History's Great Engineers: Nikola Tesla by Michael Regner
Have you ever wondered how electricity can travel from the generator to your house without losing its charge? It is because electricity is supplied to houses in the form of alternating current, which can travel long distances retaining its charge. However, before Nikola Tesla, AC current was useless because there were no turbines that could generate it and no motors that could use it. This required cities to use DC power, which can travel only short distances before losing its charge. This forced many cities to have many generators so that all houses could receive strong power. Upon learning about this while attending school in Croatia, Tesla told his instructor that he thought he could design an AC motor and disprove Edison's theory that it was impossible. Needless to say, the instructor was taken aback by this absurd claim, but little did he know that Tesla would make history by designing that exact thing.
Although this may seem like a small achievement, it revolutionized the way every electronic component has been designed since then, since power can now be supplied to an entire city using 98% less generators. Furthermore, AC power is also less dangerous since it can be transported at high voltage/low current and then transformed to low voltage/high current for homes, allowing for a more efficient form of energy distribution. Another important but lesser-known fact about Tesla is that he developed the first known patents for the radio. To demonstrate his theory he designed a boat that was radio controlled and demonstrated it at Madison Square Garden in 1898. Unfortunately for Nikola, Guglielmo Marconi later perfected radio devices and got most of the credit for their invention.
But perhaps the most famous invention of Tesla's was a high-frequency transformer or 'Tesla Coil'. This device could create electrical fields powerful enough to transmit electricity without wires. It was Tesla's lifelong dream to couple this device with radio to create a single transmitter that could supply energy or information anywhere on earth. This dream was almost realized in Tesla's final project: the Wardenclyffe tower. This tower was intended to be the transmitter that Tesla dreamed of. However, Tesla ran out of funding before the tower could be completed and spent the remainder of his life teaching others. Although this is a very disappointing end to this great man's work it shows the struggles that many engineers must overcome.