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259

Nikola Tesla: Electrical Genius

May 3, 2022
History
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25
minutes

He was the brilliant Serbian scientist most famous for his inventions in the field of electrical engineering.

In this episode, we'll look at the eccentric genius behind inventions such as the AC motor and the Tesla coil.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Nikola Tesla, one of history’s most gifted and brilliant inventors. 

[00:00:31] This is actually part three of this three-part series on electricity in America in the late 19th century. In part one we heard about the quintessential American robber-baron, Thomas Edison, and in part two we heard about the War of the Currents and the battle to electrify the country.

[00:00:52] You don’t have to have listened to part 1 or part 2 to enjoy part 3, this one, but if you want a deeper understanding of the character of Edison or the events of the War of the Currents, then I’d recommend listening to the others too.

[00:01:09] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:13] If you Google the word “Tesla” now, you’ll find plenty of results about electric cars and Elon Musk. It might take you quite a bit of scrolling and clicking around to find anything on the man who gave his name to the most valuable automotive company in the world.

[00:01:33] The man we’re talking about today is, of course, Nikola Tesla.

[00:01:38] He was undoubtedly one of the greatest pioneers of modern electrical engineering and is perhaps most famous for promoting and improving the alternating current, or AC system, a system that remains the global standard for power transmission to this day. 

[00:01:58] Whenever you turn on a light at home or power up an electrical appliance, the technology used can be traced back to Tesla. 

[00:02:07] He also patented numerous inventions with breakthroughs in wireless communication, fluorescent lighting and remote control. 

[00:02:16] On paper, Tesla should have been one of the richest men in the world, a 19th century Elon Musk. 

[00:02:24] Yet he died penniless and alone in a New York hotel. A marginalised and underrated outsider increasingly fixated, or obsessed with pigeons.

[00:02:37] So, what went wrong? 

[00:02:39] To find out, let’s take a closer look at Tesla's life and the times he lived in.

[00:02:46] Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in what is modern-day Croatia, during a fierce lightning storm.

[00:02:55] At the time, lightning was considered to be a bad omen, a bad sign, but Tesla’s mother didn’t see it that way. She would later report that she was convinced that her son would be a “child of light”, and indeed electricity would forever be something that the boy would be associated with.

[00:03:19] From his early childhood, young Nikola exhibited signs of obsessiveness and extreme intelligence. 

[00:03:28] He had a photographic memory, was able to easily memorise entire books and excelled in learning foreign languages, becoming fluent in at least eight different languages.

[00:03:41] He was able to study intensely for hours upon end, rarely sleeping for more than a couple of hours in a row.

[00:03:49] Aged 19, Nikola Tesla enrolled in the course of electrical engineering at Graz in Austria where he was a frequently outspoken star pupil. 

[00:04:01] He became obsessed with electricity, and what he perceived as design flaws, imperfections, in the direct current electric motors that he studied in class. 

[00:04:13] Just in case you need a quick brush up, a quick reminder on electricity, direct current or DC means that the electrical charge only flows in one direction. It is now mostly used with low voltage applications such as most modern electronic appliances and batteries.

[00:04:33] AC, or alternating current, continuously changes direction making it unsuitable for powering sensitive modern-day devices. AC is, however, cheaper to generate and it results in less energy loss when transferred over long distances. AC can also be easily converted into different voltages, making it the best choice for power distribution.

[00:05:01] Although early forms of electric lighting had existed since the early 1800s, the first large-scale electrical power distribution centre was created in London in 1882, with New York and other cities following later the same year. 

[00:05:19] One by one, the world’s greatest cities began to make the switch from oil and gas lamps to electric ones.

[00:05:29] These were exciting times and Tesla’s studies and obsession with electricity put him at the very forefront of key developments. 

[00:05:40] For the next six years, Tesla devoted most of his life to thinking about how he could improve DC motors, hypothesising about electromagnetic fields and how an electric motor driven by AC power would work. 

[00:05:57] Despite his obvious talent, Tesla didn’t end up as a star university student. 

[00:06:03] His focus on this new type of electric motor dominated his entire life and he was unable to concentrate on his university studies. 

[00:06:14] It got so bad that his university professors warned his father about his son’s damagingly intense studying with very little sleep. 

[00:06:24] And Tesla paid the price, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and ended up gambling away much of the money he had, dropping out and never graduating from university.

[00:06:37] On recovering from this breakdown, the idea for a new AC electric motor came to him like a vision one day in 1882 when he was out walking. 

[00:06:51] It was no doubt the fruit, the result, of years of intense reflection, but certainly there was an element of sheer genius to it.

[00:07:01] Unlike most other famous scientists, and certainly unlike Thomas Edison, Tesla would develop and perfect almost all of his inventions introspectively, inside his head, rather than writing notes. 

[00:07:17] It really was a case of him walking along and suddenly, almost in a flash of light, he would figure out, in theory, how to fix an immensely complicated technical problem.

[00:07:31] With this new brilliant idea in his head, Tesla moved to Paris in 1882. 

[00:07:38] In Paris, he found a job repairing direct current power plants with the Continental Edison Company.

[00:07:46] Thomas Edison, the American nine years Tesla’s senior, was by this time already an extremely famous inventor, and a very successful businessman. 

[00:07:58] He was a major player in electrifying the first cities across the world, having invented the first commercially successful electric lightbulb, and had now moved on to electric transmission systems to compete with and replace the existing gas lighting utilities. 

[00:08:17] Tesla’s manager at Edison’s Paris office was sent back to the US to run Edison’s manufacturing division. 

[00:08:25] He was so impressed with Tesla’s work that he asked for the young engineer to be transferred with him. 

[00:08:32] So, in June of 1884, aged 28, Tesla moved to the United States, where he would eventually become naturalised, that is a US citizen, and carry out the vast majority of his inventions. 

[00:08:48] However, Tesla's employment at the Edison Machine Works was short-lived, it didn’t last long. 

