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article number 544
article date 04-07-2016
copyright 2016 by Author else SaltOfAmerica
Quotes & Philosophies of Nikola Tesla: Human Welfare - Energy for the World
by Dr. Tomo Bosanac, Zagreb University

From the 1976 book, Nikola Tesla, Life and Work of a Genius

* * *

An important turning point in the use of energy occurred in the time of Nikola Tesla, when he was at the peak of his creative activity. This might have happened somewhat earlier, but this is not important if time is measured by centuries.

Man used to employ energy directly in its natural form — wood, and on a smaller scale in the form of coal, asphalt and oil. The use of asphalt goes as far back as the time of the Sumerians. Ancient Egypt already used water and the water-wheel, which was further advanced by the Romans.

In Asia Minor windmills came into use for the first time, and the Romans developed the sailing-vessel. Water and the winds were used directly for mechanical work, but the basic source of energy was still human and animal labour.

Man used energy for his immediate needs and various trades and crafts. Energy was used in the form of heat and light, and for operating mills and sailing vessels.

Thus the centuries passed until the advent of James Watt, who developed the steam-engine in 1790. Its primary use was to exploit coal in England, but the steam-engine also consumed coal. Immediately after its invention the steam-engine was used to drive ships, and also a new means of locomotion was invented — the railways.

About this time Alessandro Volta presented the world with the first source of electricity — the galvanic cell. This marked the beginning, which in turn led to the industrial and technological revolution.

Light has always been a significant factor in man’s life. The only light source, until recent times, was fire. It was about Tesla’s time that Auer developed the gas-light net, and Edison the bulb with carbon thread.

After James Watt had produced the steam-engine, other kinds of machinery began to make their appearance. Fourneyron, in 1827 produced the first water turbine, to be followed, in 1829, by Francis and, in 1878, by Pelton. Gramme, in 1870, developed the first d-c electro-motor.

The one-stage steam turbine appeared in 1883 (Laval), and Parsons multistage steam turbine in 1884. The first gas-driven motor was invented by Lenoir in 1860, while the Otto motor came into being in 1876.

Chemistry and metallurgy commenced developing rapidly at the beginning of 19th century. A whole series of new elements were discovered. A revolutionary method of steel processing was invented by Bessemer, which made possible the production of high-quality steels in large quantities.

In the entire development of technology a revolutionary role was enacted by the telegraph, which was invented in 1844 by Morse. The telegraph was so important that by 1850 the whole of Europe and the United States possessed telegraphic lines, whilst in 1858 the first transatlantic cable spanned the Ocean.

Both the steamship and railways experienced rapid development. All these increased the consumption of energy. Besides, the development of medicine and biology helped to reduce human mortality, which too assisted in the consumption of energy.

There is no statistical data on energy consumption, but solely estimates. One only knows what kind of energy was in use. Coal and gas consumption increased, and witnesses the first use of oil and water energy.

Electricity was not of much used because there were no suitable electrically driven motors. Nor was the transport of electrical power solved.

The development of the technology of the period in question took its course along separate routes without regard to the development of sciences, so that few inventions were the result of scientific research. As the saying went, "Technology was not able to apply the principle that could not be understood by an intelligent merchant."

Tesla’s polyphase system was another step ahead in the development of both technology and industry, for it made
the simple production and transport of energy to any distant place possible. He invented an electric motor that was economical in use, reliable and easy to produce and operate.

It is not surprising that industry unhesitatingly accepted Tesla’s inventions. At the same time there appeared many other inventors whose patents were mere by-passings of Tesla’s original patents. The application of the polyphase system occurred almost instantaneously, as had been the case with the telegraph 35 years earlier. The building of the Niagara power Station was worthy evidence of Tesla’s genius.

Tesla’s alternating current generators inside a Niagara Falls power station.

Tesla had acquired considerable funds by selling his patents of the polyphase system. He was thus free to do independent research in the sphere of power. All his energy was focused upon investigating the light effects of electrical current. Thus he started his researches into the effect of high frequencies and high voltage.

