Nikola Tesla: The Forgotten Inventor


Publicity photo of Nikola Tesla sitting in his laboratory, December 1899.
Dickenson V. Alley (public domain)

Joshua Leo and Anne Muir look at the man who invented the Twentieth Century: Nikola Tesla.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight.  I’m Joshua Leo.

Voice 2 

And I’m Anne Muir.  Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

On the 7th of January 1943, an old man died. He was in a room at the New Yorker Hotel.  The man had lived alone in this hotel room for the past ten years. Outside, the city of New York was full of lights. These lights were the result of an idea the old man had had many years before. This man was once famous for his idea. But many people had forgotten about the old man. No one seemed to care. The man died alone and with very little money. He was the great inventor Nikola Tesla.

Voice 2 

Tesla was an extremely intelligent man. He had many new scientific ideas - ideas that would change the world. One writer called Tesla “The Man Who Invented the Twentieth Century.” However, many people do not know the name Nikola Tesla. Why is this? Today’s Spotlight is on the life and work of Nikola Tesla.

Voice 1 

Nikola Tesla was born on the 10th of July 1856. He was from what is now the country of Croatia. His father was a priest. His mother was an inventor. She invented and made tools for her house work.

Voice 2 

From a very young age, Tesla was interested in electricity. At this time, scientists had discovered electricity. However, they were still trying to understand how to best use it. As a young boy, Tesla had a dream or goal. He knew about the great waterfall, Niagara Falls, in the United States. At Niagara Falls, a large river flows over a cliff. It drops more than 50 meters! Tesla wanted to turn this great waterfall into electricity. This was not a normal dream for a young boy. But Tesla was not a normal boy!

Voice 1 

Tesla was a very good student. He was particularly good at mathematics and language learning. In fact, Tesla knew six languages! Tesla studied at many different universities. However, he did not have the money to finish his studies.

Voice 2 

In 1881, one of the first telephone exchanges opened in Europe. It was in Budapest. Tesla moved there and got a job. It was here that Tesla first thought of the idea that would become his greatest invention. It was the alternating current or AC induction motor.

Voice 1 

In 1884, Tesla moved to the United States of America. He went to work for Thomas Edison. Edison was also a great inventor. He too was experimenting with how to best transport the power of electricity. But Tesla worked for Edison for less than a year. Tesla was sure his AC motor was the best way to capture and transport the power of electricity. However, Edison thought his way of using direct current or DC was better. Edison thought that AC was not safe. He did all he could to stop Tesla from developing his idea.

Voice 2 

However, a wealthy investor and engineer named George Westinghouse decided to support Tesla. Westinghouse helped Tesla get patents. These official papers kept other people from copying Tesla’s many ideas. Soon, the scientific community accepted Tesla’s way of using AC to capture and transport electricity. It was more powerful than DC and it was proved safe.

Voice 1 

In 1895, Tesla achieved his childhood dream. He designed the first hydroelectric power plant using the energy of the Niagara Falls.  And he did it using the AC motor. This achievement ended Tesla’s long battle with Edison. Tesla had won. Today, AC is the way electricity is transported all over the world. In fact, without it, you would not be able to listen to this programme.

Voice 2 

After the success of AC, Tesla became well-known. He travelled and spoke to many scientists about his inventions and ideas. Tesla also liked to demonstrate his ideas for crowds of people. He built a large laboratory where he did amazing things with lights and electricity. He would produce large lightning bolts, like the bright lights in a storm. And he used electricity to produce light without any wires.

Voice 1 

Tesla was a very interesting man. He was over six feet tall and was very good looking. He had many famous friends, including the great American writer Mark Twain. He liked to wear nice clothes. He also enjoyed eating food at the best restaurants.

Voice 2 

But many people thought Tesla was a little bit strange. He always counted things. He also liked to put things in order. For example, he would organize a group of glasses by size before he drank from them. Tesla also had an unusual interest in pigeons. Tesla loved these large birds which are common in New York.

Voice 1 

In March of 1895, Tesla’s laboratory burned down. He had to start much of his research all over again. Tesla continued to invent and think of new ideas. But he was less successful and famous.

Voice 2 

Many people did not recognize that particular inventions were really Tesla’s ideas. For example, people usually think of Guglielmo Marconi as the inventor of radio. However, Marconi used many of Tesla’s ideas about long distance radio in his work. Tesla argued that Marconi was not the real inventor of radio. And after Tesla’s death, the United States courts decided that Marconi did use Tesla’s ideas. But by this time people had forgotten about the debate. Tesla also achieved important inventions in other areas. He did important work on medical x-rays, remote control and wireless technology.