[00:08:55] There are differing stories about exactly why Tesla left Edison’s company, but the general theory goes that he was promised a large bonus, $50,000 at the time, which would be about 1.3 million euros in today's money, for designing improvements to Edison’s direct current dynamos.

[00:09:18] Tesla produced these new improvements, but Edison refused to pay out, saying that the bonus offer had been a joke and Tesla did not understand American humour.

[00:09:30] Well, if I thought I was going to be paid 1.3 million euros, and my boss said, “hahaha, I was only joking”, I’m not sure I’d see the funny side of it either.

[00:09:42] Enough was enough for Tesla, and he quit.

[00:09:46] If you’ve listened to the episode on the War of the Currents, you’ll know that paying Tesla the 1.3 million Euro bonus would have been incredibly good value, as our genius’ protagonist’s next move was to branch out on his own, to set up his own company, and eventually compete with Edison.

[00:10:06] The new company was called Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. 

[00:10:11] He initially managed to raise some funding for it, but although its products, the new lighting system and AC motor plans, showed some promise, his backers decided to pull out

[00:10:25] His company was now worthless, and to make ends meet Tesla had to take on basic electrical repair jobs and even took a job digging ditches for $2 a day. 

[00:10:38] Looking back on the year of 1886 as a year of hardship, he would later write:

[00:10:45] “My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery”.

[00:10:53] However, word had already got out that Tesla was onto something with his AC powered motor, and before long companies started knocking at his door. 

[00:11:04] A wealthy businessman called George Westinghouse would be the partner, or perhaps even client, that Tesla had been looking for. Westinghouse had made his money in the railway industry, but in the early 1880s had turned his attention to electricity.

[00:11:23] When Westinghouse entered the electricity business for good, in 1884, the standard across cities in the United States was the DC current system provided by Edison. 

[00:11:35] Edison controlled all technical development and held all of the necessary patents

[00:11:42] Rather than contenting himself with creating another DC system, Westinghouse developed an AC power system that was inspired by the progress made in AC power transmission in Europe.

[00:11:56] As a reminder, DC is not good at travelling long distances, whereas AC is.

[00:12:04] Given the short range of Edison’s DC power plants, there was also a ready market of unsupplied customers between each plant that Westinghouse could easily reach with his AC power. 

[00:12:18] This made Westinghouse Edison's direct competitor in what was to become known as the “War of the Currents” - the battle to develop the dominant electrical power transmission system in America. We went into this in great detail in the last episode, episode number 258, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet I would recommend doing so.

[00:12:42] Long story short, Westinghouse’s system beat Edison’s, and as far as Tesla was concerned, the money he made from licensing his patents to Westinghouse meant he had the resources and money to devote to his own scientific interests.

[00:12:59] During the 1890s, Tesla went on to invent the famous Tesla Coil - a way to transmit electricity wirelessly that he often used to impress backers and the general public alike in a spectacular, show-like fashion

[00:13:16] He also developed electric meters, oscillators and lights, as well as experimenting with X-rays. 

[00:13:24] During a public demonstration with a radio-controlled model boat in Madison Square in New York, the people in the crowd assumed that a small monkey was actually driving the boat, so novel or new, was Tesla’s remote control technology at the time. 

[00:13:42] The year 1895, when he was not yet even 40, marked perhaps the summit of Tesla’s public recognition and popularity. 

[00:13:53] Tesla and Westinghouse installed AC generators at Niagara Falls, fulfilling a childhood dream for Tesla and changing the way we look at such powerful natural forces. 

[00:14:07] He had become the man who had managed to harness the immense power of North America’s most powerful waterfall and turn it into something brilliant, electricity.

[00:14:19] Sure, he had had success before, and was well-known, but this really established his reputation as one of America's leading inventors.

[00:14:30] Unfortunately, the good times were about to come to an end for Tesla. 

[00:14:36] While Westinghouse eventually won the “Battle of the Currents” with AC being adopted, victory came at a steep price due to sky-high legal and competitive costs.

[00:14:49] At the time competition between the three big energy companies, Edison, Westinghouse and Thomson-Houston was extreme. 

[00:14:59] All three were trying to expand in what was an extremely capital intensive, expensive, business, spending big money.

[00:15:08] At the same time, they were trying to financially undercut one another, reducing their costs to attract customers, meaning their profit margins were razor thin.

[00:15:21] What’s more, bank collapses and financial panic in 1890 had meant that investors in Westinghouse Electric had started to call in their loans, meaning the company was dangerously short of cash. 

[00:15:37] After refinancing, Westinghouse’s new lenders demanded that he cut back on spending, including on research and patents

[00:15:47] Westinghouse was forced to ask Tesla to renege, to give up, his royalty agreement, under which Tesla would be paid for the electricity produced by his motors. 

[00:15:59] If Tesla didn’t agree to this, Westinghouse would risk losing control of the company and financial ruin

[00:16:07] At this point Tesla’s motor was still in development and keeping Westinghouse on board to promote his motor probably seemed like the best option. 

[00:16:17] Tesla promptly tore up his contract and set Westinghouse free, walking away from millions of dollars he had earned and potentially billions more yet to be made. 

[00:16:30] If you’ve listened to the episode on Thomas Edison, or have some idea about the character of the man, it seems like this act by Tesla tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two.

[00:16:44] After this, Tesla began to focus more exclusively on his wireless transmission ideas, essentially the idea for the wireless radio. 

[00:16:54] The banker J. P. Morgan, yes that’s the same person as the founder of the J.P. Morgan bank, provided Tesla with $150,000 to begin work on a giant tower with the aim of creating a worldwide transmission system. 

[00:17:11] However, Tesla began to run out of money before the tower was finished and Morgan refused to provide any more. 

[00:17:20] In the meantime, Tesla’s rival Marconi attracted increasing amounts of funding and in 1901 succeeded in sending a radio signal from England to Newfoundland. 

[00:17:33] Despite Tesla’s complaints that Marconi was using 17 of his patents, Marconi was celebrated as the inventor of the radio.

[00:17:43] Although he was famous, and still by no means poor, the latter years of Nikola Tesla’s life became more and more isolated and withdrawn from society.