He wanted to find out what electricity and magnetism were, for he expected to be able to make good use of the energy hidden in Nature. He reminds us that electricity and magnetism, with their nature, with their phenomena of attractions, repulsions and rotations, strange manifestations of mysterious agents, stimulate and excite the mind to thought and research.” He discovered the important roles of oscillations and resonance in Nature.

In his lecture at the Franklin Institute in 1893, he said:

“It is very likely that resonant vibration plays a most important part in all manifestations of energy in nature. Throughout space all matter is vibrating, and all rates of vibrations are represented, from the lowest musical note to the highest pitch of the chemical rays, hence an atom, or complex of atoms, no matter what its period, must find a vibration with which it is in resonance.”

Tesla always thought about man and knew that energy was a central problem for his welfare. During the same lecture, in 1893, he said:

"The time will come when the comfort, the very existence, perhaps, of man will depend upon that wonderful agent (electricity). For our existence and comfort we require heat, light and mechanical power. How do we now get all these? We get them from fuel, we get them by consuming material.

"What will man do when the forests disappear, when the coal fields are exhausted? Only one thing, according to our present knowledge will remain: that is, to transmit power at great distances. Men will go to the waterfalls, to the tides, which are the stores of an infinitesimal part of Nature’s immeasurable energy. There will they harness the energy and transmit the same to their settlements, to warm their homes by, to give them light, and to keep their obedient slaves, the machines, toiling.”

Already at this juncture Tesla laid the foundations of his future research. The problem was how to convey energy great distances WITHOUT the use of wire. Water-generated energy is inexhaustible; it ought to be exploited and conveyed without the use of wire in the form of electrical power to any place on earth, however distant.

He proceeded with his investigations, whilst the climax of his efforts was the construction of a 200 kW radio station in Colorado in 1899. There everything was crystal clear, and the effects achieved were fantastic; he had the basic elements for the conveying of energy without wire.

He had solved the role of oscillations, resonance adaption of aerials, which today constitutes the basis of all telecommunication technology.

In the meantime, he laid the basis of X-ray and telecommunication technology, all of which was in the framework of exploitation of energy. A summary of his work was given in an article published in the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, of June 1900.

The above is the title of an article in which Tesla presented a summary of his work and his outlook on man and humanity. He always believed that his work was for the well-being of man, his better and easier life. He even would say that the duty of all scientists and technicians was to work for the welfare of human beings.

Man’s entire life, including the social systems and the misunderstandings in the mutual relationships, with all disease and other calamities, with pleasures, happiness, enrichment and poverty, with wars and revolutions, crime and all other things constituting human life is represented by Tesla with the kinetic energy of some mass that travels at a certain hypothetical speed. He states as follows:

“Man, however, is not an ordinary mass, consisting of spinning atoms and molecules, and containing merely heat-energy. He is a mass possessed of certain higher qualities by reason of the creative principle of life with which he is endowed. His mass as the water in an ocean wave, is being continuously exchanged, new taking the place of the old. Not only this, but he grows, propagates and dies, thus altering his mass independently, both in bulk and density.

"What is most wonderful of all, he is capable of increasing or diminishing his velocity of movement by the mysterious power he possesses of appropriating more or less energy from other substance, and turning it into motive energy.

"But in any given moment we may ignore these slow changes and assume that human energy is measured by half the product of man’s mass with the square of a certain hypothetical velocity. . . I recognized that to solve this eternal problem must ever be the chief task of the man of science. Some results of my own efforts to this and I shall endeavour briefly to describe here.”


In this way Tesla wanted to systematise the role of energy in the life of man. If human energy is given by the human mass and the speed of its progress, than there exist 3 problems that ought to be solved so that human energy can be increased. This energy can be increased if efforts are made to:

1. increase the human mass

2. reduce forces that decrease the human mass

3. increase forces that accelerate the human mass.

