The Broadcast Power of Nikola Tesla — Part II
by Gerry Vassilatos
COMPLETING a tour of the major scientific institutes in America, Tesla expected to retire for a season of rest in New York once again. News of his advancements however, flooded every technical trade journal. The name Tesla was everywhere once again. First polyphase and now radiant electricity. He was the "darling" of the press. Tesla captured the public eye once again. People everywhere were thrilled with the projected future visions which Tesla freely provided. He was a model European immigrant, suave and debonair. These are probably the qualities which first attracted Anne Morgan. Irresistible, wealthy, unattached, and warm. Tesla was her obsession.
Despite his great personal charm and magnetic personality, he maintained his serious tone and poise wherever he went. The vision of the future was far more important than the attentions of a young and flirtatious lady. In anticipation of these forthcoming events, Tesla often invited other socially esteemed guests to his laboratory for special demonstrations. In this manner, it was noised abroad that what he claimed was in fact real. Anne often attended these gatherings, breathing silently in the shadows of his large loft laboratory.
There were others who, although not attending these demonstrations, were equally watchful of Tesla's newest radiant energy developments. Several of these persons, shall we say, were interested in his new discovery and its implications . . . because their fortunes were threatened. Tesla had swept the world once with polyphase. He wiped out Edison's Direct Current System overnight. J.P. Morgan, Edison's recent "patron", had lost a considerable sum during that fiasco. It was certain that Tesla would soon sweep the world again with broadcast electricity. This destabilizing influence would not be tolerated. Anne complicated the affair considerably. She was in love with Tesla. Obsessed in fact. Too obsessed and desperate to let go.
ROYAL SOCIETY LECTURES
In the very midst of all these national attentions, Tesla received an invitation from Lord Kelvin. He was formally requested to address the Royal Society, his latest findings were earnestly desired. The English, usually extremely conservative, were sure that Tesla would change the course of world history.
Tesla, adjourning from his daily researches now prepared himself for the lectures which would start the world-change. He packed nearly every piece of delicate equipment one can imagine. Vacuum tubes, Transformers, strange motors, and equally strange wireless apparatus. All were carefully crated and personally brought to Europe by Tesla himself. His beloved elder and personal mentor, Sir William Crookes, greeted him.
In the opening portions of his Royal Society lectures Tesla first described his preliminary work with high voltage high frequency alternating currents in some length. He explained that these devices embodied the very last investigations and improvements of his Polyphase System. He demonstrated several of the first small high frequency alternators and iron-core induction coils in order to prepare his audience for a final announcement.
In this very last dramatic demonstration Tesla revealed to British Academia the disruptive electric discharge and the properties of electric rays. Tesla made a rare and complete "full disclosure" of the electric ray effect at the very end of his lecture. It was the very last time he would ever do so again in academic circles.
Tesla showed that the new radiant electricity was distinctive, having been openly proclaimed during the London Royal Society lectures. Tesla deliberately compared and contrasted the potent impulse radiance to his previous weak effects produced by alternating currents (February 1892). Fluorescent lamps and other luminous wonders held his audience spellbound. All the while his voice, tenor-like by excitement, rang throughout the silent awestruck hall.
He demonstrated wireless lamps, lit to full brilliance by radiant electricity. He ran small motors at sizable distances for his audiences to see. This last lecture represents the only recorded instance in which Tesla openly announced his discovery of the electro-radiant impulse. He tells the personally revolutionizing aspect of his discovery and how it virtually eradicates his previous work. He went to great detail verbally describing and disclosing the exact means for eliciting the phenomenon.
In his closing time Tesla quickly demonstrates special "electrostatic" motors and lamps made to utilize the radiant effect. Examination of these first lamp and vane-motor devices reveals their primitive and initial state. Tesla modeled the motor after the Crookes radiometer, stating this fact publicly for the benefit of his revered mentor. Tesla finally stated the vast implications of the discovery. He pointed their minds toward the establishment of true power transmission. He prophetically announced the new civilization which would emerge from these first devices and systems. The world would be completely revolutionized by this new principle. Tesla described beam-transmission of electrical energy, and the possibility of harnessing the radiant energies of space itself.
Those who had witnessed Tesla's entire demonstration were completely enthralled at his results, but misunderstood his new announcement completely. This became apparent to Tesla a short while after he, highly decorated and honored, departed for his Parisian tour. British Science was yet delving into Teslian high frequency alternations. Tesla had already disposed of these discoveries as mere preparatory introductions to impulses.