[00:17:55] His personality quirks, his character, also became more and more strange.

[00:18:01] You can see some of this from accounts about what he actually spent his days doing.

[00:18:08] After working from 09:00 until 18:00, he always dined at exactly 10 minutes past 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he was living. 

[00:18:19] Not only did he somewhat bizarrely insist upon being seated at the exact same table every night, he would also telephone through his order to the head waiter - the only person he would allow to serve him. 

[00:18:34] He was a complete germaphobe, he had an extreme fear of germs, having been ill with cholera as a young man, and ever since he insisted on having a stack of 18 napkins on the table and washing his hands three times. 

[00:18:53] After dinner, Tesla often continued to work on his inventions into the early hours, often until 3 o'clock in the morning. 

[00:19:02] Although Tesla was quite withdrawn from public life when he chose to focus on his work, when he was in the mood for socialising, he was, in fact, great company, he was a lot of fun to be around, and he had many friends. 

[00:19:18] At the height of his fame he threw lavish dinner parties and he counted Mark Twain and John Jacob Astor amongst his celebrity friends and benefactors

[00:19:30] He was also a very dapper, or smart, dresser, believing that you had to look and act like you were successful to actually become successful.

[00:19:40] Ultimately popular success eluded Tesla, and his behaviour became more and more erratic.

[00:19:48] For most of his life, Tesla had been fond of feeding pigeons. However, as he became even more reclusive, cut off from society, the pigeons he fed became more and more important to him.

[00:20:03] Tesla became fixated with a white bird in particular, with one particular pigeon. 

[00:20:10] He once said, “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

[00:20:39] According to Tesla, this bird visited him one night in his hotel with bright intense lights shining out from its eyes. As the pigeon died in his arms, Tesla said he knew that his life’s work had been finished.

[00:20:56] Although Tesla went on to make the front cover of Time Magazine in 1931, when it ran a special feature on him and his inventions on his 75th birthday, he lingered pretty much in obscurity and died in 1943, penniless and in debt aged 86. 

[00:21:17] He never married or had children, believing that having a family would get in the way of his work.

[00:21:24] Indeed, he famously said, “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.” 

[00:21:32] And interestingly, this lack of any direct family meant that he became something of a political football during the Cold War.

[00:21:41] Upon his death, the United States government scrambled to quickly collect all of his research to prevent any potentially important developments from falling into foreign hands.

[00:21:53] But in 1952, Tesla’s nephew, a man called Sava Kosanović, who was a prominent Yugoslavian politician and the only relative that Tesla had maintained any contact with, arranged to ship all that remained of Tesla’s personal belongings, documents, drawings, letters and photographs back to Belgrade in former Yugoslavia.

[00:22:18] While Tesla was celebrated as a national hero in communist Yugoslavia, with the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, Tesla’s legacy was almost forgotten in the West. 

[00:22:30] His ashes and his personal effects, as well as thousands of historical exhibits and photographs are all displayed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, in Serbia. 

[00:22:42] Unfortunately, Western historians had limited access to important documentation and Tesla’s contribution to science was mostly overlooked.

[00:22:53] In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Nikola Tesla, with his inventions, predictions and life story portrayed in books and films, and of course his name being used for the most famous electric car company in the world. 

[00:23:09] Streets around the world have been named in Nikola Tesla’s honour, with monuments erected not only in Croatia and Serbia, but also at Niagara Falls and his adopted hometown of New York. 

[00:23:22] While he didn’t enjoy the recognition that he deserved towards the end of his life, it is perhaps fitting that he has risen again to prominence in the modern world, an electric world, one that might have been fundamentally different had it not been for the genius of Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:42] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:47] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned some new things about possibly one of the most underrated scientific geniuses. 

[00:23:55] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:23:58] Why do you think Tesla missed out on fame and fortune? 

[00:24:02] Was he taken advantage of? Who is the 21st century Nikola Tesla? Or is that a bit of a silly question, as our Tesla is someone who will only be known years after his or her death?

[00:24:15] I would love to get your perspective, so let’s get this discussion started. You can head right 

[00:24:21] into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Nikola Tesla, one of history’s most gifted and brilliant inventors. 

[00:00:31] This is actually part three of this three-part series on electricity in America in the late 19th century. In part one we heard about the quintessential American robber-baron, Thomas Edison, and in part two we heard about the War of the Currents and the battle to electrify the country.

[00:00:52] You don’t have to have listened to part 1 or part 2 to enjoy part 3, this one, but if you want a deeper understanding of the character of Edison or the events of the War of the Currents, then I’d recommend listening to the others too.

[00:01:09] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:13] If you Google the word “Tesla” now, you’ll find plenty of results about electric cars and Elon Musk. It might take you quite a bit of scrolling and clicking around to find anything on the man who gave his name to the most valuable automotive company in the world.

[00:01:33] The man we’re talking about today is, of course, Nikola Tesla.

[00:01:38] He was undoubtedly one of the greatest pioneers of modern electrical engineering and is perhaps most famous for promoting and improving the alternating current, or AC system, a system that remains the global standard for power transmission to this day. 

[00:01:58] Whenever you turn on a light at home or power up an electrical appliance, the technology used can be traced back to Tesla. 

[00:02:07] He also patented numerous inventions with breakthroughs in wireless communication, fluorescent lighting and remote control. 

[00:02:16] On paper, Tesla should have been one of the richest men in the world, a 19th century Elon Musk. 

[00:02:24] Yet he died penniless and alone in a New York hotel. A marginalised and underrated outsider increasingly fixated, or obsessed with pigeons.

[00:02:37] So, what went wrong? 

[00:02:39] To find out, let’s take a closer look at Tesla's life and the times he lived in.

[00:02:46] Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in what is modern-day Croatia, during a fierce lightning storm.

[00:02:55] At the time, lightning was considered to be a bad omen, a bad sign, but Tesla’s mother didn’t see it that way. She would later report that she was convinced that her son would be a “child of light”, and indeed electricity would forever be something that the boy would be associated with.