These are simultaneously problems that must be solved if we want to increase human energy. That is how Tesla systematised all factors influencing the life and development of mankind. Energy, measured in kWh or tons of coal, or an equivalent used by man, is but a part of human energy. The energy of fuel, water or nuclear power does not suffice for the progress and comfortable life of man, but "food, peace and work” ought too, to be provided.

Increase in the human mass helps in the first place towards health, hygiene, proper education of children and youth, moderation in food, moderation in the consumption of “stimulants” like coffee, tea, tobacco, alcohol. "Whisky, wine, tea, coffee, tobacco, and other such stimulants are responsible for the shortening of the lives of many, and ought to be used with moderation.”

Tesla was especially mindful of polluted drinking water. He states in this respect as follows:

“The importance of eliminating germs of disease from the city water is generally recognized, but little is being done to improve the existing conditions, as no satisfactory method of sterilizing great quantities of water has as yet been brought forward.

"By improved electrical appliances we are now enabled to produce ozone cheaply and in large amounts, and this ideal disinfectant seems to offer a happy solution of the important question.”

Tesla also invented a device for producing ozone.

Millions of people are dying of famine. The first concern is to ensure food, and this can be achieved with the use of fertilizers and by preserving human environment — Nature, forests etc.

Tesla proposed a method for direct oxidation of nitrogen in the atmosphere in order to obtain in this way the nitro-compounds so necessary for producing fertilizers. There is no need to look for ways to obtain artificial food, for we can solve all these problems by using fertilizers in a proper way.

Forces that reduce the human mass “are partly frictional and partly negative. To illustrate this distinction I may name, for example, ignorance, stupidity, and imbecility as some of the purely frictional forces, . . . On the other hand, visionariness, insanity, self-destructive tendency, religious fanaticism, and the like, are all forces of a negative character,. . .”

Tesla also says “The friction which results from ignorance, and which is greatly increased owing to the numerous languages and nationalities, can be reduced only by the spread of knowledge and the unification of the heterogeneos elements of humanity.”

Tesla believes that the negative forces are much more important than the friction forces, and among the former by far the most important is:

“. . . organized warfare. When we consider the millions of individuals, often the ablest in mind and body, the flower of humanity, who are compelled to a life of inactivity and unproductiveness, the immense sums of money daily required for the maintenance of armies and war apparatus, representing ever so much of human energy, all the effort uselessly spent in the production of arms and implements of destruction, the loss of life and the fostering of a barbarous spirit, we are appalled at the inestimable loss to mankind which the existence of these deplorable conditions must involve.”

How can we stop this? The making of modern weapons is only a challenge for the opponents to produce even more powerful weapons. Here science is helpless, for war has become a science unto itself, and it involves the deepest feelings of man. Tesla states as follows:

“In fact, it is doubtful whether men who would not be ready to fight for a high principle would be good for anything at all. It is not the mind which makes man, nor is it the body; it is mind and body. Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”

Tesla suggested that automatons be used in the event of war. Thus a bloodless war would be waged. In this sense, he took the first step by developing an automation — a ship operated by remote control which would passively carry out all orders. It would further be expedient, according to him, to develop and produce programmed automatons.

Nikola Tesla’s remote control boat.

How to augment forces that will speed-up the human mass? Tesla thought that the most important factor in increasing the human energy would be to make use of natural energy.

He spoke about all kinds of energy we are talking about today — except nuclear energy. In his time coal was consumed in immense quantities, but not in a rational manner, so Tesla spoke mainly about its use as a source of energy.

According to Tesla, coal should be replaced gradually by some other form of energy in order to preserve it for future generations. In the event coal be used, it should be transformed directly into electrical energy in cold batteries. Steel production requires huge amounts of coal. Consumption of steel ought to be rationalised, and a technological process introduced by utilising electrical energy, thus saving the latter.

About that time aluminum had come into use, the metal of the future, which would partly replace steel and copper. Tesla suggested a complete transition to sources of energy where no material would be wasted, this being water and geothermal energy in the first place, furthermore the direct use of solar energy, the winds and tides.

