Letter: An Analysis Of Tesla's Work

Wednesday, November 30, 1898
Archived Page: 

November 30, 1898 pressure all over its surface. It was nothing but what in mechanics is a pump, forcing wutcr from a large reservoir into a small one and back again. Primarily I contemplated only the sending of messages to great dis- tances in this manner, and I described the scheme in detail. pointing out on that occasion the importance of ascer- taining certain electrical conditions ofthe earth. The attractive feature of this plan was that the intensity of the signals should diminish very little with the distance, and, in fact, should not diminish at all, if it were not for certain losses occurring, chiefly in the atmosphere. As all my previous ideas, this one, too, received the treatment of Marsyas, but it forms, neverthe- less, the basis of what is now kno\vn as “ wireless telegraphy.” This state- ment will bear rigorous examination, but it is not made with the intent of detracting from the merit of others. On the contrary, it is wi' h great pleas- ure that I acknowledge the early work of Dr. Lodge, the brilliant ex eri- mcnts of Marconi, and of a ihter experimenter in this line, l)r.`Slaby, of Berlin Now, this idea I extended to a system of power transmission, and l submitted it to Ilclrnholtz onthe occasion of his visit to this country. Ho unhesitatingly said that power could certainly be transmitted in this manner, but he doubted that I could e\'er produce an apparatus capable of creating the high pressures of a num- ber of millionsof volts, which were rc- quired to attack the problem with any chance of success, and that I could overcome the ditlicnlties of insula- tion. Impossible as this problem seemed at first, I was fortunate to master it in a comparatively short time, and it was in perfecting this apparatus that I came to a turning )0lIlt in the development of this idea. l, namely, nt once observed tlnul, tho air, which is u perfect insulator for currents produced by ordinary up- paratus, was easily traversed by cur- rents furnished by my improved ma- chine, giving a tension of something like 2,500,000 volts. A further in- vestigation in this direction led to another valuable fact; namely, that the conductivity of the air for these currents increased very rapidly with its degree of rarefaction, and at once the transmission of energy through the upper strata of the air, which, without such results us I have ob- tained, would be nothing more than a dream, became eusily realizable. This appears all the more certain, as l found it quite practicable to trans- mit, under conditions such as exist in heights well explored, electrical en- ergyin large amounts. I have thus overcome all the chief obstacles which originally stood in the way, and the success of my system now rests merely on engineering skill. V ltuferring to |||y lnli-st invenlion, I wish to bring out u point which has been overlooked. I arrived, as has been slated, at the idea through en- tirely abstraot speculations on the human organism, which I conceived to be a self-propelling machine, the motions of which :irc governed by im- pressions received through the eye. ELECTRICAL REVIEW 345 Endcavoriug tocoustruct u mechan- ical model resembling in its essential, material features the human body, I was led to combine a controlling de- vice, or organ sensitive to certain waves, with a body provided with pro- pelling and directing mechanism, and the rest naturally followed. ()riginally the idea interested me only from the scientific poinlof view,but soon I saw that I had made a departure which sooner or later must produce a pro- found change in things and conditions presently existing. I hope this change will be for the good only, for, if it were otherwise,I wish that I had never made the invention 'l`he future may or may not bear out my present con- victions, but I can not refrain from saying that it is ditlicult for me to_see at present how, \vith such it principle brought to great perfection, as it uu- doubtedly will be in the course of time, guns can maintain themselves as weapons. We shall be uble, by availing ourselves of this advance, to send a projectile at much greater dis- tance, it will not be limited in any way by Weight or amount of explosive charge, we shall be able to submerge it at command, to arrest it in its tlight, and call it back, and to send it out again and explode it at will, and, more than this, it will never make u miss, since ull chance in this regard, if hitliug the object of attack were at all required, is eliminated. But the chief feature of such a weapon is still to be told ; namely, it maybe made to respond only to a certain note or tune, it may be endowed with selective power., Directly such nn arm is pro- dneod, it becomes almost impossible to meet it with a corresponding de- velopment. It is in this feature, perhaps, more than in its (power of destruction, that its ten ency to arrest the development of arms and to stop warfare will reside. With renewed thanks, I remain Very truly, yours, N. TESLA. New York, November I9. J iq;-