Tesla showed by way of comparison that disruptive field impulse transcendently exceed all other electro-inductive effects by several orders. He expressed difficulty in discerning whether the effects were electrostatic or electrodynamic in nature, preferring to associate them more with electrostatic effects. We deduce that he had only recently begun developing the electric impulse effect because of his hesitance in identifying the phenomena properly.
Tesla was stringently exact in all his statements. This seems uncharacteristic of his scientific nature. But he did this in true scientific openness. Tesla did not know exactly what was occurring in the electric impulse at that time, desiring only to share the discovery openly and candidly. Academic disapproval of his personal semantics came swiftly in journal after journal.
It is clear that Sir William Crookes completely grasped the significance of Tesla's entire demonstration and realized the closing formal announcement of the new electric force. Crookes could not contain the thrilling implications. He was also sure that the new force would completely revolutionize the scientific world.
Crookes upheld Tesla thereafter as the true discoverer of an unrecognized electrical force. Tesla continued correspondence with his mentor after his departure from England. He had hoped that his dramatic announcement and demonstration would produce a new regime of electrical engineering, and that others would now reproduce the radiant electric effects as described. His hopes would be strangely dashed to pieces in the coming years when the derisive academic attacks began.
To European academes, the lecture series was astounding. It was a glimpse of the future, so clear that few could find time to argue with Tesla at all. Tesla concluded his tour of England and France, everywhere heralded in typical Victorian heroic style. One night, while in Paris, a telegram informed him that his mother was on point of death. Rushing to her bedside, he managed a few hours of final conversation.
He always referred to her as the one who completely understood his strange abilities. Was she not the woman who had encouraged him when he first remarked about his childhood visions? When siblings and friends derided him, she was his support. Early the next morning, in an adjacent house, he was abruptly awaken by a vision. What he beheld changed his life. A seraphic host surrounded his mother. She was ascending into bright clouds. Several minutes after that, the announcement came. His mother had quietly passed away. He spent a torturous week in his native land for her funeral, and fled back again to New York.
When English engineers wrote, asking the means for generating his impulse effects, Tesla gave them very strict descriptive parameters. He never failed to openly disclose the secret by which his spectacular effects were obtained. He had learned to freely share what he knew with all. He was surprised to discover that the academic societies who so warmly addressed him in Europe, were gradually losing interest in his discovery. Being utterly incapable of duplicating his specified parameters, most believed the effects to be "dubious".
The impulse effect had very stringent requirements before its manifestation. Care in constructing impulse generators was the basic requirement. Engineers wanted equations. Tesla gave them descriptions. A few experimenters succeeded in later duplicating Tesla's broadcast electricity effects. But these systems were direct descendants of Tesla's earliest and less efficient designs.
It is often in the nature of academes to forgo empirically evident facts and argue personal differences, especially when foreign personalities are given excessive adulation. Fixated on issues having to do with words and personal poise, Tesla's audiences found several acrid voices whose equally vile publications dared tamper with Tesla's character.
New critics were everywhere, even at home. Dolbear, Thomson, and even Pupin found time to criticize and deride Tesla. Because most younger academes relied entirely on schooling and less on empirical method, they were easily swayed by academic opinion. Tesla underestimated the power of media and of opinions in underrating his abilities. He quickly found that public opinion could actually sway scientific opinion. He failed to see who was behind the media campaign.
Tesla disregarded his antagonistic colleagues. Crookes always deferred to Tesla, whom he admired and loved as a younger protégé. Tesla revered the aged Crookes, upon whose confidence he came to rely during more difficult years. Crookes had been given a true Tesla Transformer when Tesla had given his lectures. The small device was potent, giving the uncharacteristic effects which Tesla had always claimed. This single piece of evidence was left in England for all to see. Remarkably, this evidence did not silence the critics.
Tesla could see no reason in all of this. Something did not quite "add up". Even Tesla could see that there was a missing part of the "equation". Discovering this part would explain his own reversals. As if these personally devastating events were not enough for him, the insolent young Anne continued haunting him at his every turn. He continued being "polite" to her, but never more than this.