[00:03:19] From his early childhood, young Nikola exhibited signs of obsessiveness and extreme intelligence. 

[00:03:28] He had a photographic memory, was able to easily memorise entire books and excelled in learning foreign languages, becoming fluent in at least eight different languages.

[00:03:41] He was able to study intensely for hours upon end, rarely sleeping for more than a couple of hours in a row.

[00:03:49] Aged 19, Nikola Tesla enrolled in the course of electrical engineering at Graz in Austria where he was a frequently outspoken star pupil. 

[00:04:01] He became obsessed with electricity, and what he perceived as design flaws, imperfections, in the direct current electric motors that he studied in class. 

[00:04:13] Just in case you need a quick brush up, a quick reminder on electricity, direct current or DC means that the electrical charge only flows in one direction. It is now mostly used with low voltage applications such as most modern electronic appliances and batteries.

[00:04:33] AC, or alternating current, continuously changes direction making it unsuitable for powering sensitive modern-day devices. AC is, however, cheaper to generate and it results in less energy loss when transferred over long distances. AC can also be easily converted into different voltages, making it the best choice for power distribution.

[00:05:01] Although early forms of electric lighting had existed since the early 1800s, the first large-scale electrical power distribution centre was created in London in 1882, with New York and other cities following later the same year. 

[00:05:19] One by one, the world’s greatest cities began to make the switch from oil and gas lamps to electric ones.

[00:05:29] These were exciting times and Tesla’s studies and obsession with electricity put him at the very forefront of key developments. 

[00:05:40] For the next six years, Tesla devoted most of his life to thinking about how he could improve DC motors, hypothesising about electromagnetic fields and how an electric motor driven by AC power would work. 

[00:05:57] Despite his obvious talent, Tesla didn’t end up as a star university student. 

[00:06:03] His focus on this new type of electric motor dominated his entire life and he was unable to concentrate on his university studies. 

[00:06:14] It got so bad that his university professors warned his father about his son’s damagingly intense studying with very little sleep. 

[00:06:24] And Tesla paid the price, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and ended up gambling away much of the money he had, dropping out and never graduating from university.

[00:06:37] On recovering from this breakdown, the idea for a new AC electric motor came to him like a vision one day in 1882 when he was out walking. 

[00:06:51] It was no doubt the fruit, the result, of years of intense reflection, but certainly there was an element of sheer genius to it.

[00:07:01] Unlike most other famous scientists, and certainly unlike Thomas Edison, Tesla would develop and perfect almost all of his inventions introspectively, inside his head, rather than writing notes. 

[00:07:17] It really was a case of him walking along and suddenly, almost in a flash of light, he would figure out, in theory, how to fix an immensely complicated technical problem.

[00:07:31] With this new brilliant idea in his head, Tesla moved to Paris in 1882. 

[00:07:38] In Paris, he found a job repairing direct current power plants with the Continental Edison Company.

[00:07:46] Thomas Edison, the American nine years Tesla’s senior, was by this time already an extremely famous inventor, and a very successful businessman. 

[00:07:58] He was a major player in electrifying the first cities across the world, having invented the first commercially successful electric lightbulb, and had now moved on to electric transmission systems to compete with and replace the existing gas lighting utilities. 

[00:08:17] Tesla’s manager at Edison’s Paris office was sent back to the US to run Edison’s manufacturing division. 

[00:08:25] He was so impressed with Tesla’s work that he asked for the young engineer to be transferred with him. 

[00:08:32] So, in June of 1884, aged 28, Tesla moved to the United States, where he would eventually become naturalised, that is a US citizen, and carry out the vast majority of his inventions. 

[00:08:48] However, Tesla's employment at the Edison Machine Works was short-lived, it didn’t last long. 

[00:08:55] There are differing stories about exactly why Tesla left Edison’s company, but the general theory goes that he was promised a large bonus, $50,000 at the time, which would be about 1.3 million euros in today's money, for designing improvements to Edison’s direct current dynamos.

[00:09:18] Tesla produced these new improvements, but Edison refused to pay out, saying that the bonus offer had been a joke and Tesla did not understand American humour.

[00:09:30] Well, if I thought I was going to be paid 1.3 million euros, and my boss said, “hahaha, I was only joking”, I’m not sure I’d see the funny side of it either.

[00:09:42] Enough was enough for Tesla, and he quit.

[00:09:46] If you’ve listened to the episode on the War of the Currents, you’ll know that paying Tesla the 1.3 million Euro bonus would have been incredibly good value, as our genius’ protagonist’s next move was to branch out on his own, to set up his own company, and eventually compete with Edison.

[00:10:06] The new company was called Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. 

[00:10:11] He initially managed to raise some funding for it, but although its products, the new lighting system and AC motor plans, showed some promise, his backers decided to pull out

[00:10:25] His company was now worthless, and to make ends meet Tesla had to take on basic electrical repair jobs and even took a job digging ditches for $2 a day. 

[00:10:38] Looking back on the year of 1886 as a year of hardship, he would later write:

[00:10:45] “My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery”.

[00:10:53] However, word had already got out that Tesla was onto something with his AC powered motor, and before long companies started knocking at his door. 

[00:11:04] A wealthy businessman called George Westinghouse would be the partner, or perhaps even client, that Tesla had been looking for. Westinghouse had made his money in the railway industry, but in the early 1880s had turned his attention to electricity.

[00:11:23] When Westinghouse entered the electricity business for good, in 1884, the standard across cities in the United States was the DC current system provided by Edison. 

[00:11:35] Edison controlled all technical development and held all of the necessary patents

[00:11:42] Rather than contenting himself with creating another DC system, Westinghouse developed an AC power system that was inspired by the progress made in AC power transmission in Europe.

[00:11:56] As a reminder, DC is not good at travelling long distances, whereas AC is.

[00:12:04] Given the short range of Edison’s DC power plants, there was also a ready market of unsupplied customers between each plant that Westinghouse could easily reach with his AC power. 

