Nikola Tesla and the Induction Motor



Jarvis, C Mackechnie

Seventy seven years have elapsed since Nikola Tesla visited London for the purpose of lecturing before the IEE on the subject of ‘Experiments with alternate currents of high potential and frequency’. In those days, normal meetings were held in the former building of the Institution of Civil Engineers but, as a large attendance was expected and the facilities needed for demonstration were considerable, the meeting on the 3 February 1892 was held at the Royal Institution. Tesla was in his 36th year and had achieved a splendid reputation in the USA. In England he was little known and for some reason, the technical Press, if not antagonistic, was grudging in its recognition of his originality and genius.

Early years

Nikola Tesla was born on the 10 July 1856 in Smiljan, a village in the border province of Lika, now in Yugoslavia, but then forming part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was the son of a clergyman of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the grandson of another. Understandably, his father hoped that Nikola would follow his example and enter the Church, but in this he was later to be disappointed. Tesla’s mother, although the daughter of a clergyman, is understood to have been illiterate, but is reputed to have possessed the phenomenal memory so often associated with people of more isolated communities. Although unable to read, she could, it is said, recite long passages from the Bible and other books learned by heart, and she practised, with Nikola, a process of thought transference of which remarkable examples are on record.
Tesla’s father possessed a large library and was widely read. In addition to his native Serbo -Croat, he could read and converse in the official language of the province (German) and in French and Italian.

Against this background, in many respects a parallel to numerous instances which occur in Scottish history, emerged a typical child of the manse, avid for knowledge, receptive to a high degree, and remarkable for his mental ability to absorb and retain much of what he had read, which it is said he could quote verbatim years later. Like his father, he became fluent in German, French and Italian, and ast omesubsequent period, while still at college, acquired a knowledge of English which was to stand him in good stead within a very few years.

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