished brains. My head was always clear as a bell, and I had no fear. Do you want me to tell of my recollections bearing on this? (Turning to the gentlemen on the platform). This is traditional with me, for I was too young to remember anything of what I said. I had two old aunts, I recall, with wrinkled faces, one of them with two great protruding teeth which she used to bury into my cheek when she kissed me. One day they asked me which of the two was prettier. After looking them over I answered: "This one is not as ugly as the other one." That was evidence of good sense. Now as I told you, I had no fear. They used to ask me, "Are you afraid of robbers?" and I would reply "No". "Of wolves?" "No". Then they would ask, "Are you afraid of crazy Luka?" (A fellow who would tear through the village and nothing could stop him) "No, I am not afraid of Luka." "Are you afraid of the gander?" "Yes, I am," I would reply and cling to my mother. That was because once they put me in the court yard with nothing on, and that beast ran up and grabbed me by the soft part of the stomach tearing off a piece of flesh. I still have the mark.
These images I saw caused me considerable discomfort. I will give you and illustration: Suppose I had witnessed a funeral. In my country the rites are but intensified torture. They smother the dead body with kisses, then they bathe it, expose it for three days, and finally one hears the dull thuds of the earth, when all is over. Same of the pictures as that of the coffin, for instance, would not appear vividly but were somethimes so persistent that when I would stretch my hand out I would see it penetrate the image. As I look at it now these images were simply reflex actions through the optic nerve on the retina, producing on the same an effect identical to that of a projection through the lens, and if my view is correct, then it will be possible, (and certainly my experience has demonstrated that), to project the image of any object one conceives in thought on a screen and make it visible. If this could be done it would revolutinaize all human relations. I am convinced that it can and will be accomplished.
In order to free myself of these tormenting appearances, I tried to fix my mind on some other picture or image which I had seen, and in this way I would manage to get some relief; but in order to get this relief I had to let the images come one after the other very fast. Then I found that I soon exhausted all I had at my command, my "reel" was out, as it were. I had seen little of the world, only objects around my own home, and they took me a few times to some neighbors, that was all I knew. When I did so the second or third time, in order to chase the appearance from my vision, I found that this remedy lost all the force: Then I began to make excursions beyond the limits of the little world I knew, and I saw new scenes. These were at first very blurred and indistinct', and would flit away when I tried to concentrate my attention upon them, but by and by I succeeded in fixing them; they gained in force and distinctness and finally assumed the intensity of real things. Soon I observed that my best comfort was attained if I simply went on in my vision farther and farther, getting new impressions all the time, and so I started to travel - of course, in my mind. You know that there have been great discoveries made - when Columbus found America that was one, but when I hit upon the idea of traveling it seemed to me that was the greatest discovery possible to man. Every night (and sometimes during the day), as soon as I was alone I would start on my travels. I would see new places, cities and countries, I would live there, meet people and make friendships and acquaintances, and these were just as dear to me as those in real life and not a bit less intense. That is the way I did until I reached almost manhood. When I turned my thoughts to invention, I found that I could visualize my conceptions with the greatest facility. I did not need any models, drawings or experiments, I could do it all in my mind, and I did. In this way I have unconsciously evolved what I consider a new method of materializing inventive concepts and ideas, which is exactly opposite to the purely experimental of which undoubtedly Edison is the greatest and most successful exponent. The moment you construct a device to carry into practice a crude idea you will find yourself inevitably engrossed with the details and defects of the apparatus. As you go on improving and reconstructing, your force of concentration diminishes and you lose sight of the great underlying principle. You obtain results, but at the sacrifice of quality. My method is different, I do not rush into constructive work. When I get an idea, I start right away to build it up in my mind. I change the stucture, I make improvements, I experiment, I run the device in my mind. It is absolutely the same to me whether I operate my turbine in thought or test it actually in my shop. It makes no difference, the results are the same. In this way, you see, I can rapidly develop and perfect an invention, without touching anything. When I have gone so far that I have put into the device every possible improvement I can think of, that I can see no fault anywhere, I then construct this final product of my brain. Every time my device works as I conceive it should and my experiment comes out exactly as I plan it. In twenty years there has not been a single solitary experiment which did not turn out precisely as I thought it would. Why should it not? Engineering, electrical and mechanical, is positive in results. Almost any subject presented can be mathematically treated and the effects calculated; but if it is such that results cannot be had by simple methods of mathematics or short cuts, there is all the experience, and all the data on which to draw and from which to build; - why, then, should one carry out the crude idea? It is not necessary, it is a waste of energy, money and time. Now, that is just the way I produced the rotating field.
