Mark Pilkington, editor of the wonderful fringe culture magazine Strange Attractor Journal, has written a fascinating profile for Fortean Times of Nikola Tesla, quintessential maker, intriguing eccentric, and power hacker. Makers around the world celebrated Tesla's 150th birthday last year. (Seen here, a multiple exposure photo of Tesla in his laboratory.)
From Pilkington's article:
While it’s still possible to find modern histories of electricity that make no mention of Tesla, during his lifetime he was, alongside Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi, the most celebrated inventor of the age. His polyphase system of Alternating Current (AC) remains the basis for transmitting electricity across power lines and drives induction motors – another Tesla design – in everything from CD players to submarines. Tesla is often credited with starting the "Second Industrial Revolution", but his genius touched on much more than just motors. His writings, patents and inventions included early models for radio, X-ray-emitting tubes, fluorescent lighting, robotics, radar, aircraft, missiles and, heading further out into the unknown, energy weapons, weather control and – his great dream – the wireless transmission of electricity...
After his death, Tesla’s name survived as a unit measuring the intensity of a magnetic field, as a crater on the far side of the Moon, and a small planetary object (2244 Tesla). Meanwhile, his ideas continued to inspire both respectable scientists of the sort you’d happily take back to the academy, and legions of backyard free-energy researchers...
While at Colorado Springs, Tesla realised that the Earth was "a conductor of limitless dimensions". He was convinced that he had sent ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) waves half way around the world, creating a column of energy in the Indian Ocean, which could be tapped for its power using simple equipment like a radio tuner. Outside the station, Tesla was able to power bulbs wirelessly, while inside he noted manifestations of ball lightning and, on one occasion, a dense fog, leading him to believe that he would one day be able to modify the weather and create moisture in arid climates. His most controversial claim, however, and one that probably marked the beginning of the end of his reputation as a serious scientist, was that he had received radio signals from outer space, most likely Mars or Venus. This makes Tesla, unwittingly, the first radio astronomer, though he himself assumed that the signals were directed by another intelligence.
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