344 AN ANALYSIS OF TESLA'S WORK. HOME NON-TECIINICAL VIEWS ANI) A RESPONSE HY TESLA DESGRIBING HIS EFFORTS IN SEVERAL FIELDS (llf Wtlltli. The articles pnhlishcd below are taken from the New York Sun, a journal that is conservatively and ably conducted in all its scientific discussions. We consider its editorial review of Tesla’s efforts and ambitions the best that has appeared, and Tesla`s letter that follows will be read with interest by every one acquainted with modern electrical work.` It is the first communication of this kind ever sent to the lay press by 'l`eslu, who has been the victim of probably more forged llItC!‘\lL‘\\'B and sensa- tional articles appearing without. authority than any other inventor. 'I`he Sun editorial is as follows : NIKOLA TESLA AND His QUEST. [From 'rag san, aww York, 1\'vr¢mbe1~ 1.9, ISM] Nikola '|`cs|a has just made public some fam-ts about an invention in- tended to make war too terrible to be prosecuted, and thus to insure peace hctwccn nations. 'l`he war with Spain drew Mr. 'l‘csl:1`s mind aside for the time from the line of studies which has engaged him for years. Inspired and fired by patriotism, he has applied to a war engine some of the principles which he discovered in following his inquiries into new methods of apply ing energy to the purposes of peace. The success or failure of Mr. Tesla’s latest invention will not turn him away from the great project which has possessed his mind for years. This, as he puts it, is to harness the sun’s power to do the work of inan- kind. llc docs not mean to catch the power of the sun`s rays directly, hut to utilize that eno1‘mous portion of their power which is expended upon the earth's surface in sucking from sea and lake waters which are afterward precipitated upon the higher parts of the land. 'l`hat there are waterfalls upon the earth which are capable of irodncing all the energy which mankind uses for power, heat and light is well known. 'I he use of water-powers, however, is limited within narrow margins, partly because of the invest- ment costiof instalment, but chiefiy because the great waterfalls are re- mote from the seats of population and trade. Before Mr. Tesla began his researches there was no method known by which the power generated at a remote place could be transmitted to where it was wanted except at a loss of efiicieucy which was pro- hibitory. Since that time, by the use of currents of from 10,000 to 20,000 volts, it has become possible to send electric power successfully over wires for 35 miles or more. and one plant is now building to transmit power 85 miles. But to utilize the great water-powers of the world, the transmittal of energy ELECTRICAL REVIEW for a distance of from 50 to 100 miles is hardly more useful than a reach of eight or ten miles. Mr. Tesla designs to annihilate space. He would take the power of a Niagara, transform it into an electric current, and send this without appreciable loss to any place on earth where it was needed for uso. Mr. Tesla has, accordin ly, devised an electric oscillator which will receive the electric current from its source and give it an intensity which, as the inventor calculates, would enable a copper thread to carry`50,000 horse- power across the ocean. Mr. Tesla claims to have discovered, further- more, that at an altitude easily reached by balloons the rarefied air has a con- ductivity equal to cop er, while the denser layer of air beliiow is a. non- conductor. He proposes to suspend one pole of his electric circuit in the air at Niagara Falls und the other at Paris, and to forward his current through the upper air to France, whence it shall return through the earth when its active energy has been expended in work. He believes that he will be able to make this demon stration in 1900 as an exhibit at the coming wor|d’s fair at Paiis, and to drive all the machinery at that expo- sition with the power from our great waterfall. The significance of his success would be that coal would become a convenience instead of a necessity, and waterpower and elec- tricity would replace coal and steam for the work of the world. Another great quest which Mr.'l`esla has been conducting side by side with this~and,`in fact, leading along the same lines--is for the means of pro- ducing light from electricity \vithout heat. It was well known when Tesla began his studies that n Crookes vacu- um tube could be made to glow by passing through it currents of elec- tricity at a high tension, but no elec- trician could evolve from these tubes more than a phosphorescent glow. To turn this into a white light which should shine like the face of the sun itself was the problem to be solved. All his investigations led Mr. 'I`esla tc conclude that the thing \vl1ich was needed was to he able to give to elec- trical currents voltages enormously beyond 'any which had ever been pro- duced, and then to be able to handle and control the currents thus trans- formed. From this need 'grew hir electrical oscillator, with which Mr. Tesla proposes to produce a currenl with an intensity of 800,000 volts, capable of transmission across the Atlantic. In Mr. Tesla’s laboratory the vacuum tubes glow like sunshine, and their introduction for use is wait- ing only for a reduction of the cost of their light to a commercial basis, s reduction which he says is near at hand. Since Mr. Tesla began investigating thepossibilities of such high-tension currents as hc Jroduces by means of his oscillator lie has made some startling announcements, such as that of his ability to, use the whole earth as a conductor, and to telegraph to any part of its surface from any other part, sending messages jointly to many stations, or separately to each, at will. Perhaps because none of these late triumphs of Mr. ’l`esla’s genius have yet been brought into practical use, there are many persons who declare that he is a visionary and impractical. It must be remembered that his discovery of the rotating electric llcld was of as great ini- portance in its day as are his later discoveries