If I am to give you in a few words the history of that invention, I must begin with my birthday, and you will see the reason why. I was born exactly at midnight, I have no birthday and I never celebrate it. But something else must have happened on that date. I have learned that my heart beat on the right side and did so for many years after. As I grew up it beat on both sides, and finally settled on the left. I remember that I was surprised, when I developed into a very strong man, to find my heart on the left side. Nobody understands how it happened. I had two or three falls and on one occasion nearly all my chest bones were crushed in. Something that was quite unusual must have occurred at my birth and my parents destined me for the clergy then and there. When I was six years old I managed to have myself imprisoned in a little chapel at an inaccessible mountain, and visited only once a year. It was a place of many bloody encounters and there was a grave yard near by. I was locked in there while looking for some sparrows' nests, and had the most dreadful night I ever passed in my life, in company with the ghosts of the dead. American boys will not understand it, of course, for there are no ghosts in America - the people are too sensible; but my country was full of them, and every one from the small boy to greatest hero, who was plastered all over with medals for courage and bravery, had a fear of ghosts. Finally, as by a wonder, they rescued me, and then my parents said: "Surely he must go to the clergy, he must become a churchman." Whatever happened after that, no matter what it was, simply fortified them in that resolution. One day, to tell you a little story, I fell from the top of one of the farm buildings into a large kettle of milk, which was boiling over a roaring fire. Did I say boiling milk? - It was not boiling - not according to the thermometer - though I would have sworn it was when I fell into it, and they pulled me out. But I only got a blister on the knee where I struck the hot kettle. My parents said again: "Was not that wonderful? Did you ever hear of such a thing? He will surely be a bishop, a metropolitan, perhaps a_ patriarch." In my eighteenth year I came to the cross roads. I had passed through the preliminary schools and had to make up my mind either to embrace the clergy or to run away. I had a profound respect for my parents, and so I resigned myself to take up studies for the clergy. Just then one thing occurred, and if it had not been for that, I would not have had my name connected with the occasion of this evening. A tremendous epidemic of cholera broke out, which decimated the population and, of course, I got immediately. Later it developed into dropsy, pulmonary trouble, and all sorts of diseases until finally my coffin was ordered. In one of the fainting spells when they thought I was dying, my father came to my bedside and cheered me: "You are going to get well." "Perhaps," I replied, "if you will let me study engineering." "Certainly I will," he assured me, "you will go to the best polytechnic school in Europe." I recovered to the amazement of everybody. My father kept his word, and after a year of roaming through the mountains and getting myself in good physical shape, I went to the Polytechnic School at Gratz, Styria, one of the oldest institutions. Something else occurred, however, of which I must tell you as it is vitally linked with this discovery. In the preparatory schools there was no liberty in the choice of subjects, and unless a student was proficient in all of them he could not pass. I found myself in this predicament every year. I could not draw. My faculty for imagining things paralyzed whatever gift I might have had in this respect. I have made some mechanical drawings, of course; practicing so many years one must needs learn to make simple sketches, but if I draw for half an hour I am all exhausted. I never was qualified and passed only through my father's influence. Now, when I went to the polytechnic school I had free choice of subjects and proposed myself to show my parents what I could do. The first year at the polytechnic school was spent in this way - I got up at three o'clock in the morning and worked until eleven o'clock at night, for one whole dear, with a single day's exception. Well, you know when a man with a reasonably healthy brain works that way he must accomplish something. Naturally, I did. I graduated nine times that year and some of the professors were not satisfied with giving me the highest distinction, because they said, that did not express their idea of what I did, and here is where I come to the rotating field. In addition to the regular graduating papers they gave me some certificates which I brought to my father believing that I had achieved a great triumph. He took the certificates and threw them into the waste basket, remarking contemptuously: "I know how these testimonials are obtained." That almost killed my ambition; but later, after my father had died, I was mortified to find a package of letters, from which I could see that there had been considerable correspondence going on between him and the professors who had written to the effect that unless he took me away from school I would kill myself with work. Then I understood why he had slighted my success, which I was told was greater than any previous one at that institution; in fact the best students had only graduated twice. My record in the first year had the result that the professors became very much interested in and attached to me, particularly three of them; Prof. Rogner who was teaching arithmetical subjects and geometry; Prof. Alle, one of the most brilliant and wonderful lecturers I have ever seen, who specialized in differential equations, about which he wrote quite a number of works in German, and Prof. Poeschl, who was my instructor in physics. These three men were simply in love with me and used to give me aroblems to solve. Prof. Poeschl was a curious man. I never saw such feet in my life. They were about that size. (Indicating) His hands were like paws, but when he performed experiments they were so convincing and the whole went off so beautifully that one never realized how they were done. It was all in the method. He did all with the precision of a clock work, and everything succeeded.
