Fire at Dr. Nikola Tesla’s Laboratory

The story of  Dr. Nikola Tesla is one of faith, hope and belief. It is a story of what one individual can achieve and how a single person utterly dedicated to his cause and with unwavering faith in God can move mountains and change the world with his efforts.

When we last saw Dr. Tesla at the World Columbian Exposition, the efficacy of the AC transmission system had been proved and even major detractors like Dr. Kelvin had come round to see the potential and benefits of this system over the existing DC transmission system.

In the mean time due to an increase in his popularity following the success of the World Columbian Exposition, Dr. Tesla started becoming famous in the social circles where one day he met Thomas Commerford Martin. Thomas Martin was an American electrical engineer and Editor of Electrical World magazine. Between the years 1883 to 1909 Thomas Martin served as editor of the Electrical World and was a celebrated author. Incidentally he wasalso son of Lord Kelvin. Martin and Dr. Tesla became good friends.Thomas Martin also compiled and edited ‘The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla’, a book, detailing the work of Dr. Nikola Tesla up to 1893. The book is a record of Tesla's pioneering activities, research, and works. The book when published was considered ‘Bible’ of every electrical engineer. The book contains Forty-three chapters, most of them on different areas of research and inventions of Dr. Tesla. The first chapter is a brief biography while the next three chapters are transcripts of important lectures of Dr. Tesla. One of these covers his section of Westinghouse's exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair. The book would go on to be a landmark in the electrical sciences. Martin and Dr. Tesla both profited from sales of the book, but Dr. Tesla insisted that its copies be given out for free. Dr. Tesla was completely unconcerned with the financial aspect of the book.

In the era where patents are being filed to legally secure ones control and monopoly over businesses and earn maximum profits through publications of one’s thoughts and to market oneself  by getting ones autobiographies published, Dr. Nikola Tesla did the exact opposite. He was concerned neither about the fame nor the profits that came with the book, but was solely concerned with the advancing of science and its beneficial impact on mankind.


JP-Morgan pic
J P-Morgan


During the same period, using Dr. Nikola Tesla’s patents,Westinghouse Company won the bid to build a functioning power plant on the Niagara Falls. This was a great opportunity for Dr. Tesla. At that time Dr. Tesla was using his Tesla Coil as a prototype to be used as a means of communication. Dr. Tesla dreamed to use electric impulses to transmit linguistic words from one corner of the planet to another without wires. By 1893, Dr. Tesla's theories on the possibility of the transmission of words by radio waves were proved through his lectures and demonstrations at Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania, St. Louis, Missouri, and the National Electric Light Association. Dr. Tesla's demonstrations and principles were written about widely through various media outlets. Dr. Tesla perfected the technique to transmit messages wirelessly across 50 miles by 1895. But as Dr. Tesla prepared to perfect this technology for the greater good of mankind, a tragedy struck.

Another man too had a dream;dream to control and monopolize all the available assets, electricity, railroads, steel works and communications;to only allow the person who could afford to pay him for the use of these assets to ply by them, to maximize his gain at the expense of the common man. This man who had this dream, held major stake in all of Thomas Edison’s companies and was fuming at the loss that Dr. Tesla had caused him by winning the bid for the lighting of the World Columbian Exposition. Dr. Tesla winning the contract for the Niagara Falls power plant had further added insult to injury of this man. The man was now livid with rage. The man was, John Pierpont Morgan or J. P. Morgan.

J. P. Morgan was an American financier, banker, and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. At the height of Morgan's career during the early 1900s, he and his partners had financial investments in many large corporations and had significant influence over the nation's high finance and Congress members.Morgan’s total wealth was about $41.5 billion at that time. That is about $2.6 trillion as per today’s standards. This was the clout J.P. Morgan had and hence everyone feared him; everyone but Dr. Nikola Tesla.

J. P. Morgan wanted Dr. Tesla to sell all his patents to him and his businesses so that he could maximize his gains further. He was willing to pay Dr. Tesla rich returns for the same. Dr. Tesla realized that consolidation of the patents in the hand of such monopolistic tycoon would mean that its benefits would never reach the common man and hence Dr. Nikola Tesla refused. Morgan was not a man to let go of an insult. With his refusal to sell patents Dr. Tesla had now snubbed Morgan thrice.

Tesla lab burned down
Tesla lab burned down


Dr. Tesla was habituated to working late in his lab. Once immersed in work he used to forget time and even skipped his food. One night he was similarly busy working in his lab when an impulse made him leave the lab for dinner. As he dined, there came a knock on the door. A messenger had arrived with the news that there had been an explosion in the building housing Dr. Tesla’s laboratory and everything had been destroyed. Dr. Tesla ran through the street to where all his dreams, his visions, his work, his patents, his memories were housed but in vain. The fire brigade was dousing the flames and nothing remained. The greatest monument to the technological advancement of mankind had been wiped off within no time. The totality of his technological achievements was burned into vapor. All that remained was Dr. Nikola Tesla himself.

Was it Dr. Tesla’s refusal to grant his patents to Morgan that resulted in the blaze? Was this the fallout of  War of Currents that Edison had badly lost to Dr. Tesla? Was it any other adversary of Dr. Tesla who did it? Or was it just another accident? No conclusive evidence to the end exists and time will keep its secrets.

  Dr. Tesla was totally distraught by this loss mentally as well as financially. The fire destroyed all his research papers, notes, patents which awaited filing, books, and journals and also all of his apparatus. It left Dr. Tesla penniless. But his faith in his God never suffered. Never once did he question the God for these painful events. Instead he thanked God because had he been working as he used to be, it would have been he who would have been burned and buried in his own lab. But with God’s grace Dr. Nikola Tesla was alive. He still had himself, his mind, his hands and importantly his God with him. He needed time, time to think, to contemplate. Tesla needed to stay in seclusion.

llHari Om ll  llShriramll  llAmbadnyall


Published at Mumbai - Maharashtra, India