Humanist Tesla

Life presents everyone with many ups and downs. Failure in our work, loss of a loved one or even a mere financial loss is sufficient to push the most optimistic individual into depression. Then just imagine how difficult it would be when one has to witness destruction of his dreams, his achievements and everything that he has worked for in his life. It indeed must be utterly devastating. Faced with this, most of the people would lose their sleep, minds and faith in God.

In the last article we have seen Dr. Nikola Tesla facing a similar situation when his Laboratory was on fire. For Dr. Tesla to see all of his achievements, his dreams, his visions being reduced to smoldering rubble must have indeed been heart wrenching. As a result he withdrew himself from public attention. It is said that Dr. Tesla retreated to a countryside church that his mother frequented when she came to America. It was here that Dr. Nikola Tesla was reborn. He realized that God had kept him alive for a purpose and it was this purpose that he needed to fulfill. Rather than to blame God for this devastation, Dr. Tesla thanked God for His divine intervention that saved him. Dr. Tesla believed that God had allowed this to happen for a purpose and that it meant that it needed Dr. Tesla to put a rethought and change the course of his certain actions.

After a month of contemplation, Dr. Tesla returned to New York with a firm resolve to again start from ground-zero and build everything from scratch. This was indeed a humongous task to achieve. His first goal was to construct hydro-electric power generation plant based on alternating current on the Niagara Falls which had been Dr. Tesla’s dream since early life.  

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Dr. Kelvin and his Commission who were in charge of harnessing the power of the Niagara to power the town of Buffalo, which is incidentally the second most powerful city in the province of New York today, granted the contract to the combine of George Westinghouse and Dr. Tesla. This was a dream come true for Dr. Tesla. He worked tirelessly for this project and with extreme dedication and hard work managed to get the entire AC power plant functional on Niagara in just 11 months which was unexpected and indeed a record time. It was on November 16, 1896, within even a year from the complete destruction of his laboratory that Dr. Nikola Tesla generated and transmitted electrical power to industries in Buffalo from the hydroelectric generators at the Edward Dean Adams Station at Niagara. The generators were built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation using Dr. Tesla's AC system patents. The nameplates on the generators bore Nikola Tesla's name. Within a few years there were a total of ten generators working at Niagara, totally in line with the project plan. Now the plant was supplying electricity to the entire New York City. City Broadways, the place better known as an entertainment district was ablaze with lights; the elevated, street railways and subway system rumbled with electricity from Niagara. What is more shocking and astounding is that even Edison converted from his conventional direct current system to alternating current system. The phenomenal rise from a massive fall of Dr. Nikola Tesla that too within just 11 months of destruction of his lab makes us compare Dr. Tesla with the famous Phoenix bird that rises from ashes and ascends high. Such a fight back can only be expected from a true believer of God. Only faith breeds such tenacity.

At the momentous occasion of the inauguration of plant on the day of January 12, 1897, Dr. Nikola Tesla uttered the following words, “We have many a monument of past ages; we have the palaces and pyramids, the temples of the Greek and the cathedrals of Christendom.  In them is exemplified the power of men, the greatness of nations, the love of art and religious devotion.  But the monument at Niagara has something of its own, more in accord with our present thoughts and tendencies. It is a monument worthy of our scientific age, a true monument of enlightenment and of peace. It signifies the subjugation of natural forces to the service of man, the discontinuance of barbarous methods, the relieving of millions from want and suffering". Dr. Tesla’s noble intentions and his vision for ending inequality are apparent in these words and only a sage like Dr. Tesla could dream and execute such a project, remain humble and get back to his lab to further better human lives.

But this victory was a bitter-sweet one. During 1889, Thomas Edison had business interests in many companies into manufacturing of electrical equipment. In 1889, Drexel, Morgan & Co. that was founded by J.P. Morgan and Anthony Drexel, financed Edison’s research and helped merge these companies under one corporation to form Edison General Electric Company. This newly formed company also acquired Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company in the same year.

At about the same time Thomson-Houston Electric Company under Charles Coffin, acquired a number of competitors and gained access to their key patents. After formal formation of General Electric in 1892 by the merger of Edison General Electric Company of Schenectady, New York, and Thomson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, Edison had lost the control of his company to professional managers and the conglomeration emerged under the banner of General Electric. GE initiated legal action against Westinghouse Electric Company over the patents for AC systems and though Westinghouse emerged the winner in the cases, the victory came at a huge cost. It left Westinghouse Company struggling for survival. In 1907, under such dire circumstances and with manipulation of financial markets by some vested interests opposed to Dr. Tesla the stock prices for Westinghouse’s company were made to crash.


This was when Dr. Tesla once again came forth to the aid of Westinghouse. Dr. Nikola Tesla actually tore up his contract worth $12 million with Westinghousein which Westinghouse had promised to pay Dr. Tesla $1 for every horsepower of energy generated by his Company using the AC patents of Dr. Tesla. Interestingly bankers estimate this contract to be worth more than $300 million in today's times.

Dr. Tesla let go these financial benefits just to keep afloat company of Westinghouse who had helped him in his initial struggling days and also to provide cheap electricity to the common masses. This selfless act of Dr. Tesla helped to prevent the takeover of the Westinghouse Electric Company by J.P. Morgan and also prevented the establishment of a monopoly in power generation thus allowing the common man, access to cheap electricity. Due to selling off his patents and cancellation of his contract worth $12 million, Dr. Tesla’s stable earnings dwindled drastically but yet he cared only for one thing and that was betterment of humanity.

The feats and words of this great man are truly inspiring. To single handedly face such challenges and such heavy odds and still walk away with one’s head held high is actually even beyond appreciation and imagination. In the next article, we shall see a few more fascinating aspects of this story of Dr. Nikola Tesla. Till then give a thought to what one man with tenacity, purpose and firm faith in God can achieve even after losing everything but faith.


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