Crookes wrote many times to the Royal Society and to Tesla concerning this fact. Sure that Tesla was a modern Faraday, Crookes continued espousing the belief that Tesla had discovered the next historically important electrical advancement. He was encouraged to continue research despite his protagonists. Few academes trusted Tesla's methods now. Fewer yet listened any longer to his statements.
Losing credibility as quickly as he had found it, financiers were slow to trust investing in his new systems. His inventions continued their steady march into electrical history. Each new device chronicles a new step in the technology which should have changed the world. He plunged himself headlong into work. Only work would vindicate him. Opinion would fade when others gradually saw the astounding developments which he would produce. In these actions, Tesla revealed his noble and naive nature. The world had changed, but changed toward a more brutish rule.
He set to work developing more powerful embodiments of his initial Transformers. In order to make a Broadcast Electrical System possible it would be necessary to devise more efficient transformers. He set to work on this very task, examining and dissecting every fundamental part of his existing Transformers.
Tesla discovered that excessive sparking, though impressive to observers, were actually "lossy instabilities". The distant radiant effects he desired were interrupted and distorted whenever sparking occurred. Both sparking and brush discharges actually ruined the distant broadcast effects of radiant electricity, a situation which had to be remedied. Tesla sought elimination of the discharges now. Tesla had already found that metals could focus radiant electrical effects. Additional stability in his Transformers could be achieved with the addition of large copper spheres to the active terminals. Tesla considered copper spheres to be "aether gas reservoirs", providing his transmitters with an additional aether gas supply.
Copper spheres attached to Transformer terminals reduced the required electrical levels for an efficient electric radiance. Copper spheres significantly reduced the injurious instabilities of visually spectacular brush discharges, but did not eliminate them entirely. What Tesla required was a new means for transmitting the radiant electricity without loss.
Tests with elevated copper spheres facilitated efficient transfer of radiant power between the Transformer and surrounding space. Now, Tesla Transformers became true Tesla Transmitters. Tesla found it possible to broadcast harmless radiant electricity with great power to very great distances. Numerous subsequent patents recorded his progressive conquest of the broadcast power principle.
He succeeded in making radiant electricity safe for human use. It would simply travel around conductors if made to impulse quickly enough. Only specially entuned receivers could properly intercept the radiant power for utility. Not three years before he had accidentally discovered the radiant electrical effect. He dreamt of safely sending electrical power without wires in 1892. Now, in 1895, he had realized his dream. Would the system work across the vast distances which he envisioned?
He took his more portable Transmitters outdoors, away from the confines of his South Fifth Street laboratory. Both in northern Manhattan and Long Island, Tesla tested his radiant broadcast systems without restriction. He measured the distant radiant electric effects of these designs in electrostatic volts. Broadcast power could be converted back into current electricity if so desired, the harmless high voltage becoming current in appropriate low resistance transformer coils.
He found to his very great surprise that very distantly positioned vacuum tubes could be lit to great white brilliance when the primary system was operating. The requirement for this action was twofold. First both the system and the receivers had to be grounded. Second, specific volumes of copper had to be connected to the receivers. When these two requirements were satisfied, lamps maximized their brilliance, and motors operated with power.
Copper in the receiver had to "match" the copper mass of the transmitter in a very special equivalence, otherwise radiant transfer would not be efficient. The requirements differed very much from those of ordinary radio antennas. He also found that elevated copper spheres more powerfully enhanced the broadcast radiant power from his transmitters. This was Tesla's means by which his transmitters and receivers could be better "connected" despite their distance.
Tesla believed that these electrical beams invisibly linked both his transmitter and receivers together. He considered each as "disconnected terminals" to ground. Electrical radiance spread out in all directions from the elevated copper sphere of his transmitter. The secret in receiving a maximum signal was to match the transmitter's copper mass with the receiver mass. Then, the aether streams would actually focus into the matched receiver. This affinity would take time, the transmitter energy "searching" for better ground sites. Radiant electricity evidenced curiously vegetative "growth characteristics".
Receivers now were outfitted with small copper spheres. These provided a more efficient affinity and absorption for the radiated power. The additional copper spheres which surmounted Tesla transmitters effectively lowered the input electrical power for the production of focused aether discharges.