[00:12:18] This made Westinghouse Edison's direct competitor in what was to become known as the “War of the Currents” - the battle to develop the dominant electrical power transmission system in America. We went into this in great detail in the last episode, episode number 258, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet I would recommend doing so.

[00:12:42] Long story short, Westinghouse’s system beat Edison’s, and as far as Tesla was concerned, the money he made from licensing his patents to Westinghouse meant he had the resources and money to devote to his own scientific interests.

[00:12:59] During the 1890s, Tesla went on to invent the famous Tesla Coil - a way to transmit electricity wirelessly that he often used to impress backers and the general public alike in a spectacular, show-like fashion

[00:13:16] He also developed electric meters, oscillators and lights, as well as experimenting with X-rays. 

[00:13:24] During a public demonstration with a radio-controlled model boat in Madison Square in New York, the people in the crowd assumed that a small monkey was actually driving the boat, so novel or new, was Tesla’s remote control technology at the time. 

[00:13:42] The year 1895, when he was not yet even 40, marked perhaps the summit of Tesla’s public recognition and popularity. 

[00:13:53] Tesla and Westinghouse installed AC generators at Niagara Falls, fulfilling a childhood dream for Tesla and changing the way we look at such powerful natural forces. 

[00:14:07] He had become the man who had managed to harness the immense power of North America’s most powerful waterfall and turn it into something brilliant, electricity.

[00:14:19] Sure, he had had success before, and was well-known, but this really established his reputation as one of America's leading inventors.

[00:14:30] Unfortunately, the good times were about to come to an end for Tesla. 

[00:14:36] While Westinghouse eventually won the “Battle of the Currents” with AC being adopted, victory came at a steep price due to sky-high legal and competitive costs.

[00:14:49] At the time competition between the three big energy companies, Edison, Westinghouse and Thomson-Houston was extreme. 

[00:14:59] All three were trying to expand in what was an extremely capital intensive, expensive, business, spending big money.

[00:15:08] At the same time, they were trying to financially undercut one another, reducing their costs to attract customers, meaning their profit margins were razor thin.

[00:15:21] What’s more, bank collapses and financial panic in 1890 had meant that investors in Westinghouse Electric had started to call in their loans, meaning the company was dangerously short of cash. 

[00:15:37] After refinancing, Westinghouse’s new lenders demanded that he cut back on spending, including on research and patents

[00:15:47] Westinghouse was forced to ask Tesla to renege, to give up, his royalty agreement, under which Tesla would be paid for the electricity produced by his motors. 

[00:15:59] If Tesla didn’t agree to this, Westinghouse would risk losing control of the company and financial ruin

[00:16:07] At this point Tesla’s motor was still in development and keeping Westinghouse on board to promote his motor probably seemed like the best option. 

[00:16:17] Tesla promptly tore up his contract and set Westinghouse free, walking away from millions of dollars he had earned and potentially billions more yet to be made. 

[00:16:30] If you’ve listened to the episode on Thomas Edison, or have some idea about the character of the man, it seems like this act by Tesla tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two.

[00:16:44] After this, Tesla began to focus more exclusively on his wireless transmission ideas, essentially the idea for the wireless radio. 

[00:16:54] The banker J. P. Morgan, yes that’s the same person as the founder of the J.P. Morgan bank, provided Tesla with $150,000 to begin work on a giant tower with the aim of creating a worldwide transmission system. 

[00:17:11] However, Tesla began to run out of money before the tower was finished and Morgan refused to provide any more. 

[00:17:20] In the meantime, Tesla’s rival Marconi attracted increasing amounts of funding and in 1901 succeeded in sending a radio signal from England to Newfoundland. 

[00:17:33] Despite Tesla’s complaints that Marconi was using 17 of his patents, Marconi was celebrated as the inventor of the radio.

[00:17:43] Although he was famous, and still by no means poor, the latter years of Nikola Tesla’s life became more and more isolated and withdrawn from society.

[00:17:55] His personality quirks, his character, also became more and more strange.

[00:18:01] You can see some of this from accounts about what he actually spent his days doing.

[00:18:08] After working from 09:00 until 18:00, he always dined at exactly 10 minutes past 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he was living. 

[00:18:19] Not only did he somewhat bizarrely insist upon being seated at the exact same table every night, he would also telephone through his order to the head waiter - the only person he would allow to serve him. 

[00:18:34] He was a complete germaphobe, he had an extreme fear of germs, having been ill with cholera as a young man, and ever since he insisted on having a stack of 18 napkins on the table and washing his hands three times. 

[00:18:53] After dinner, Tesla often continued to work on his inventions into the early hours, often until 3 o'clock in the morning. 

[00:19:02] Although Tesla was quite withdrawn from public life when he chose to focus on his work, when he was in the mood for socialising, he was, in fact, great company, he was a lot of fun to be around, and he had many friends. 

[00:19:18] At the height of his fame he threw lavish dinner parties and he counted Mark Twain and John Jacob Astor amongst his celebrity friends and benefactors

[00:19:30] He was also a very dapper, or smart, dresser, believing that you had to look and act like you were successful to actually become successful.

[00:19:40] Ultimately popular success eluded Tesla, and his behaviour became more and more erratic.

[00:19:48] For most of his life, Tesla had been fond of feeding pigeons. However, as he became even more reclusive, cut off from society, the pigeons he fed became more and more important to him.

[00:20:03] Tesla became fixated with a white bird in particular, with one particular pigeon. 

[00:20:10] He once said, “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

[00:20:39] According to Tesla, this bird visited him one night in his hotel with bright intense lights shining out from its eyes. As the pigeon died in his arms, Tesla said he knew that his life’s work had been finished.

[00:20:56] Although Tesla went on to make the front cover of Time Magazine in 1931, when it ran a special feature on him and his inventions on his 75th birthday, he lingered pretty much in obscurity and died in 1943, penniless and in debt aged 86. 

[00:21:17] He never married or had children, believing that having a family would get in the way of his work.

[00:21:24] Indeed, he famously said, “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.” 

[00:21:32] And interestingly, this lack of any direct family meant that he became something of a political football during the Cold War.