It was in the second year of my studies that we received a Gramme machine from Paris, having a horse-shoe form of laminated magnet, and a wound armature with a commutator. We connected it up and showed various effects of currents. During the time Prof. Poeschl was making demonstrations running the machine as a motor we had some trouble with the brushes. They sparked very badly, and I observed: "Why should not we operate without the brushes?" Prof. Poeschl declared that it could not be done, and in view of my success in the past year he did me ,the honor of delivering a lecture touching on the subject. He remarked: "Mr. Tesla may accomplish great things, but he certainly never will do this," and he reasoned that it would be equivalent to converting a steadily pulling force, like that of gravity, into a rotary effort, a sort of perpetual motion scheme, an impossible idea. But you know that instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibers that enable us to perceive truths when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is futile. We cannot reach beyond certain limits in our reasoning, but with instinct we can go to very great lengths. I was convinced that I was right and that it was possible. It was not a perpetual motion idea, it could be done, and I started to work at once.
I will not tire you with an extended account of this undertaking, but will only say that I began in the summer of 1877 and I proceeded as follows: I would picture first of all, a direct-current machine, run it and see how the currents changed in the armature. Then I would imagine an alternator and do the same thing. Next I would visualize systems comprising motors and generators, and so on. Whatever apparatus I imagined, I would put together and operate in my mind, and I continued this practice incessantly until 1882. In that year somehow or other, I began to feel that a revelation was near. I could not yet see just exactly how to do it, but I knew that I was approaching the solution. While on my vacation, in 1882, sure enough, the idea came to me and I will never forget the moment. I was walking with a friend of mine in the city park of Budapest reciting passages from Faust. It was nothing for me to read from memory the contents of an entire book, with every word between the covers, from the first to the last. My sister and brother, however, could do much better than myself. I would like to know whether any of you has that kind of memory. It is curious, entirely visual and retroactive. To be explicit - when I made my examens, I had always to read the books three or four days if not a week before, because in that time I could reconstruct the images and visualize them; but if I had an examination the next day after reading, images were not clear and the remembrance was not quite complete. As I say, I was reciting Goethe's poem, and just as the sun was setting I felt wonderfully elated, and the idea came to me like a flash. I saw the whole machinery clearly, the generator, the motor, the connections, I saw it work as if it had been real. With a stick I drew on the sand the diagrams which were shown in my paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and illustrated in my patents, as clearly as possible, and from that time on I carried this image in my mind. Had I been a man possessed of the practical gifts of Edison, I would have gone right away to perform an experiment and push the invention along, but I did not have to do this. I could see pictures so vividly, and what I imagined was so real and palpable, that I did not need any experimenting, nor would it have been particularly interesting to me. I went on and improved the plan continuously, inventing new types, and the day I came to America, practically every form, every kind of construction, every arrangement of apparatus I described in my thirty or forty patents was perfected, except just two or three kinds of motors which were the result of later development.
In 1883, I made some tests in Strasburg, as Mr. Terry pointed out, and there at the railroad station obtained the first rotation. The same experiment was repeated twice.
