Nikola Tesla: The genius with a death ray

Talk about geniuses and you would get the standard answers: Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc etc. Hardly ever do we get to hear the name Nikola Tesla. Whereas the truth is, all our modern devices ranging from AC motors, RADARs, hydroelectric power plants, even the radio, are a direct or indirect result of this man’s unrivalled genius.

But wasn’t the radio invented by Marconi, and the RADAR by Robert A. Watson-Watt? You say. Well…no. All of Marconi’s work on the radio was based upon Tesla’s. He was using 17, yes, seventeen, of Tesla’s patents. RADAR. Same thing. Tesla pitched his idea of the RADAR to the U.S. Navy in 1917, eighteen years before Robert’s discovery. But Thomas Edison convinced the U.S. Navy that the radar had no use in war. Thomas Edison had much to do with Tesla not being recognised. The feud between Edison and Tesla of course, is legendary. But as W. Bernard Carlson said, “They’re different inventors and you can’t really say one is greater than the other. The American society needs some Edisons and it needs some Teslas.”

Tesla was an eccentric man; the quintessential mad scientist. And one of his craziest – or what would have been the craziest, if it had worked out – invention was the death ray. It was a hypothetical device that would bring about, quite literally, death. A concentrated beam of sub-atomic particles flying at the speed of light, annihilating anything and everything in their path: that was Tesla’s death ray, the one he claimed to have invented. His scientific papers vanished mysteriously after his death, and the truth behind the death ray, continues to be elusive.

Nikola Tesla was indeed a man ahead of his times. He lived a poor life and died alone. His legacy, however, continues to inspire. He was truly the genius with a death ray.

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