[00:21:41] Upon his death, the United States government scrambled to quickly collect all of his research to prevent any potentially important developments from falling into foreign hands.

[00:21:53] But in 1952, Tesla’s nephew, a man called Sava Kosanović, who was a prominent Yugoslavian politician and the only relative that Tesla had maintained any contact with, arranged to ship all that remained of Tesla’s personal belongings, documents, drawings, letters and photographs back to Belgrade in former Yugoslavia.

[00:22:18] While Tesla was celebrated as a national hero in communist Yugoslavia, with the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, Tesla’s legacy was almost forgotten in the West. 

[00:22:30] His ashes and his personal effects, as well as thousands of historical exhibits and photographs are all displayed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, in Serbia. 

[00:22:42] Unfortunately, Western historians had limited access to important documentation and Tesla’s contribution to science was mostly overlooked.

[00:22:53] In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Nikola Tesla, with his inventions, predictions and life story portrayed in books and films, and of course his name being used for the most famous electric car company in the world. 

[00:23:09] Streets around the world have been named in Nikola Tesla’s honour, with monuments erected not only in Croatia and Serbia, but also at Niagara Falls and his adopted hometown of New York. 

[00:23:22] While he didn’t enjoy the recognition that he deserved towards the end of his life, it is perhaps fitting that he has risen again to prominence in the modern world, an electric world, one that might have been fundamentally different had it not been for the genius of Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:42] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:47] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned some new things about possibly one of the most underrated scientific geniuses. 

[00:23:55] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:23:58] Why do you think Tesla missed out on fame and fortune? 

[00:24:02] Was he taken advantage of? Who is the 21st century Nikola Tesla? Or is that a bit of a silly question, as our Tesla is someone who will only be known years after his or her death?

[00:24:15] I would love to get your perspective, so let’s get this discussion started. You can head right 

[00:24:21] into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English. 

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about Nikola Tesla, one of history’s most gifted and brilliant inventors. 

[00:00:31] This is actually part three of this three-part series on electricity in America in the late 19th century. In part one we heard about the quintessential American robber-baron, Thomas Edison, and in part two we heard about the War of the Currents and the battle to electrify the country.

[00:00:52] You don’t have to have listened to part 1 or part 2 to enjoy part 3, this one, but if you want a deeper understanding of the character of Edison or the events of the War of the Currents, then I’d recommend listening to the others too.

[00:01:09] OK then, let’s get right into it.

[00:01:13] If you Google the word “Tesla” now, you’ll find plenty of results about electric cars and Elon Musk. It might take you quite a bit of scrolling and clicking around to find anything on the man who gave his name to the most valuable automotive company in the world.

[00:01:33] The man we’re talking about today is, of course, Nikola Tesla.

[00:01:38] He was undoubtedly one of the greatest pioneers of modern electrical engineering and is perhaps most famous for promoting and improving the alternating current, or AC system, a system that remains the global standard for power transmission to this day. 

[00:01:58] Whenever you turn on a light at home or power up an electrical appliance, the technology used can be traced back to Tesla. 

[00:02:07] He also patented numerous inventions with breakthroughs in wireless communication, fluorescent lighting and remote control. 

[00:02:16] On paper, Tesla should have been one of the richest men in the world, a 19th century Elon Musk. 

[00:02:24] Yet he died penniless and alone in a New York hotel. A marginalised and underrated outsider increasingly fixated, or obsessed with pigeons.

[00:02:37] So, what went wrong? 

[00:02:39] To find out, let’s take a closer look at Tesla's life and the times he lived in.

[00:02:46] Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in what is modern-day Croatia, during a fierce lightning storm.

[00:02:55] At the time, lightning was considered to be a bad omen, a bad sign, but Tesla’s mother didn’t see it that way. She would later report that she was convinced that her son would be a “child of light”, and indeed electricity would forever be something that the boy would be associated with.

[00:03:19] From his early childhood, young Nikola exhibited signs of obsessiveness and extreme intelligence. 

[00:03:28] He had a photographic memory, was able to easily memorise entire books and excelled in learning foreign languages, becoming fluent in at least eight different languages.

[00:03:41] He was able to study intensely for hours upon end, rarely sleeping for more than a couple of hours in a row.

[00:03:49] Aged 19, Nikola Tesla enrolled in the course of electrical engineering at Graz in Austria where he was a frequently outspoken star pupil. 

[00:04:01] He became obsessed with electricity, and what he perceived as design flaws, imperfections, in the direct current electric motors that he studied in class. 

[00:04:13] Just in case you need a quick brush up, a quick reminder on electricity, direct current or DC means that the electrical charge only flows in one direction. It is now mostly used with low voltage applications such as most modern electronic appliances and batteries.

[00:04:33] AC, or alternating current, continuously changes direction making it unsuitable for powering sensitive modern-day devices. AC is, however, cheaper to generate and it results in less energy loss when transferred over long distances. AC can also be easily converted into different voltages, making it the best choice for power distribution.

[00:05:01] Although early forms of electric lighting had existed since the early 1800s, the first large-scale electrical power distribution centre was created in London in 1882, with New York and other cities following later the same year. 

[00:05:19] One by one, the world’s greatest cities began to make the switch from oil and gas lamps to electric ones.

[00:05:29] These were exciting times and Tesla’s studies and obsession with electricity put him at the very forefront of key developments. 

[00:05:40] For the next six years, Tesla devoted most of his life to thinking about how he could improve DC motors, hypothesising about electromagnetic fields and how an electric motor driven by AC power would work. 

[00:05:57] Despite his obvious talent, Tesla didn’t end up as a star university student. 

[00:06:03] His focus on this new type of electric motor dominated his entire life and he was unable to concentrate on his university studies. 

[00:06:14] It got so bad that his university professors warned his father about his son’s damagingly intense studying with very little sleep. 

[00:06:24] And Tesla paid the price, he suffered a nervous breakdown, and ended up gambling away much of the money he had, dropping out and never graduating from university.