Now I come to an interesting chapter of my life, when I arrived in America. I had made some improvements in dynamos for a French company who were getting their machinery from here. The improved forms were so much better that the manager of the works said to me: "You must go to America, and design the machines for the Edison Company." So, after ineffectual efforts on the other side to get somebody to interest himself in my plans financially, I came to this country. I wish that I could only give you an idea how what I saw here impressed me. You would be very much astonished. You have a? undoubtedly read those charming Arabian Nights tales, in which the genie transports people into wonderful regions, to go through all sorts of delightful adventures. My case was just the opposite. The genie transported me from a world of dreams into one of realities. My world was beautiful, ethereal, as I could imagine it. The one I found here was a machine world; the contact was rough, but I liked it. I realized from the very moment I saw Castle Garden that I was a good American before I landed. Then came another event. I met Edison, and the effect he produced upon me was extraordinary. When I saw this wonderful man, who had had no theoretical training at all, no advantages, who did all himself, getting great results by virtue of his industry and application, I felt mortified that I had squandered my life. I had studied a dozen languages, delved in literature and art and had spent my best years in ruminating through libraries and reading all sorts of stuff that fell into my hands. I thought to myself, what a terrible thing it was to have wasted my life in those useless efforts. If I had only come to America earlier and devoted all of my brain power to inventive work, what might I have done? In later life though, I realized I would not have produced anything without the scientific training I got, and it is a question whether my surmise as to my possible accomplishment was correct. In Edison's works I passed nearly a year of the most strenuous labor, and then certain capitalists approached me with the project to form my own company. I went into the proposition, and developed the arc light. To show you how prejudiced people were against the alternating-current, as the President has indicated, when I told these friends of mine that I had a great invention relating to alternating-current transmission, they said: "No, we want the arc lamp. We do not care for this alternating-current." Finally I perfected my lighting system and the city adopted it. Then I succeeded in organizing another company, in April, 1886, and a laboratory was put up, where I rapidly developed these motors, and eventually the Westinghouse people approached us, and an arrangement was made for their introduction. You know what has happened since then. The invention has swept the world.
I should like to say just a few words regarding the Niagara Falls enterprise. We have a man here to-night to whom belongs really the credit for the early steps and for the first financiering of the project, which was difficult at that time. I refer to Mr. E. D. Adams. When I heard that such authorities as Lord Kelvin and Prof. W. C. Unwin had recommended - one the direct-current system and the other compressed air - for the transmission of power from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, I thought it was dangerous to let the matter go further, and I went to see Mr. Adams. I remember the interview perfectly. Mr. Adams was much impressed with what I told him. We had some correspondence afterwards, and whether it was in consequence of my enlightening him on the situation, or owing to some other influence, my system was adopted. Since that time, of course, new men, new interests have come in, and what has been done I do not know, except that the Niagara Falls enterprise was the real starting impulse in the great movement inaugurated for the -transmission and transformation of energy on a huge scale.
Mr. Terry. has referred to other inventions of mine. I will just make a few remarks relative to these as some of my work has been misunderstood. It seems to me that I ought to tell you a few words about an effort that absorbed my attention later. In 1892 I delivered a lecture at the Royal Institution and Lord Rayleigh surprised me by acknowledging my work in very generous terms, something that is not customary, and among other things he stated that I had really an extraordinary gift for invention. Up to that time, I can assure you, I had hardly realized that I was an inventor. I remembered, for instance, when I was a boy, I could go out into the forest and catch as many crows as I wanted, and nobody else could do it. Once, when I was seven years of age, I repaired a fire engine which the engineers could not make work, and they carried me in triumph through the city. I constructed turbines, clocks and such devices as no other boy in the community. I said to myself: "If I really have a gift for invention, I will bend it to some great purpose or task and not squander my efforts on small things." Then I began to ponder just what was the greatest deed to accomplish. One day as I was walking in the forest a storm gathered and I ran under a tree for shelter. The air was very heavy, and all at once there was a lightning flash, and immediately after a torrent of rain fell. That gave me the first idea. I realized that the sun was lifting the water vapor, and wind swept it over the regions where it accumulated and reached a condition when it was easily condensed and fell to earth again. This life-sustaining stream of water was entirely maintained by sun power, and lightning, or some other agency of this kind, simply came in a trigger-mechanism to release the energy at the proper moment. I started out and attacked the problem of constructing a machine which would enable us to precipitate this water whenever and wherever desired. If this was possible, then we could draw unlimited amounts of water from the ocean, create lakes, rivers and water falls, and indefinitely increase the hydroelectric power, of which there is now a limited supply. That led me to the production of very intense electrical effects. At the same time my wireless work, which I had already begun, was exactly in that direction, and I devoted myself to the perfection of that device, and in 1908, I filed an application describing an apparatus with which I thought the wonder could be achieved. The Patent Office Examiner was from Missouri, he would not believe that it could be done, and my patent was never granted. But in Colorado I had constructed a transmitter. by which I produced effects in some respects at least greater than those of lightning. I do not mean in potential. The highest potential I reached was something like 20,000,000 volts, which is insignificant as compared to that of lightning, but certain effects produced by my apparatus were greater than those of lightning. For instance, I obtained in my antennae currents of from 1,000 to 1,100 amperes. That was in 1899 and you know that in the biggest wireless plants of today only 250 amperes are used. In Colorado I succeeded one day in precipitating a dense fog. There was a mist outside, but when I turned on the current the cloud in the laboratory became so dense that when the hand was held only a few inches from the face it could not be seen. I am positive in my conviction that we can erect a plant of proper design in an arid region, work it according to certain observations and rules, and by its means draw from the ocean unlimited amounts of water for irrigation and power purposes. If I do not live to carry it out, somebody else will, but I feel sure that I am right.
