Tesla arrives in India
By (Ms.) Amb Narinder Chauhan,
Tesla greeted me for the first time as my plane landed on the soil of the Serbian capital: Belgrade airport is called Nikola Tesla Airport. A coin bearing the likeness of Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was also presented to me in Belgrade, where I was stationed. An American of Serbian origin, Tesla was one of the most remarkable inventors and visionaries of his time.
Most people have heard its name, but few know its origins and place in modern science and technology. In 1856, Nikola Tesla was born of Serbian origin in the village of Smiljan, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Croatia. His father, Milutin Tesla, was a priest of the Serbian Orthodox Church. His mother, Georgina-Djuka Tesla, was, as he described it, “a truly wonderful woman, of rare skill, courage and strength of soul.” She invented and built all kinds of tools and devices, and he inherited her ingenuity and skills. It is claimed that Nikola was born during a thunderstorm that prophetically caused his mother to say that he would be a child of the light. There is a saying that one day, when he was a child, while he was petting his cat, a spark of electricity sprang up which became the permanent interest of his life.
At school, Nikola Tesla was a child prodigy with a remarkable talent for solving math problems. As a teenager, he fell seriously ill and recovered after his father agreed to let him study engineering instead of making him a priest! During the 1870s he studied at the Technical University of Graz, Austria and the University of Prague, after which he worked as a telegraph designer and electrician. He moved to the United States in 1884 at the age of 28, to work for Thomas Edison. Edison’s direct current electrical work was quickly becoming the norm in the United States. Tesla was hired by Edison to go their separate ways several months later due to a conflicted business-scientist relationship.
Nikola Tesla was an engineer and scientist best known for designing the alternating current (AC) system, which is the predominant electrical system used in the world today. He also created the Tesla coil, which is still used in radio technology. Tesla invented, predicted, or helped develop hundreds of technologies that play an important role in our daily lives – like remote control for television, neon and fluorescent lights, wireless transmission, computers, smartphones, beams laser, x-rays, robotics, and of course our current AC electrical system.
The oft-described “war of currents” erupted between Tesla and Edison in the late 1800s. At stake was the very basis of the electrical system of the entire United States, and later the entire world, and the norm for the power transmission of industry. Edison claimed that AC was dangerous and could kill people; Tesla has publicly demonstrated his safety by taking the 250,000 volt shock to his body. AC won the fight. In a sense, we are living in the Tesla era. It is no exaggeration that he changed the world.
Nikola Tesla designed the first hydroelectric power station in Niagara Falls, harnessing the power of waterfalls; the electricity thus generated first flowed to homes in Buffalo on November 16, 1896. A statue of Tesla on Goat Island overlooks the falls today.
Writing for the Electrical journal of January 27, 1897, he said: âElectrical science has revealed to us the true nature of light, provided us with countless precision devices and instruments, and thus greatly increased the accuracy of our knowledge “. . Tesla sold several of its patent rights, including those of its AC machines, to George Westinghouse. The Engineer’s Club ironically awarded Tesla the Edison Medal in 1917.
Thanks to Tesla’s early work, wireless energy transfer is achieved today, from wireless chargers for electric toothbrushes and smartphones to wireless charging for electric vehicles. The strength of the magnetic field, for equipment such as MRI scanners, is also measured in the Teslas unit, in his honor. He held over 300 patents at the time of his death in 1943 at age 86. He led a life of rags to the richness of life. He had little business acumen.
Tesla enjoyed a reputation not only as a great engineer and inventor, but also a philosopher, poet and connoisseur. Tesla met Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) who introduced the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, for example through his famous Chicago speech to the Parliament of Religions. Both hoped for mutual confirmation of Vedanta and physics. Under the influence of Vivekanand, Tesla is said to have gone vegetarian and started to use Sanskrit words like “akasha” and “prana” to describe the force and matter that exist all around us. I was only too happy to promote a graphic novel, called âThe Inventorâ, about Tesla and Vivekan and created by Rave Mehta, an Indo-American. Finally, in 1905, Einstein proved the unity of matter and energy.
On his 75th birthday, Tesla received a congratulatory letter from Einstein and made the cover of Time magazine. Tesla climbed great heights to bring down lightning to earth.
Today, the world’s best-known electric car maker, Tesla Motors, bears his name. Tesla Motors has registered its brand in India and is recruiting talent. It is expected that 4 upcoming Tesla cars will be officially launched in India in 2021-2023. These include the Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y. The Model 3 is due to launch in December 2021. Tesla Motors co-founder and chief executive Elon Musk said he would not install a factory in India that if its imported vehicles get a good answer here. Among the Indians who already own Tesla cars are Mukesh Ambani, Prashant Ruia, etc. Other high-end electric vehicle manufacturers like Mercedes Benz and Audi have already launched in India.
Tesla’s ashes are buried in Serbia, as his relatives wish. I have had the privilege of repeatedly visiting the state-of-the-art Nikola Tesla Museum in central Belgrade. It is a science museum dedicated to his life and his work as well as to his last home. Some of the museum’s artefacts were shipped from New York to Belgrade in 1951, thanks to the efforts of his nephew Sava Kosanovic. It houses the Tesla Archives with several thousand plans, drawings, books and journals, including interactive 3D presentations, which have been entered into UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.
Even in death, Tesla remains mired in controversy for reasons unrelated to his work. The Serbian Orthodox Church wanted to re-bury its ashes in the Church of St. Sava in Belgrade, the largest Orthodox church in the world, alongside other Serbian national heroes, including the 14th-century Prince Lazar who fought the Ottomans. The local scientific community opposed it. Now Croatia wants to put Tesla’s face on its euro coins when it plans to join the currency in 2023. Serbia, a non-EU country, is fiercely opposed on the grounds that it would mean usurp the Serbian heritage.
(The author is a former Indian Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited).