The ship pulls into port and a man full of world-changing ideas steps into New York. The year is 1884, and Nikola Tesla has left Serbia to chase opportunity. His past is not perfect- he never graduated from university and he has cut off his family to ensure they never find out, he has suffered a nervous breakdown and, to many around him, seems completely lost. He falls into employment at Edison Machine Works under the renowned Thomas Edison in France and is soon bought to the United States due to the quality of his work, but he later leaves to seek his interests. The world is at Tesla’s feet.
Laboratories are established across New York, and Tesla uses them to develop several inventions. He looks for investors, and he gets some, at least initially. Tesla works on his alternating current machines, but his investors opt-out. This departure is one of the first times that he is left penniless, but it is not the last. Tesla loses his patents and is left working on menial electrical repairs. Tesla starts again. He gets new investors and a new laboratory to market his alternating current motor. He gets enormous contracts but gets frustrated when others do not see his vision and abandon his motor for one which runs on direct current which has been championed by Thomas Edison. Arguments are sparked over which type of current- alternating or direct should be used in what would come to be known as the ‘war of the currents’. Despite the controversy, Tesla and his work are thriving.
Wireless lighting and the Tesla coil are just some of his experiments he goes onto complete. Tesla also consults on the Niagra Falls generator which goes on to bring power to a huge portion of New York.
Just as it seems Tesla’s troubles are out of the way, tragedy strikes. In 1893, one of Tesla’s labs catches on fire. His projects are destroyed, and pages of notes are in shambles. Tesla is destroyed. He is broken by the loss of several years of work but unable to give up yet.
Tesla begins investigating invisible waves. He’s heard of the discovery of X-rays and feels that he can create a more powerful machine. He makes a radio control boat which a wowed crowd attributed to wizardry or telepathy. Tesla establishes the foundation for not just remote-controlled leisure activities but also all driverless systems.
Our heroes focus then turns to the possibility of transmitting wireless signals over long distances. His work helps to create our modern radios. Tesla begins to intercept messages. He builds the Wardenclyffe tower on Long Island in 1901 with the vision of transmitting signals across the Atlantic. Another inventor beats him to it. Tesla wants to go bigger and better, but he is losing funding. It seems that nobody wants to invest in him. He loses the Wardenclyffe property in 1915, and it is subsequently demolished. Tesla’s work at Wardenclyffe is the early foundation for Wifi.
Despite his work, Tesla is left penniless. He continues consulting and moves from hotel to hotel, leaving a litany of unpaid bills. He could have been the most brilliant inventor the world had ever known, but he was perpetually struck by misfortune. It is impossible not to marvel when one considers the scale of Tesla’s work and his impact on modern technology. Today, Tesla is mostly forgotten. If most were asked today to describe who Tesla was, they may mention something about a car created by Elon Musk, not recognising that there was a person behind the name.
Tesla, in every way, was a man ahead of his time. Tesla himself said “Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I really worked, is mine.” Tesla’s work ethic was such that at one point in his life, he claimed that he worked from 3 am till 11 pm every day without any breaks, not even on weekends and holidays. He understood that his groundbreaking work would accelerate the development of technology exponentially and when imagining the future impact of his technology knew that it would be world-changing.
Thomas Edison himself stated that genius is “one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” Tesla had inspiration in droves and put in an excessive amount of perspiration. Yet, his work is only just again been recognised for the revolutionary impact it had on modern technology.
It is doubtless that Tesla became discouraged, just as we may also. We may feel as though all the work we are doing on this earth is amounting to nothing. It is tempting to give up and give in to our impulses which call for us to gratify ourselves by pursuing anything but productivity.
Colossians 3:23-24 says “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward and that the Master you are serving is Christ.” On this earth, you may not feel as though what you are doing is getting enough recognition- perhaps that person you try to be kind to is biting your hand, or all the work you put into controlling your classroom is completely backfiring. Sometimes, we are unable to ourselves reap what we have sown. Tesla wrote “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of a planter- for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those you are to come, and point the way.”
In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul notes, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” When we are working for the kingdom of God, we are promised that while the world may pass us by, God does not. One day, we will all receive our inheritance- eternal life and life with God. As it says in Galatians 6:9 “… let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”
By Kira-leigh Josey