Tesla took the gas dynamic analogy to another level when he found that both low pressure gaseous and vacuum tubes could replace copper. Electro-radiant effects from gas-filled globes were projected with less electrical loss and even greater power. Large low pressure argon gas filled globes were empirically found to broadcast tremendous radiance when used atop his transmitters. Additionally, he found that argon gas at low pressures could serve as an equivalent receiver as pure copper spheres. The gas filled globes would be less costly than copper spheres to disseminate in public use. He was approaching a totally efficient system. Numerous personages were invited to observe these historic tests. J.H. Hammond Jr. was one such individual. Enthralled with Tesla's developments, he and his wife invited Tesla repeatedly to their home in later years. Tesla was their honored guest for months at a time. Later in years, after World War I, both Tesla and Hammond worked on robotics and remote control.
Tesla envisioned small power units for both home and industrial use. The installation and maintenance of these units would require a small monthly fee. Through these wireless units one could draw sufficient power to operate factories and homes alike. Electrical usage could be metered. The superiority of this new broadcast power system was obvious to all who observed it in operation.
Tesla also described the use of these power units for transportation. Transatlantic ships could simply draw their motive power from continental power broadcast stations. Trains and automobiles could be operated by drawing their power. The potential fortunes would soon stimulate financiers to invest heavily in the "coming activity"
In keeping with his publicity-mindedness, several investors were always invited to Tesla's private demonstrations. Tesla knew that their urge to support his new world-shaking venture would become irresistible when once each had beheld his small broadcast power system. The demonstrations were deemed by these individuals as "entertaining", in their typical dry tone. But, he rarely heard from these people again.
Here was a new change. Shy moneymen. A true contradiction.
Their reticence left Tesla in a state of bewilderment. Once, in a ditch, his conversation alone was sufficient perfume to attract the bees. Now? None would dare leap into the new world sea. Why? What sharks were there besides themselves? Tesla could simply not understand this new "dearth", this incredulous conservatism and lack of imagination on the part of New York investors.
Eager to begin, Tesla patiently waited for the messengers to call. Had he known more of the world around him, however, he would have stopped waiting. Shortly after Tesla's private demonstrations were concluded, Morgan's agent approached Tesla with a "business proposition". The bribe being sizable, contracts would have placed Morgan in control of Tesla's new system. Tesla laughed at the pale little Mr. Brown in his pinching-tight tails, informing him that he himself was already a millionaire. Why should he need such an affiliation at all? He was escorted very graciously by the amused Tesla.
While dining in the Waldorf several hours later, a rude interruption informed him that his laboratories were ablaze. The connection between his refusal to bow and the flames which now reached skyward was not made until all was consumed. That night, the world changed completely for Nikola Tesla. He lost everything of his past. Everything. The totality of his technological achievements were burned into vapor. Books, priceless souvenirs, delicate equipment, patents, models, drawings, new pieces of apparatus. Everything was burned. He read the message well.
There was a two week period where he simply vanished. No one could find him. Kolman Czito, his trusted technical foreman and machinist feared for Tesla's life. Katherine Underwood Johnson was beside herself with anguish. She was the wife of a close friend, the only real love of Tesla's life. The fire was meant to kill. It was a message as clear as anyone would need. The assassination attempt failed to kill the intended victim. It certainly did not kill his dreams.
Wherever he was for those two weeks, the dreams were with him. But a part of Nikola Tesla died in the fire. It was the part which was tied to the past. His eyes on the future, Tesla developed his discovery into a major technology which the world seems to have forgotten. Of all those who prayed and wept over Tesla's disappearance, one person was no longer concerned. Never again would Anne need to be troubled by the thought of Nikola Tesla. His love was already sealed. Tesla recovered from the flames.
His subsequent discoveries and inventions surpassed his former works for forty more years; special radiation projectors, self-acting heat engines, power transmitters, remote control and robotics, the "World Broadcast System", Beam Broadcast transmitters, "aetheric reactors and aetheric engines", cosmic ray motors, psychotronic television: the list of astounding inventions is truly awe-inspiring. Tesla demonstrated each of these systems for a select group of witnesses.
Furthermore, despite rumors of his public and scientific demise, Tesla maintained two penthouse suites atop the Hotel New Yorker in a time when such extravagance was otherwise unobtainable. One of these suites was converted into a complete radio laboratory, several accoutrements of which having been retrieved by antique radio enthusiasts. Tesla was an indefatigable researcher.
Indeed, the biography of Nikola Tesla is replete with truly mysterious designs and developments. But these are parts of his biography which must be told in other volumes.