now. That was an- nounced in 1882; yet it was nearly 10 years-before its value was fully recognized. The personality of Nikola Tesla is as interesting as are the results of his scientific labors. His ways of work differ radically from the methods of those who study by experiment and elimination. Tesla seldom experi- ments, and when he does it is to prove a theory, not to form one. In ll years, he says, only one of his ex- periments has failed. His processes are mental, and at times, he declares, his mind reaches out into fields so vast that he is afraid, and recalls it. IIe verifies his conclusions afterward by figures and experiments. No other great scientific genius ever turned aside from his wor to devise means for putting an end to war.. Others have invented guns, armor, explosives and other accessories of war, but even in these cases the in ventions were in a line with work in which the inventors were already en- gaged. Mr. Tesla`s first design was to apply his method of control to such engines as antomihle torpedoes, and to use these to destroy the Spanish fleets, but as he went on, the broader idea came to him to make his war machine so irresistible as to render war itself improbable. TESLA DESCRIBES IIIB EFFORTS IN VARIOUS FIELDS OF \VORK. [Fi-Um r/|¢ saw, Nw Yo,-/¢_ a'»»¢1,.b»r n|,1ans] To 'run Enrrou or Tun SUN-Sin: Ilud it not been for other urgent duties, I would before this have acknowledged your highly appre- ciative editorial of November 13. Such earnest comments and the fre- quent evidences of the highest appre- ciation of my labors by men who are the recognized leaders of this day in scientific speculation, discovery and invention are a powerful stimulus, and I am thankful for them. There is nothing that gives me so much strength and courage as the feeling that those who are competent to judge have faith in me. Permit me on this occasion to make a few statements which will define my position in the various fields of inves- tigation you have touched upon. I can not but gratefully acknowl- edge my indebtedness to earlier workers, as I)r. Hertz and Dr. Lodge, in my eliforts to produce a practical and economical lighting system on the lines which I Lirst disclosed in a lecture at Columbia College in 1891. There exists a popular error in regard to this light, inasmuch as it is believed that it can be obtained without genera- tion of heat. The enthusiasm of ])r. Lodge is probably responsible for this error, which I have pointed out early by showing the impossibility of reach- voi. 35-No. 22 ing a high vibration without going through the lower or fundumentn. tones. ()n purely theoretical grounds such a result is thinkablc, but itwould imply a device for starting the vibra- tions of unattainable qualities, inas- inuoh as it woilld l\|\vo to bo entirely devoid ol' i|nn'tin and other |\l'L)l)(!|'l~l0H of matter. Though I have concep- tions in this regard, I dismiss for the present this proposition as being im- possible. We can not produce light without heat, but we can surely pro- duce n. more efficient li ht than that obtained in the incandescent lamp, which, though a beautiful invention, is sadly lacking in the feature of edi- ciency. As the first step toward this realization, I found it necessary to in\'cnt some method for transforming economically the ordinary currents as furnished from the lighting circuits into electrical vibrations of great rapidity. This was a difficult prob lem, and it was only recently that I was able to announce its practical and thoroughly satisfactory solution. 'But this was not the only requirement in a system of this kind It was neces- sary also to increase the intensity of the light, which at first was very feeble. In this direction, too. I incl. \vitl| uolnpletu success, so lhnt nt present l aiu producing a thoroughly serviceable and economical light of any desired intensity. I do not mean to say that this ystem will revolu- tionize those in use at present, which have resulted from the co operation of many able men. _ l am only sure that it will have its fields of useful IIFSS. As to the idea of rendering the energy of the sun available for indus- trial purposes, it fascinated me early, but I must admit it was only long after I discovered the totating mag- netic field that it took a firm hold upon my mind. In assailing the problcln I found two possible ways of solving it. Either power was to bo developed on the spot by converting the energy of the sun’s radiations or the energy of vast reservoirs was to be transmitted economically to any distance. Though there were other possib‘e sources of economical power, only the two solutions mentioned of- fer the ideal feature of power being obtained without any consumption of material. After long thoughtl finally arrived at two solutions, but on the tirst of these, namely, that re- ferring to the development of power in any locality from the snn’s radia- tions, I can not dwell at present. 'l`hc system of power transmission without wires. in the form in which I have described itreccntly, originated in this manner. Starting from the two facts that the earth was a con- ductor insulated in space, and that a body can not be charged without causing an equivalent displacenient of electricity in the earth, undertook to construct a machine suited for creating as large a displacement as possible of the earth 's electricity. This machine was sim ply to charge and discharge in rapid succession a body insulated in space, thus altering periodically the amount of electricity in the earth, and consequently the