[00:06:37] On recovering from this breakdown, the idea for a new AC electric motor came to him like a vision one day in 1882 when he was out walking. 

[00:06:51] It was no doubt the fruit, the result, of years of intense reflection, but certainly there was an element of sheer genius to it.

[00:07:01] Unlike most other famous scientists, and certainly unlike Thomas Edison, Tesla would develop and perfect almost all of his inventions introspectively, inside his head, rather than writing notes. 

[00:07:17] It really was a case of him walking along and suddenly, almost in a flash of light, he would figure out, in theory, how to fix an immensely complicated technical problem.

[00:07:31] With this new brilliant idea in his head, Tesla moved to Paris in 1882. 

[00:07:38] In Paris, he found a job repairing direct current power plants with the Continental Edison Company.

[00:07:46] Thomas Edison, the American nine years Tesla’s senior, was by this time already an extremely famous inventor, and a very successful businessman. 

[00:07:58] He was a major player in electrifying the first cities across the world, having invented the first commercially successful electric lightbulb, and had now moved on to electric transmission systems to compete with and replace the existing gas lighting utilities. 

[00:08:17] Tesla’s manager at Edison’s Paris office was sent back to the US to run Edison’s manufacturing division. 

[00:08:25] He was so impressed with Tesla’s work that he asked for the young engineer to be transferred with him. 

[00:08:32] So, in June of 1884, aged 28, Tesla moved to the United States, where he would eventually become naturalised, that is a US citizen, and carry out the vast majority of his inventions. 

[00:08:48] However, Tesla's employment at the Edison Machine Works was short-lived, it didn’t last long. 

[00:08:55] There are differing stories about exactly why Tesla left Edison’s company, but the general theory goes that he was promised a large bonus, $50,000 at the time, which would be about 1.3 million euros in today's money, for designing improvements to Edison’s direct current dynamos.

[00:09:18] Tesla produced these new improvements, but Edison refused to pay out, saying that the bonus offer had been a joke and Tesla did not understand American humour.

[00:09:30] Well, if I thought I was going to be paid 1.3 million euros, and my boss said, “hahaha, I was only joking”, I’m not sure I’d see the funny side of it either.

[00:09:42] Enough was enough for Tesla, and he quit.

[00:09:46] If you’ve listened to the episode on the War of the Currents, you’ll know that paying Tesla the 1.3 million Euro bonus would have been incredibly good value, as our genius’ protagonist’s next move was to branch out on his own, to set up his own company, and eventually compete with Edison.

[00:10:06] The new company was called Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. 

[00:10:11] He initially managed to raise some funding for it, but although its products, the new lighting system and AC motor plans, showed some promise, his backers decided to pull out

[00:10:25] His company was now worthless, and to make ends meet Tesla had to take on basic electrical repair jobs and even took a job digging ditches for $2 a day. 

[00:10:38] Looking back on the year of 1886 as a year of hardship, he would later write:

[00:10:45] “My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery”.

[00:10:53] However, word had already got out that Tesla was onto something with his AC powered motor, and before long companies started knocking at his door. 

[00:11:04] A wealthy businessman called George Westinghouse would be the partner, or perhaps even client, that Tesla had been looking for. Westinghouse had made his money in the railway industry, but in the early 1880s had turned his attention to electricity.

[00:11:23] When Westinghouse entered the electricity business for good, in 1884, the standard across cities in the United States was the DC current system provided by Edison. 

[00:11:35] Edison controlled all technical development and held all of the necessary patents

[00:11:42] Rather than contenting himself with creating another DC system, Westinghouse developed an AC power system that was inspired by the progress made in AC power transmission in Europe.

[00:11:56] As a reminder, DC is not good at travelling long distances, whereas AC is.

[00:12:04] Given the short range of Edison’s DC power plants, there was also a ready market of unsupplied customers between each plant that Westinghouse could easily reach with his AC power. 

[00:12:18] This made Westinghouse Edison's direct competitor in what was to become known as the “War of the Currents” - the battle to develop the dominant electrical power transmission system in America. We went into this in great detail in the last episode, episode number 258, so if you haven’t listened to that one yet I would recommend doing so.

[00:12:42] Long story short, Westinghouse’s system beat Edison’s, and as far as Tesla was concerned, the money he made from licensing his patents to Westinghouse meant he had the resources and money to devote to his own scientific interests.

[00:12:59] During the 1890s, Tesla went on to invent the famous Tesla Coil - a way to transmit electricity wirelessly that he often used to impress backers and the general public alike in a spectacular, show-like fashion

[00:13:16] He also developed electric meters, oscillators and lights, as well as experimenting with X-rays. 

[00:13:24] During a public demonstration with a radio-controlled model boat in Madison Square in New York, the people in the crowd assumed that a small monkey was actually driving the boat, so novel or new, was Tesla’s remote control technology at the time. 

[00:13:42] The year 1895, when he was not yet even 40, marked perhaps the summit of Tesla’s public recognition and popularity. 

[00:13:53] Tesla and Westinghouse installed AC generators at Niagara Falls, fulfilling a childhood dream for Tesla and changing the way we look at such powerful natural forces. 

[00:14:07] He had become the man who had managed to harness the immense power of North America’s most powerful waterfall and turn it into something brilliant, electricity.

[00:14:19] Sure, he had had success before, and was well-known, but this really established his reputation as one of America's leading inventors.

[00:14:30] Unfortunately, the good times were about to come to an end for Tesla. 

[00:14:36] While Westinghouse eventually won the “Battle of the Currents” with AC being adopted, victory came at a steep price due to sky-high legal and competitive costs.

[00:14:49] At the time competition between the three big energy companies, Edison, Westinghouse and Thomson-Houston was extreme. 

[00:14:59] All three were trying to expand in what was an extremely capital intensive, expensive, business, spending big money.

[00:15:08] At the same time, they were trying to financially undercut one another, reducing their costs to attract customers, meaning their profit margins were razor thin.

[00:15:21] What’s more, bank collapses and financial panic in 1890 had meant that investors in Westinghouse Electric had started to call in their loans, meaning the company was dangerously short of cash. 

