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Father of electricity turns 150

Media Release
29 November 2006

Father of electricity turns 150

A tribute to electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla will be held at The University of Auckland next week as part of worldwide celebrations marking this year’s 150th anniversary of the inventor’s birth.

Often dubbed ‘the man who invented the twentieth century’, Nikola Tesla’s work ushered in the use of electricity to the world. It formed the basis of the modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems and allowed Tesla to pursue eccentric ideas such as time travel and flying saucers.

Tesla is considered one of the most outstanding electrical and mechanical engineers and scientists of all time. He is credited with some 700 inventions, among them electrical power generation, the radio, x-ray, fluorescent lighting and remote controls.

“He was a great visionary whose radical ideas changed modern life,” says Dr Stevan Berber from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University’s Faculty of Engineering. “His idea to harness the energy of the Earth was considered outrageous, but it led to the power generators we use today.”

Born to Serbian parents in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Croatia) in 1856, Tesla moved to the United States of America at the age of 28, where he carried out most of his work.

Tesla was obsessed with how to transmit electricity wirelessly, a problem he never solved. However researchers at the Faculty of Engineering have used Tesla’s theories to transmit meaningful amounts of power over short distances without wires since 1995, and have commercialised this technology around the world.

Some of Tesla’s more eccentric ideas including teleportation, a vertical take-off “flying saucer”, and time travel never reached fruition. His prediction 100 years ago that we would one day use mobile phones to communicate did.

Despite earning a fortune from his patents, Tesla died penniless and without family at the age of 86.

Dr Berber will hold a free public talk titled ‘A Tribute to Nikola Tesla – the Man of Inventions’ at the University next Thursday. His presentation will pay tribute to the life and achievements of Nikola Tesla, and demonstrate how his theories are used in electrical and mechanical engineering research today.

Date: Thursday 7 December
Time: 6pm
Venue: Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, 20 Symonds Street, University of Auckland


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