Voice 1 

As Tesla got older, he continued to invent new ideas and theories. But he also became more and more sad. People like George Westinghouse no longer gave money to support him. Many people did not understand Tesla’s new ideas. He gave speeches about creating electrical power from the earth’s atmosphere. He also talked about ways that wireless electricity and communication could power things all over the world! Now, some people say Tesla’s ideas were ‘ahead of his time.’ To the people of his time, these ideas sounded insane. However, some of his ideas are supported by modern research and technology.

Voice 2 

Tesla’s last years were lonely and sad. He received many awards, but received very little money for this work. He lived alone in a hotel room. His best friends were the pigeons he loved so much. When he died in 1943, he was no longer famous. He felt forgotten. Today, not many people know the name of Nikola Tesla. But his inventions and ideas affect our lives every day!

Voice 1 

The writer of this programme was Shelagh Godwin. The producer was Luke Haley. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. You can listen to this program again, and read it on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Nikola Tesla: the Forgotten Inventor’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

What is the most important invention you use every day? Do you know who invented it?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Hangcoi
said on April 08, 2013

Thank you so much with all my respect - The Great Inventor - Nicola Tesla.
In my country - Vietnam have a famous sentence is ” Eating fruit have to remember WHO plant”
And Thank Spotlight for telling me know many new knowledges in the world.

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on April 09, 2013

Thank for program help me to know The GREAT INVENTOR’s- Nicola Tesla.
I feel sorry and wonder why people forgot his name.
We have been inherited the result of Inventors,we have to remember and respect them.
I hope through this topic,all of us are aware of this thing :“Eating fruit have to remember WHO plant”
Have a nice day!

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David.Nguyen
said on April 10, 2013

Thank GOD

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nature187_vn
said on April 12, 2013

When read this topic of program,I think we should introducing popular on the world who had contributed inventions for humans Nicola Tesla.He deserves being respect and thankful…

Luis Piedra's avatar
Luis Piedra
said on April 14, 2013

Nikola Tesla was a great inventor and his works forever live in the human history.
Thanks Spotlight

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Mykola
said on May 26, 2014

Thank you

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Luckyman...
said on May 27, 2014

Good inventor. Nicola tesla has a lot of inventions. they affect our life today. thanks for programming. now, I know more inventor, Nicola Tesla.

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miboo
said on May 27, 2014

A man who has good ability is usually acceppted after he died. NIcola tesla, too. today, we blame particular people are insane. perhaps, there is a man who is ‘ahead of his time’

hellokitty's avatar
hellokitty
said on May 27, 2014

I had heard his stoy before. But I became more aware of his story through this text. Thanks!)


Tesla was great inventor. But in his time, no one couldn’t think and believe about that. So I think that we must look aroud for someone like Tesla.

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georgino
said on May 27, 2014

Hello everyone, I´ve come back
This story is   sad about the inventions of this man who contributed to the tecnology advance, most of the inventors die forgotten but thanks to them we have a better life style
However ther are disadvantages too. You know contamination everywhere.

Great topic,
jrvs

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Dela
said on May 29, 2014

This is a great story of Tesla’s meaningful life ending in the desolateness, solitude. Tesla had to overcome many difficulties just as the lack of understanding during his life’s career, he was considered to be strange, eccentric. Tesla certainly got ahead of time with his courageous, surprising inventions that still contribute to our easier, more comfortable life. We must perceive Tesla was a famous inventor whose working has the worldwide significance and that is why he should never be forgotten.
Thanks for interesting topic!
Greetings

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jellynhi
said on June 11, 2014

I agree that I’ve never heard of Nicola Tesla. feel so sorry. Why an enthusiastic inventor had been forgotten over years?

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Honneur
said on May 14, 2018

This story is a many repeated one. A lot of very intelligent and realizer men had had their creations and ideas stolen by friends and comrades. Santos Dumont was really the first man to create an airplane, but the Writh brothers caught the awards for the creation.

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vietttm
said on August 07, 2018

Indeed, I didn’t know who was Tesla until I watched the series of investigation of his death on Discovery channel. According to that TV program, he was murdered due to his invention. Some of countries like Russia, Germany, America and etc were very interesting in his ideas. They supposed that he was creating a power weapon and they competed to had his document about that invention. Add to the gloom, investors had been thinking who murdered him was a person very close to his life. I’m really appreciate this program that bring me lots of information about Nikola Tesla: the Forgotten Inventor.

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Honneur
said on August 07, 2018

You are right, Vietttm. This programme is a gift to whom search general information and knowledge about English language. It is “la creme de la creme”...

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Tuanva06
said on October 13, 2018

R.I.P the great Inventor