By Nikola Tesla
New York World Telegram
July 24, 1934
I am a reader of your excellent paper and frequently preserve excerpts of interest to me for future reference.
One of these is an article by William Engle, in your issue of June 29, 1934, dealing with hydro-electric development in which the author characterizes my recent announcement of a new inexhaustible source of power as "nebulous."
A preliminary information is necessarily incomplete, but I always make sure that it is based on demonstrated fact and accurate as far as it goes. My illustrious namesake, Copernicus, used to go twenty times over his scientific statements before giving them out; nevertheless, compared with the attention I bestow upon my own, he might have been considered a careless man.
The author of the article gives an eloquent account of water power development, recalling vividly to my mind the almost miraculous way in which success with my alternating system was achieved. As I review the past, I realize how fortunate it was that at the time when, after years of fruitless talking to deaf ears, I finally managed tb be heard by a few, there was a man in the electrical industry towering above all others, like Samson over the Philistines. A genius of the first degree, inventive ability and mastery of business, a man truly great, of phenomenal powers—George Westinghouse. He espoused my cause and undertook to wage a war against overwhelming odds.
The alternating current was completely discredited, decried as deadly and of no commercial value. Edison thought that the wires might be used for hanging laundry to dry. Steinmetz had a very poor opinion of my induction motor. The old interests were powerful and resolved to fight any encroachment on their business by all means fair or foul. But Westinghouse was not dismayed and threw all his energy and resources into the battle of the century. More than once he came near to being snuffed out, but finally he routed his opponents and put the new industry on a firm foundation. It was a monumental achievement unparalleled in the history of technical development. The service he rendered to the world is beyond estimate.
But it took another human dynamo, a genius of a different kind—Samuel Insull—to enlarge on the work of Westinghouse and apply the system on a colossal scale.
Insull concentrated his efforts on cheapening the production, transmission and distribution of power. He recognized early the economic advantages of large units and prevailed upon the manufacturers to supply him with huge turbo-generators, regardless of cost. He introduced other improvements raising the efficiency and range of central stations and finally realized, practically and successfully, the Super Power System which I had barely suggested in 1893. The results he obtained were such as to astonish engineers, and his bold example was quickly followed here as well as in other countries, saving immense sums of money to the consumers.
At present the work of Westinghouse and Insull is carried further in every corner of the globe, providing new resources, transforming cities and communities and contributing to the safety, comfort and convenience of hundreds of millions. Let us thank the stars that these great pioneers lived in our time, as otherwise we might have had to wait a century for the benefits we now enjoy.
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Another item of interest to me is your flattering editorial of July 12, 1934, with a fly in the ointment since you state that examination of performance does not in recent cases fulfill my prophecy. Perhaps not, but on the whole I have been extraordinarily successful. You would be surprised to know how many of my discoveries and inventions are in extensive use. To give an illustration, I may refer to my wireless system of transmission of energy which is looked upon by many as a pipe dream.
These uninformed people should be told that "wireless" is not a single invention but an art involving the use of many of them, and of them I have contributed the fundamental and most essential, and they are universally employed. There is as yet no pressing necessity for wireless transmission of power in industrial amounts, but as soon as it arises the system will be applied and with perfect success.
Still another item which has interested me is a report from Washington in the World-Telegram of July 13, 1934, to the effect that scientists doubt the death ray effect. I am quite in agreement with these doubters and probably more pessimistic in this respect than anybody else for I speak from long experience.
Rays of the requisite energy can not be produced, and then, again, their intensity diminishes with the square of the distance. Not so the agent I employ, which will enable us to transmit to a distant point billions of times more energy than is possible by any kind of ray.
We are all fallible, but as I examine the subject in the light of my present theoretical and experimental knowledge I am filled with deep conviction that r am giving to the world something far beyond the wildest dreams of inventors of all time.