[00:15:37] After refinancing, Westinghouse’s new lenders demanded that he cut back on spending, including on research and patents

[00:15:47] Westinghouse was forced to ask Tesla to renege, to give up, his royalty agreement, under which Tesla would be paid for the electricity produced by his motors. 

[00:15:59] If Tesla didn’t agree to this, Westinghouse would risk losing control of the company and financial ruin

[00:16:07] At this point Tesla’s motor was still in development and keeping Westinghouse on board to promote his motor probably seemed like the best option. 

[00:16:17] Tesla promptly tore up his contract and set Westinghouse free, walking away from millions of dollars he had earned and potentially billions more yet to be made. 

[00:16:30] If you’ve listened to the episode on Thomas Edison, or have some idea about the character of the man, it seems like this act by Tesla tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two.

[00:16:44] After this, Tesla began to focus more exclusively on his wireless transmission ideas, essentially the idea for the wireless radio. 

[00:16:54] The banker J. P. Morgan, yes that’s the same person as the founder of the J.P. Morgan bank, provided Tesla with $150,000 to begin work on a giant tower with the aim of creating a worldwide transmission system. 

[00:17:11] However, Tesla began to run out of money before the tower was finished and Morgan refused to provide any more. 

[00:17:20] In the meantime, Tesla’s rival Marconi attracted increasing amounts of funding and in 1901 succeeded in sending a radio signal from England to Newfoundland. 

[00:17:33] Despite Tesla’s complaints that Marconi was using 17 of his patents, Marconi was celebrated as the inventor of the radio.

[00:17:43] Although he was famous, and still by no means poor, the latter years of Nikola Tesla’s life became more and more isolated and withdrawn from society.

[00:17:55] His personality quirks, his character, also became more and more strange.

[00:18:01] You can see some of this from accounts about what he actually spent his days doing.

[00:18:08] After working from 09:00 until 18:00, he always dined at exactly 10 minutes past 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he was living. 

[00:18:19] Not only did he somewhat bizarrely insist upon being seated at the exact same table every night, he would also telephone through his order to the head waiter - the only person he would allow to serve him. 

[00:18:34] He was a complete germaphobe, he had an extreme fear of germs, having been ill with cholera as a young man, and ever since he insisted on having a stack of 18 napkins on the table and washing his hands three times. 

[00:18:53] After dinner, Tesla often continued to work on his inventions into the early hours, often until 3 o'clock in the morning. 

[00:19:02] Although Tesla was quite withdrawn from public life when he chose to focus on his work, when he was in the mood for socialising, he was, in fact, great company, he was a lot of fun to be around, and he had many friends. 

[00:19:18] At the height of his fame he threw lavish dinner parties and he counted Mark Twain and John Jacob Astor amongst his celebrity friends and benefactors

[00:19:30] He was also a very dapper, or smart, dresser, believing that you had to look and act like you were successful to actually become successful.

[00:19:40] Ultimately popular success eluded Tesla, and his behaviour became more and more erratic.

[00:19:48] For most of his life, Tesla had been fond of feeding pigeons. However, as he became even more reclusive, cut off from society, the pigeons he fed became more and more important to him.

[00:20:03] Tesla became fixated with a white bird in particular, with one particular pigeon. 

[00:20:10] He once said, “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

[00:20:39] According to Tesla, this bird visited him one night in his hotel with bright intense lights shining out from its eyes. As the pigeon died in his arms, Tesla said he knew that his life’s work had been finished.

[00:20:56] Although Tesla went on to make the front cover of Time Magazine in 1931, when it ran a special feature on him and his inventions on his 75th birthday, he lingered pretty much in obscurity and died in 1943, penniless and in debt aged 86. 

[00:21:17] He never married or had children, believing that having a family would get in the way of his work.

[00:21:24] Indeed, he famously said, “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.” 

[00:21:32] And interestingly, this lack of any direct family meant that he became something of a political football during the Cold War.

[00:21:41] Upon his death, the United States government scrambled to quickly collect all of his research to prevent any potentially important developments from falling into foreign hands.

[00:21:53] But in 1952, Tesla’s nephew, a man called Sava Kosanović, who was a prominent Yugoslavian politician and the only relative that Tesla had maintained any contact with, arranged to ship all that remained of Tesla’s personal belongings, documents, drawings, letters and photographs back to Belgrade in former Yugoslavia.

[00:22:18] While Tesla was celebrated as a national hero in communist Yugoslavia, with the Iron Curtain and the Cold War, Tesla’s legacy was almost forgotten in the West. 

[00:22:30] His ashes and his personal effects, as well as thousands of historical exhibits and photographs are all displayed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, in Serbia. 

[00:22:42] Unfortunately, Western historians had limited access to important documentation and Tesla’s contribution to science was mostly overlooked.

[00:22:53] In recent years there has been a renewed interest in Nikola Tesla, with his inventions, predictions and life story portrayed in books and films, and of course his name being used for the most famous electric car company in the world. 

[00:23:09] Streets around the world have been named in Nikola Tesla’s honour, with monuments erected not only in Croatia and Serbia, but also at Niagara Falls and his adopted hometown of New York. 

[00:23:22] While he didn’t enjoy the recognition that he deserved towards the end of his life, it is perhaps fitting that he has risen again to prominence in the modern world, an electric world, one that might have been fundamentally different had it not been for the genius of Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:42] OK then, that is it for today's episode on Nikola Tesla.

[00:23:47] I hope it’s been an interesting one, and you’ve learned some new things about possibly one of the most underrated scientific geniuses. 

[00:23:55] As always, I would love to know what you thought about this episode.

[00:23:58] Why do you think Tesla missed out on fame and fortune? 

[00:24:02] Was he taken advantage of? Who is the 21st century Nikola Tesla? Or is that a bit of a silly question, as our Tesla is someone who will only be known years after his or her death?

[00:24:15] I would love to get your perspective, so let’s get this discussion started. You can head right 

[00:24:21] into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:29] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:34] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]