Tesla tower at Wardenclyffe and the free energy myth

Tesla tower at Wardenclyffe and the free energy mythAs we dig deeper in researching topics here at GeekHistory the one topic that people keep asking questions about is Nikola Tesla's tower at Wardenclyffe and his free energy theories. We have addressed many of the commonly asked questions in this article.

Wardenclyffe New York 1901

Nikola Tesla sold his Wardenclyffe tower idea to J.P. Morgan based on a plan to send wireless messages to Europe and compete with Marconi. The contract was agreed upon in February of 1901 and signed in March for Morgan to give Tesla $150,000 to build a tower to transmit radio. Tesla began to build his Wardenclyffe laboratory on Long Island, New York in 1901.

Soon after construction began it became apparent that Tesla was going to run out of money before it was finished. Tesla underestimated the cost of building the tower, and economic conditions were causing prices to rise for the materials Tesla needed.

Tesla's personal goal was to use the tower for the transmission of power as well as information. Morgan was expecting to make money on radio. The wireless power angle was Tesla’s idea, it was never part of Morgan’s plans. It was never finished because Tesla ran out of money.

Various sources place the abandonment of the project at around 1904. Tesla took out a mortgage on Wardenclyffe with George C. Boldt of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to cover his living expenses. Boldt eventually foreclosed on the Wardenclyffe property and the tower was torn down and sold for scrap in 1917. Adding to the Tesla mythology and conspiracy theories was the timing of the demolition of the tower, during WWI. Various stories were told that the tower was demolished on orders of the United States Government because German spies were using it as a radio transmitter or observation post.

Did J.P. Morgan withdraw backing?

There are many conspiracy theories that blame J.P. Morgan for Tesla's failure at Wardenclyffe, stating that J.P. Morgan withdrew support because he saw no way to make money on wireless power.

Patent wars and other epic battles where business and technology mix

Epic battles where business and technology mixIn the epic battles where business and technology mix, one of the most famous fights of the Industrial Age has been dubbed "The War of Currents." The war was between the famous inventor Thomas Edison who backed DC (direct current) as the preferred method to delivery electricity to your home, and George Westinghouse who backed AC (alternating current).

There are two other epic battles of business and technology that stand out as similar to the War of Currents, the war over television in the 1930s, and the browser wars of the 1990s.

The War of Currents

In the 1890s the War of Currents was a business and technology battle that started between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Many history books and website tout the battle as Edison versus Tesla. The cult of Tesla has glorified Nikola Tesla to be the ultimate inventor of AC power distribution.  Tesla was a genius, and a major contributor to AC Power distribution, but Tesla was a part of a team put together by George Westinghouse.
Tesla and Westinghouse made a good team.  In areas where Tesla failed, Westinghouse excelled. Nikola Tesla was a visionary with many ideas, he could see the problems and solve them in his head. Westinghouse was a systems thinker. Westinghouse purchased various patents from European inventors Gaulard and Gibbs, and then purchased patents from Tesla, to build a system to that would distribute AC power to American homes.

Maybe Tesla understood his weakness, as he stated,  "George Westinghouse was, in my opinion, the only man on this globe who  could take my alternating-current system under the circumstances then  existing and win the battle against prejudice and money power. He was  one of the world's true noblemen, of whom America may well be proud and  to whom humanity owes an immense debt of gratitude."

When Tesla  was a forgotten man living in New York hotels in the final years of his  life, it was Westinghouse that was picking up the tab for his room and board.

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla defeat Edison in Currents WarThe War of Currents was a great science and technology feud in the late 1800s between the Edison Electric Light Company and Westinghouse Electric Company over what electric power transmission system should be used.  The Westinghouse Electric Company supported AC (alternating current) and the Edison Electric Light Company supported DC (direct current).

The internet loves to portray the battle as one between rival inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.  It makes for a good story of the hero, Tesla, defeating his rival, Edison. Both Edison and Tesla were well known at the time, and both a bit crazy.Thomas Edison was a well known inventor riding his success and media attention for inventing the phonograph. Edison leveraged his name and fame to start building DC power plants in New York City. Westinghouse, unlike his rival Edison, did not seek media attention, and was a very private person.

The battle for public opinion over which system should be used to power America turned into a nasty smear campaign by Edison. An inventor and electrical engineer named Harold Brown became the front man for a campaign to show the world the dangers of alternating current. Stories are told of how Brown paid local children to collect stray dogs off the street that he used for experiments showing the dangers of alternating current. Despite publicly denouncing capital punishment, Edison secretly financed the alternating current electric chair developed by Brown. Edison launched a media campaign telling the world AC was deadly, using the word "Westinghoused" to describe an execution by electrocution.


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