Five Inventions We Can Thank Nikola Tesla For

Lauren Simmonds

nikola tesla

October the 30th, 2023 – Nikola Tesla, born in Smiljan, close to Gospic in Lika, was a genius in every sense. He predicted the use of smartphones as we know them today, and described in astonishingly accurate detail how he’d expect them to work. That was around 100 years before they were created. Here are five things masterminded by Nikola Tesla.

Alternating current (AC) electricity

Roy McCammon

Back during the early years of electricity’s widespread implementation across the United States, DC (direct current) was used to light up households. This posed quite a significant issue because DC is very challenging to convert to higher or lower voltages. Tesla sought to find a solution to this pressing issue, eventually inventing an induction motor that ran on alternating current. His development was the result of his studies into precisely how alternating currents can be combined to result in the creation of a magnetic field within the motor’s stator. Tesla worked it out, and then developed the polyphase alternating current system of generators, transformers and motors. Needless to say – the Lika-born inventor’s creation was beyond groundbreaking at the time. He received the patent on the electric transmission of power in the year 1888, demonstrating his remarkable creation at Chicago’s World Columbian Exposition a few years later (1893). His dream was entirely fulfilled several years after that, when he developed and put to use Niagara Falls’ very first hydroelectric power plant (1895).

Nikola Tesla’s turbine


Known as Tesla’s 100th patent, the Tesla Turbine was patented in October 1913. This turbine is a centripetal flow turbine without any blades. Also referred to as the boundary-layer turbine, the cohesion-type turbine and the bladeless turbine, Tesla’s turbine utilises what’s known as a boundary-layer effect as opposed to the more commonly used type involving fluid and blades. In Tesla’s work called Our Future Motive Power, he describes the Tesla turbine and his intention for it to be implemented in the field of geothermal power.

Nikola Tesla’s oscillator


Tesla’s oscillator enjoyed a very interesting popular culture title – “Tesla’s earthquake machine”. This was because Nikola Tesla himself claimed that a version of the oscillator had caused an earthquake in 1898 in NYC. Patented in the year 1893 after Tesla initially began to dip his toes into using oscillation for energy transfer, this oscillator is a reciprocating electricity generator. Using steam power, this remarkable electro-mechanical system sees steam forced inside it, and then has it exit through a specifically designed series of ports. This action causes the oscillator’s piston to move up and down while attached to an armature. This results in vibrations and high speeds – resulting in the production of electricity. Tesla’s claims that an earthquake had been caused by his intentions were first laid out at his 79th birthday celebration. During that same event in 1935, the inventor also claimed that he expected to make around 100 million USD from it within a couple of years. Of course, the oscillator didn’t cause an earthquake in the Big Apple, but it did produce obvious vibrations which could be felt at quite a distance.

The Tesla coil


Used to research x-ray generation and the transmission of electric power, the Tesla coil was among the pioneering generation of transmitters carrying wireless telegraphy. Nikola Tesla designed and developed his coil in 1891, and used it to produce high voltage alternating-current electricity – his passion and the thing he is arguably the most well known for on an international scale. These coils were used to ensure the sporatic excitation of resonant currents. Using coupled resonant electric circuits, Tesla experimented with the coil in a variety of different ways, conducing all kinds of experiments in x-ray generation, electrotherapy, electrical lighting and more. The Tesla coil was a roaring success, and ended up being very frequently used in all kinds of medical equipment, including violet ray devices. They were also used in certain radio transmitters until the 1920s.



Nikola Tesla’s pioneering shadowgraph image which stunned the world was of his own foot. Not known for being a lover of selfies, it seems this inimitable inventor saw fit to use his extremities as proof of his development. Tesla basically set the stage for radiography by spearheading the use of what we now know as x-ray imaging for the use of the medical profession. In 1887, Tesla began experimenting with what was then unknown and what he called shadowgraphs. He took what has since become a famous image of his own foot, nestled inside his shoe, at a 2.5 metre distance and having been generated by his own vacuum tub. During this time Tesla of course had his own lab, and his research could go on uninterrupted. Tesla carried out very significant research focusing on x-rays in 1894. In the years that followed the burning down of his lab, he published no less than ten extensive papers on the biologic effects of x-ray radiation following various experiments. While German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen might be the one taking all of the credit for the incredible x-ray imaging we are all so thankful for, you might also want to spare a thought for Nikola Tesla next time you’re waiting to see just how bad that broken arm is. He’s also the one to thank for the protective measures one needs to take around radiation, as he can be credited for discovering just how dangerous x-rays can be without the proper precautions being taken.

Interested in how Tesla’s mind worked outside of his inventions? Explore his torturous battle with obsessive compulsive disorder, his love of pigeons and his hatred of all things pearl here.


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