PublicBookshelf Book Club
Weekly tips on great novels to read.
Months later in the New York streets while digging in a ditch, Tesla is leaning on a shovel talking to a foreman. He is wearing a vest, red and black tie, but no jacket or hat. A number of other people are also digging the same ditch.
The foreman is saying, "We're both here not by financial choice." With your talent, this is a crime against humanity. I know someone at Western Union Telegraph Company. If you can do with electricity what you were telling me, maybe he'll be interested in your inventions."
"I would appreciate meeting him very much. I better get back to work or we'll never finish this job."
"Let's see if we can all meet next week," his foreman says.
"The sooner the better," responds Nikola.
A few days later they are all in A. K. Brown's office at The Western Union Telegraph Company. Mr. Brown speaks, "We're very impressed with what you've accomplished. This alternating current, will it work with telegraphy?"
"Of course," Tesla replied. "It will affect communication, transportation and utilities. There are many other uses that I also have in mind."
Quite interested, A. K. Brown says, "I'll put together a few investors and we'll help you set up shop. $500,000 is a lot of money, but I think it will be a very good investment."
"Mr. Brown, I can't thank you enough. This is a wonderful opportunity and I'm sure you'll be proud of being part of my company."
Mr. Brown extends his hand and Nikola gets up and politely bows.
The Tesla Electric Company is established in Rahway, New Jersey in 1887, fairly close to Edison's laboratory. Many pieces of equipment are neatly aligned on workbenches, cathode tubes, Tesla coils, etc. George Westinghouse, the founder of the Westinghouse Corporation, is very friendly with Nikola Tesla and is visiting him.
Tesla tells him, "I've just submitted the patents for the automatic control system, the dynamos and motor. Next month I should be ready for the transformer patent."
"I'll give you $1,000,000 cash for the alternating currents patent plus royalties," offers George Westinghouse.
"George, if you'll make the royalty $1.00 per volt sold, I will accept the offer."
"You'll have a check in a few days." George Westinghouse is intrigued with all the apparatus. "Sure looks like you've got something the world can appreciate."
A few months later the Johnsons and George Westinghouse are in the Judge's Chambers while Tesla is receiving his citizenship papers.
The Judge says, "We proudly welcome you as one of our citizens."
"I am proud to be an American citizen and hope the American people will be proud to have me."
* * *
It is 1893. Thomas Edison is reading The Scientific News and comes across the information that Tesla made an agreement with Westinghouse on the alternating current system for the Chicago World Fair. He throws the magazine down on the floor and jumps up angrily, "Nellie, Nellie! Come here at once!"
Nellie runs in. She sees with relief Edison is okay. "What is the matter?" She sees the magazine on the floor and calmly picks it up.
"That upstart Tesla has signed an Agreement with Westinghouse. He can't get away with that. Did you know accidents caused by alternating currents could be fatal?"
Nellie jumps out of the way as Edison angrily paces back and forth. He shoves a pen and paper to Nellie. "Take a note. No, write a Press Release. 'Accidents caused by alternating currents could be avoided by utilizing the direct current system. The public must be alerted.' I must contact Pupin and Marconi and oppose Tesla. The public doesn't need all this confusion. The direct current will serve their needs."
George Westinghouse is visiting Tesla at his laboratory. Tesla is sitting down with his legs on his desk reading the Niagara Commission Report. "The Niagara Commission wants to pay $3,000 for the most practical plan to set up a direct current generating plant."
Westinghouse responds, "Very clever. They can receive $100,000 of information for $3,000. Let's not respond, and when we do, it will be with an alternating current proposal that will give Edison a run for his money."
Tesla laughs, "I wonder if Edison will respond. Here, let me show you this." He gets up, washes his hands, then he does an electrical and magnetic demonstration that fascinates George Westinghouse.
"Absolutely fascinating," says Westinghouse. "What do you see as its application?"
"I'll probably use it for wireless transmission for now. It could have many applications."
Westinghouse changes the subject, "I think in all the excitement I forgot to tell you I got the contract for installing all the power and lighting equipment for the Chicago World Fair. We're going to use Alternating Current."
"Well by Golly, that is great news!" says Tesla getting excited.
At the Chicago World Fair the people are walking around, some briskly, some strolling. Various pavilions are set up. Some of the buildings have signs: Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Electricity. It is a very important worldwide exposition.
In the Electricity Pavilion people are gathered with total fascination. There is a display of the early stages of robotics being demonstrated and the Tesla coil is hooked to devices generating electricity which is creating activity, including the lighting of fluorescent tubes. Displays of Westinghouse Electric Polyphase System and Edison Electric Bulb are also present. People are pushing buttons and lifting switches enjoying the wonder of modern science.
* * *
J. P. Morgan, a powerful financier who is backing Edison, is talking to his assistant in his beautifully decorated office. "Tesla is making quite a name for himself both in the technical journals and the press. I keep reading about the competition between Tesla and Edison. I need to acquire the patents so we can centralize this electricity squabble."
His assistant responds, "He is always in need of money; I'm sure you'll be seeing him in the not-too-distant future."
"Look how efficient the nation has become with the consolidation of the railroads, the steel mills and the oil companies," says Morgan.