Tesla was of the opinion that the amount of water energy is inexhaustible and sufficient for the requirements of the whole of mankind. In addition, according to him, the conveying of energy ought to be performed without the use of wire, and Tesla commenced solving this problem. He states as follows:

"Its practical consummation would mean that energy would be available for the use of man at any point of the globe, not in small amounts such as might be derived from the ambient medium by suitable machinery, but in quantities virtually unlimited, from waterfalls.

Export of power would then become the chief source of income for many happily situated countries, as the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Men could settle down everywhere, fertilise and irrigate the soil with little effort and convert barren deserts into gardens, and thus the entire globe could be transformed and made a fitter abode for mankind.”

Tesla’s basic principles are today’s reality. We are now of the opinion that we must not use sources of energy that waste materials; in the first place fossil fuels. The use of energy should be rationalised ,and especially metallurgy, in which wastes of energy are the highest.

Energy ought to be conveyed without wire around the globe.

In the article referred to above, Tesla speaks in a general way about the problem of energy. He had introduced the notion of human energy or energy of the human mass, which includes also the energy that man is exploiting.

In what manner did human energy expand from Tesla’s point of view? Science and technology had commenced developing in 18th century. Since then we can witness a permanent growth of the human mass — besides epidemics, famine, natural calamities and wars.

A. J. Coale, in an article published in the Scientific American, of September 1974, offers his estimates to the effect that there were 500 million people in Roman times, and that by 1750 the figure was only 800 million. It may be said that the population of the world was in a state of equilibrium, taking into account such a small increment.

The factors which Tesla describes began acting, and the world’s population commenced growing. The growth per 1000 capita was 5.26 in 1800, 7.74 in 1900, and by 1950 it amounted to 19.00. The increase in the population kept pace with the progress of science and technology. Here is meant the progress in education, instruction, hygiene, medicine and production of food.

During the past 200 years the number of people increased to 3,000 million — it quadrupled. Infectious diseases and famine were the major obstacles for all progress of the human mass. The plague destroyed more lives than any other catastrophe. The discovery of bacteria, the main cause of all infectious disease, and the progress reached in chemistry, constituted a decisive blow to all infectious diseases.

Kariba Dam in Africa gives energy to new people.

The introduction of mechanisation and artificial fertilisers in agriculture, constituted a decisive blow to famine epidemics. The production of food has reached such proportions as are sufficient for all mankind, although there are great discrepancies between developed and underdeveloped countries.

In 1970, 2600 million tons of cereals and animal products were produced, which averaged 2 kg per person daily. That was half the tonnage of fossil fuel used in the same year, or 4 times the production of steel.

Developed countries use energy for irrigation, manufacture of fertiliser making machinery for agriculture, transport, storing of merchandise, food processing. That energy is about 50% of the energy contained in food. The energy used for the preparation of food is not taken into account.

Underdeveloped countries do not use such an amount of energy, therefore the productivity in food processing is much lower. Should energy become limited, then the production of food would no more be an obstacle in the progress of humanity.

Tesla paid special attention to wars and the kinds of warfare. He wrote his article 14 years before the outbreak of World War I, and was a witness to World War II. These two wars were as a matter of fact one single war, only there was an interval of 20 years in between.

World War I took the lives of 9 million people and 22 million wounded, whilst the death toll in World War II was 60 million and 35 million wounded and missing. We should add 20 million death occurring during World War I due to the infamous epidemic of flu.

The result of the two wars was 64 million dead and 57 million wounded, with innumerable invalids in their wake. Atomic bombs were used, about which of course, Tesla did not speak.

The war technology had adopted many automatons, but it would seem that they will not assist us in reducing the number of casualties. Even Tesla had no ready suggestion as to how to prevent possible future wars.

