Nikola Tesla's Lecture to the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London - 1892 - An Engineer's Aspect


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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nikola Tesla's Lecture to the Institution of Electrical Engineers in London - 1892

At age 35, Nikola Tesla became a naturalized citizen of the United States and established his laboratory in New York City. Shortly thereafter, Tesla spent several months visiting scientists and lecturing in Europe.

Following is an account in a London newspaper of one of Nikola Tesla's lectures given to the Institution of Electrical Engineers at the Royal Institution.

Local Government Gazette, London, Middlesex, UK, February 4, 1892, Page 8.

Mr. Nikola Tesla, the young but distinguished electrician from America, who is now in this country, lectured, by invitation, at the Royal Institution on Wednesday night, before an extraordinary meeting of the Institution of Electrical Engineers. Mr. Tesla became known to fame in both hemispheres as the inventor of the first alternate-current electric motor--that is to say, a motor which transforms currents, rapidly changing their direction to and fro into mechanical power. In this apparatus the field magnets rotate, and, as there are neither brushes nor commulator (sic), it requires very little attention. Mr. Tesla's remarkable experiments with alternate or see-saw currents of high potential--that is to say "pressure"--and high frequency, or, in other words, rapid changes of direction, are (The Times says) the most important advances which have been made in electrical science for a considerable time, and may be regarded as a new departure.
While of a great theoretical interest, they also point to the possibility of a new mode of artificial illumination, which will bring us nearer to the ideal light of De Cyrano Bergerac, the French Lucian of the seventeenth century, who seems to have inspired our own Gulliver, and, perhaps, also "The Coming Race" of Bulwer Lytton--namely, a light resembling sunshine but without its heat. The currents Mr. Tesla employs are derived from an alternating current dynamo of special device, carrying nearly 400 electro magnets, driven at some 2,000 revolutions per minute, and supplying an current alternating 20,000 times or more per second. When such a current is passed through a bare wire it is seen to glow in the dark, and sheets of light are visible passing between two wires connected to the poles of the generator. From a metal point a [unreadable] to one pole rises a bluish flame like that of a torch, or the flare of gas jet burning at a high pressure; but there is no waste of
material, only the electric energy is consumed, with the production of ozone.
Mr. Tesla connected a variety of vacuum tubes containing small discs of metal, and even non-conductors, such as aluminium, lime, or carbon, to one pole of his generator and produced some very beautiful effects. In the midst of a luminous haze, due to the residual gas in the tube, the disc of solid matter became brightly incandescent and yielded a comparatively powerful light, which only requires to be intensified somewhat to be of practical use. The light became brighter when he brought his bare hand close to the bulb, and brighter still when he placed over the bulb an ordinary shade of metal. The most striking experiment shown, however, consisted in joining two sheets of tinfoil, one over the lecturer's head, the other on the table, to the poles of his generator. The space between these two sheets immediately became electrified, and a long vacuum tube waved about in it, without attachment to any conductor whatever, glowed in the darkness like a flaming sword. This experiment was intended to illustrate the possibility of rendering an entire room so electric, by plates in the ceiling or under the floor, that vacuum bulbs placed anywhere within it would yield a light. It is a remarkable fact that currents of these extremely high potentials appear to be absolutely without effect upon the human organism. Taking an iron bar in one hand and a vacuum tube in the other the lecturer made his body a portion of the circuit by placing the point of the bar upon a terminal, emitting sparks several inches long. The vacuum tube glowed brilliantly, while the lecturer remained wholly unaffected.