"Yes", says his assistant, "it is for the well-being of the nation."
"The world," responds Morgan.
* * *
About a year later, J. P. Morgan is having a meeting with one of his financial people, Jason Gray. His rival, Ned Harriman of the railroads and George Westinghouse of electricity is coming to a head. He is pointing to a wall map, "Now that we own the Chicago Line, we've control of the north. Harriman just has control of Southern Pacific now. If I buy more trunks, we can squeeze him out."
Gray says, "That ought to put Wall Street in a buzz."
"Speaking of Wall Street, I hear Westinghouse is over-extended. Let's put some selling pressure on the stock. We don't want to go in with Westinghouse. Edison won't stand for that."
Shortly thereafter, George Westinghouse is standing near the doorway holding his hat and looking quite depressed. Tesla is tinkering and looks up. "Come in, this isn't like you," said Tesla.
"With the rumors on Wall Street my stock has taken a dive. I'm trying to arrange a merger and the financial advisors said I need to get rid of the Royalty Contract with you or the merger won't go through. It is a large liability on the company. Can we reduce it to 50 cents a volt?"
Tesla walks over to his safe, opens it and pulls out the note. He tears it in half. "Consider the contract void. We've been friends for too long to have money come between us. We've done many good things together and will continue to do so, let's both of us move on with our lives." Tesla gives Westinghouse his full attention.
"Do you realize this contract has been in effect four years and you haven't claimed any of your royalties?" asked Westinghouse.
"I haven't needed the money. Without the contract you will save your company and retain control. You will proceed with your plans to give my polyphase system to the world."
Clearing his throat, Westinghouse says, "I believe your polyphase system is the greatest discovery in the field of electricity. I will continue my efforts to put the country on alternating current."
"Now, I think we both have much to do. Oh, by the way, look at this." They walk over to the bench with some of the inventions. "Come, let me show you what I'm doing with the wireless transmission. This should handle broadcasting intelligence globally and has interplanetary potential."
"You've got to take a rest. You've been going day and night for months. Do you sleep at all?"
"Very little, so much to do. Let me show you my Telautomata." (This is the forerunner of the robot.). He maneuvers it by remote control. "It will be capable of acting as if possessed of its own intelligence."
"Nikola, you're treading on hallowed ground", says Westinghouse.
They walk toward the door. Nikola says, "We all must have an ideal to be self-sufficient, govern our conduct and insure contentment. Unlimited energy is a necessary ingredient."
Westinghouse, humbly says, "Thank you so much. You are incredible." He nervously turned his hat in his hand and walked out.
* * *
Tesla just completed a major presentation to an international conference of businessmen, scientists and the Press. He demonstrated how much lighter AC current is over DC current when a switch is pulled. The audience was fascinated and the demonstration was very successful.
As he leaves the building he got a strong vision his mother is dying. He turns to his colleague, "I must divert my plans. My mother is very ill. I must leave for Serbia tomorrow, please apologize for my absence. I've got to run and make arrangements."
"How do you know?" asks his colleague, who is stunned. "If we need to reach you, what do we do?"
"I can't believe anything would be that urgent, but send a message to the following address. She doesn't have a phone."
Traveling was slow and he reaches his mother's side just as she is dying. Friends and family are in the room.
Mrs. Tesla asks, "How did you know?"
Nikola answers, "I had a vision, like information that is given to me many times. It happens frequently."
"Nikola, we hear great things about you. We are all so proud." She holds his hand, and he realizes this is the first time he has allowed anyone to hold his hand. He looks at her lovingly. "I'm sorry I haven't visited. I'm so involved in my work."
"And the world will be a better place," says Mrs. Tesla.
Nikola stays a few days to help take care of matters. He wanders out into the beautiful countryside, cornfields in the background and walking through the fields. He remembers his brother's death while riding a horse and getting thrown off. He wanders around the familiar countryside with a nostalgic look.
* * *
Nikola is in his laboratory when he received a call from George Westinghouse.
Westinghouse is very excited, "The war of the currents is won. We were awarded the contract at Niagara to build the first two generators."
"Well, that is good news. Am I needed in New York?"
"Immediately," says Westinghouse.
A few months later there is a gathering at the Johnson's house. Mark Twain, John Muir, Ned Harriman along with Nikola Tesla are enjoying each other's company.
Robert Johnson brings John Muir to him. "Nikola, I'd like to introduce you to John Muir. We've had some excellent articles on nature written by him in our magazine lately."
"Pleased to meet you. I've read with much interest your ideas on conservation. My alternating current will cut down the use of fossil fuel."
John Muir responds, "But you're diverting some of the Niagara water upstream which is only the beginning of destroying the wonders of nature."
Harriman interrupts, "I share your concern, John. But remember, you're talking to a railroad man. We had to cut down forests for the right-of-way, and it's always gut wrenching weighing man's needs for progress and nature's environment."
Tesla is enjoying the conversation, "We need the visions of John Muir as we need the stories of Mark Twain and a better way of life for mankind. Electricity will not only free man of hard labor, it will heal and increase his energy. There is still so much to learn, even from simple things like crystals that have an energy all their own. Come, let's enjoy the chamber music."