As to the transmission of power through space, that is a project which I considered absolutely certain of success long since. Years ago I was in the position to transmit wireless power to any distance without limit other than that imposed by the physical dimensions of the globe. In my system it makes no difference what the distance is. The efficiency of the transmission can be as high as 96 or 97 per cent, and there are practically no losses except such as are inevitable in the running of the machinery. When there is no receiver there is no energy consumption anywhere. When the receiver is put on, it draws power. That is the exact opposite of the Hertz-wave system. In that case, if you have a plant of 1,000 horsepower, it is radiating all the time whether the energy is received or not; but in my system no power is lost. When there are no receivers the plant consumes only a few horsepower necessary to maintain the electric vibration; it runs idle, as the Edison plant when the lamps and motors are shut off.
I have made advances along this line in later years which will contribute to the practical features of the system. Recently I have obtained a patent on a transmitter with which it is practicable to transfer unlimited amount of energy to any distance. I had a very interesting experience with Mr. Stone, whom I consider, if not the ablest, certainly one of the ablest living experts. I said to Mr. Stone: "Did you see my patent?" He replied: "Yes, I saw it, but I thought you were crazy." When I explained it to Mr. Stone he said, "Now, I see; why, that is great," and he understood how the energy is transmitted.
To conclude, gentlemen, we are coming to great results, but we must be prepared for a condition of paralysis for quite a while. We are facing a crisis such as the world has never seen before, and until the situation clears the best thing we can do is to devise some scheme for overcoming the submarines, and that is what I am doing now. (Applause)
ALFRED H. COWLES: Here are some pictures you gave to me twenty years ago, relating to your experiments of 1899, I think you will be interested in seeing them. (Hands pictures to Mr. Tesla)
NIKOLA TESLA: I have learned how to put up a plant that will develop a tension of 100,000,000 volts and handle it with perfect safety. This plant (indicating) was in Colorado. If anybody, who had not been dabbling in these experiments as long as myself, had done such work, he would surely have been killed. In this plant I had the narrowest escape ever. It was a square building, in which there was a coil 52 feet in diameter, about nine feet high. When it was adjusted to resonance, the streamers passed from top to bottom and it was a most beautiful sight. You see, that was about fifteen hundred, perhaps two thousand square feet of streamer surface. To save money I had calculated the dimensions as closely as possible, and the streamers came within six or seven inches from the sides of the building. As boys had been looking through a single window provided in the rear, I nailed it up. For handling the heavy currents, I had a special switch. It was hard to pull, and I had a spring arranged so that I could just touch the handle and it would snap in. I sent one of my assistants down town and was experimenting alone. I threw up the switch and went behind the coil to examine something. While I was there the switch snapped in, when suddenly the whole room was filled with streamers, and I had no way of getting out. I tried to break through the window but in vain as I had no tools, and there was nothing else to do than to throw myself on my stomach and pass under. The primary carried 500,000 volts, and I had to crawl through the narrow place here (pointing) with the streamers going. The nitrous acid was so strong I could hardly breathe. These streamers rapidly oxidize nitrogen because of their enormous surface, which makes up for what they lack in intensity. When I came to the narrow space they closed on my back. I got away and barely managed to open the switch when the building began to burn. I grabbed a fire extinguisher and succeeded in smothering the fire. Then I had enough, I was all in. But now I can operate a plant without any fear of its destruction by fire. Mr. Cowles is responsible for excursion into this matter. (Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: If there is no further business, we will consider this meeting adjourned.
OCR by: Varsányi Péter (Pepe) www.tesla.hu. Verzió: 1.00 (2003-10-29)
* The Engineering Societies Building - New York City —May 18, 1917.
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