Dr. Nikola Tesla’s X-ray Research for Mankind

 Working on various new mind-blowing concepts and inventions had almost become a routine for Dr. Nikola Tesla. The only thing inspiring this research and associated inventions was the supreme and the strong desire of Dr. Tesla to make human life happier and beyond-usual. Though Dr. Tesla was not credited for invention of X-rays, yet he was very much aware that like Wireless Electricity, X-rays was also a find which if not used properly or if in wrong hands, could prove to be extremely dangerous for mankind. With this Dr. Tesla had commenced his rigorous research on X-rays at his laboratory at Houston Street. 

 Dr. Nikola Tesla was amongst the first scientist to comment on the biological hazards of working with X-ray tubes. He pointed out the harmful effects of prolonged exposure of X-ray tubes on human body. He described acute skin changes like redness, pain, and swelling, as well as long term consequences such as hair loss and new undesired nail growth. He also noticed sudden pain and irritation of the eyes while working with these X-rays. This pain and irritation was considered to be the consequence of eyestrain due to long observation of the fluorescent screen in the darkness.


Roentgen’s letter to Dr. Tesla dated July 20th, 1901. Rontgen writes: “Dear Sir! You have surprised me tremendously with the beautiful photographs of wonderful discharges and I tell you thank you very much for that. If only I knew how you make such things! With the expression of special respect I remain yours devoted - W. C. Roentgen.”


 Dr. Nikola Tesla had stated that these harmful effects of X-rays could be minimized by either keeping a safe distance from the X-ray tubes or by keeping the X-ray exposure time very less. Dr. Tesla also proposed the third option of providing proper shield that will absorb the X-rays that would allow only a minimal required quantity of these rays to pass through human body. Dr. Tesla himself constructed a protective shield made of aluminum wires connected to the ground that would absorb the harmful X-ray radiations and make it safe for the use by human beings. Dr. Tesla also demonstrated that high quality X-ray photographs can only be produced by placing the object and the photographic plate at a proper distance and by keeping the exposure time shorter. Mr. William Rontgen (who is mentioned in history as inventor of X-rays) also appreciated the quality of the X-ray images that Dr. Tesla had produced and wondered if he too can produce such high quality X-ray images. Rontgen expresses his views in a letter that he sent to Dr. Tesla. This letter was a pointer of genuine praise showered on a scientist by his contemporary. 

 Earlier we have read of Dr. Nikola Tesla making use of Wireless Electricity and further making it safe for use by even a common man. Dr. Tesla worked fearlessly without caring about himself or worrying about the pain and the hazards involved in this research. Likewise we can witness the same here. Inspite of knowing the harmful effects of X-rays, Dr. Tesla continued his rigorous experimentation only with one aim - to make these rays safe and beneficial for human beings. Moreover, Dr. Tesla also described clinical benefits of X-rays like determination of foreign body position and detection of lung diseases. Dr. Tesla also made an important observation that the denser bodies were more opaque to the X-rays.

 In order to spread the awareness about proper usage of the X-rays, Dr. Tesla had published a series of articles on the topic of ‘X-rays and their biological hazards’ in many scientific journals and delivered various lectures on the said topic in front varied audiences. One of his most prominent of the lecture on this topic was in front of the New York Academy of Sciences in the year 1897.

 Further, Dr. Tesla had also managed obtain the X-ray radiations from a special vacuum tube which was nothing else but an X-ray bulb made by Dr. Tesla himself. This tube used to generate a lot of heat while producing X-rays. Thus to avoid over-heating and melting of the vacuum tube walls in his X-ray bulb, Dr. Tesla designed a cooling system based on a cold blast of air along the tube and additionally also a system in which there would be arrangements where the tube be cooled by a continuous oil bath. This technique is nothing else but today’s widely accepted oil cooling system which is employed in cooling various engines and experimental setups.

Many scientists still believe that most of the precautions that are followed even today during the use of X-rays were actually detailed by Dr. Tesla more than a 100 years ago. 

 After inventions of X-rays and detailed work on them by Dr. Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison's company too began experimenting with the same and hired one ‘Clarence Dally’ who manufactured X-ray bulbs and operated them. But due to the improper use of the X-rays bulbs, within few years Dally had developed lesions and swelling that pained on both of his hands. The pain was so intense that eventually both of his hands had to be amputated as they had developed severe skin cancer. Had only Dally and Edison paid attention to the findings and precautions mentioned by Dr. Tesla, who they considered their arch-rival, the ill fate would have been avoided.

 Dr. Nikola Tesla’s discovery of X-rays had sprung from his work and research of high-frequency electricity. Inorder to continue his experiments on high-frequency electricity further, Dr. Tesla needed higher voltages and hence more area for his experiments. By the year 1897 Dr. Tesla had patented a system for wireless transmission of power. With every jot of passing time Dr. Tesla's dreams were growing bigger and bigger. He was thinking ‘out-of-the-box’ and not limiting himself to just the wireless energy transfer over a small distance.

 Nikola tesla X rays

During the year 1898, Dr. Nikola Tesla's creativity in the field of high frequency electricity was at its peak. Dr. Tesla had worked with such intensity that many of the inventions and discoveries which he had given the world by this time have remained unsurpassed even till today. Even the severe blow of loss of his New York laboratory in the year 1895 did not hold him back for long. He soon resumed his experiments in his new laboratory on Houston Street and continued with his astonishing discoveries.

 When Dr. Nikola Tesla started working on high frequencies, he learned their vast possibilities for wireless electricity transmission from one point to another point. During the ceremonial opening of the hydroelectric power plant on the famous Niagara Falls, which for the first time in history was to enable effective transfer of electrical power over a great distance, Dr. Tesla had said, “In fact, the progress in this field has given me fresh hope that I shall see the fulfillment of one of my fondest dreams; namely, the transmission of power from station to station without the employment of any connecting wires.”

 At the Houston Street laboratory, Dr. Nikola Tesla generated voltages of 2 to 4 megavolts using a high-frequency transformer with a coil diameter of 2.44 meters. But by now, Dr. Tesla needed transformer with further higher frequency, and with a coil diameter of about 15 meters. Hence as result of space constraint Dr. Tesla started looking out for a new place for his laboratory.

 At this time, two people came forward to help Dr. Nikola Tesla. One was Mr. Leonard Curtis, a friend of Dr. Tesla. He was a patents’ lawyer. He offered to find land for Dr. Tesla's new laboratory in Colorado Springs and provided power for the research from the El Paso Power Company. The next supporter to come forward was Colonel John Jacob Astor. Col. John Astor provided Dr. Tesla with $30,000 funding. Col. Astor was a German-born American businessman, considered to be one of the richest men in America during those times.

Dr. Nikola Tesla was now prepared to set foot in Colorado Springs where new inventions and scientific marvels were awaiting him.

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