His father, Milutin Tesla was a Serbian Orthodox Priest and his mother Djuka Mandic was an inventor in her own right of household appliances. Tesla studied at the Realschule, Karlstadt in 1873, the Polytechnic Institute in Graz, Austria and the University of Prague. At first, he intended to specialize in physics and mathematics, but soon he became fascinated with electricity. He began his career as an electrical engineer with a telephone company in Budapest in 1881.
It was there, as Tesla was walking with a friend through the city park that the elusive solution to the rotating magnetic field flashed through his mind. With a stick, he drew a diagram in the sand explaining to his friend the principle of the induction motor. Before going to America, Tesla joined Continental Edison Company in Paris where he designed dynamos. While in Strassbourg in 1883, he privately built a prototype of the induction motor and ran it successfully. Unable to interest anyone in Europe in promoting this radical device, Tesla accepted an offer to work for Thomas Edison in New York. His childhood dream was to come to America to harness the power of Niagara Falls.
Young Nikola Tesla came to the United States in 1884 with an introduction letter from Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison: “I know two great men,” wrote Batchelor, “one is you and the other is this young man.” Tesla spent the next 59 years of his productive life living in New York. Tesla set about improving Edison’s line of dynamos while working in Edison’s lab in New Jersey. It was here that his divergence of opinion with Edison over direct current versus alternating current began. This disagreement climaxed in the war of the currents as Edison fought a losing battle to protect his investment in direct current equipment and facilities.
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