Nikola Tesla

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.

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.

Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

Nikola Tesla The search for the truth

The lives of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, and the people they interacted with during their lifetimes, is an interesting story in defining a geek. Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were two of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century.

Tesla came to America looking for Edison and hoping to earn his respect, and show him his inventions in the field of AC (alternating current). The arrogant Edison brushed away Tesla as an intelligent man with ideas that weren't practical, because Edison favored the competing system DC (direct current).

Tesla, jilted by Edison, would go out on his own to prove his point. Years later Tesla would team up with Edison's rival, George Westinghouse, and together they would defeat Edison in a great science and technology feud known as The War of Currents.

In the battle of the two crazy mad scientists, Tesla would be the ultimate victor in the battle of good versus evil, defeating his rival, Edison. Much of what is said is exaggerated for the sake of a good story. The myths and legends grow stronger every day on the internet.

The search for the truth

Many history books and museums tell us Thomas Edison was greatest inventor of all times with a thousand different patents for a variety of inventions. Nikola Tesla has become a modern day cult hero on the Internet. In researching Nikola Tesla you will find many people who are fanatics in their extreme zeal to promote the legendary stories surrounding the legacy of Tesla, claiming Edison and others took credit for many inventions that were created by Tesla.

The goal of Geek History is to be fanatic at finding the truth. There are so many myths and legends about Tesla, we could write an entire chapter of debunking all the misinformation. For the sake of setting the record straight in the battle of Edison versus Tesla we though we needed to at least address some of the major points of misinformation and put some things into perspective.

The often quoted myth states that Tesla died in 1934 a broke and broken old man because Edison stole Tesla's ideas. The statement becomes the mantra to make Tesla the patron saint of geeks and a martyr. The statement perpetuates many myths about the life of Tesla being one of hardships and failures.


Subscribe to RSS - Nikola Tesla