The most important problem in the increase of human energy is the energy drawn from Nature. At the beginning of the present century 95% of energy was derived from coal, the rest being accounted for by gas, oil and water. In 1900, a total of 6.6 million kWh or 810 million tons of coal equivalent was consumed.

Since then there commenced a rapid increase in the consumption of energy. If we assume that until the year 1900 through the entire existence of man on earth, 2 Q units of energy (Q = 36.000 mill. t.c.e. = 293 mill. mill. kWh) were consumed during the period 1900—1950, and can be anticipated that 8.5 times the quantity of energy will be used from 1950 until 2000.

This is such an immense consumption of energy that today everything is being undertaken to ensure this need for energy. The economy of energy follows the pathway anticipated and recommended by Tesla.

Despite the fact that coal consumption has been doubled, its share has been considerably reduced — to 1/3. This has occurred in spite of the fact that coal exploitation has to decrease, but its production will experience a slight rise, and it will be consumed only in regions where its presence is essential, in the first place in the chemical industry.

In order to make good use of inaccessible finding-sites, gasification has been anticipated.

In the course of the present century oil has become the primary form of energy. It covers 40% of the total energy consumption. Such a development has been conditioned by the speedy development of transport where oil is the only form of energy, and also by its price until recent years. Hence it is also being used for heating purposes.

Consumption of natural gas has reached the amount of 20% of the total need in the world. This has been helped by newly discovered rich gas deposits.

However, a new form of energy has appeared, with which Tesla had not reckoned — nuclear energy. By the end of this decade it will produce 3 — 4% of the total energy consumption, and it will continue rising.

Tesla was speaking about rational consumption of energy. He was dwelling notably on the consumption of energy in the manufacture of steel. But not only that. He expected that larger amounts of aluminum would be consumed, which is produced by means of electrical energy, which is not the case in the production of steel.


Pig-iron is produced in blast-furnaces, whilst coke is used for the chemical process of reduction and the heating of the whole material of the furnace up to a temperature of 1900°K. Per one ton of pig-iron 1,3 t.c.e. of coke energy is used, whilst only about 250 kg of c.e. is necessary for the process of reduction, and about 50 kg c.e. for the maintennance of temperature up to 1900°K.

Accordingly, the utilization of energy in a blast- furnace amounts to about 23%. Tesla was thinking of this when he suggested a different method of iron production. However, the utilization of energy in subsequent production is lower than in a blast-furnace. In the majority of cases flame ovens are used which consume about 0,5 t.c.e per ton of steel, while the necessary heat is circa 0.03 t.c.e., which is but 6% of the energy actually consumed.

Tesla suggested inductional heating of steel. Today inductional heating is gradually being introduced, for it is the most economical method and yields the highest-quality product.

This, however, is only steel production. If we take the entire industry into consideration, then we are apt to obtain an average of 30% of the whole consumption of primary energy — the fossil fuels. Herein is also contained the chemical processing of fossil fuels.

Similar analyses are to the effect that also in other human activities considerable economies are feasible, that is, abandoning the fossil fuels and transition to heating with electrical energy, solar energy etc. If fossil fuels are to be used in the production of electrical energy, it will be necessary to discover a more economical conversion method.

Tesla proposed fuel cells. In the time in which he lived and worked, nobody knew how to proceed on such lines. We know the procedure, not a cold one such as Tesla had anticipated. So far it has been proved that such a procedure would not be economical. Further investigations are likely to show if this procedure can be made use of.

The other method of direct conversion is in MHD (magnetohydrodynamic) generators, in which conversion is possible along a better utilisation of primary energy. Anticipated is likewise the utilisation of nuclear energy with the help of MHD generators in high-temperature reactors.

A new form of primary energy that has appeared is the nuclear fission energy, which uses uranium and thorium as fuels. Today’s nuclear reactor utilize about 1% of natural uranium, and only breeder reactors will be able to use natural fuels in their entirety.

According to present estimates the amounts of uranium and thorium are about 500 Q units (Q = 10^18 BTU = 36.000 mill. t.c.e.) if we consider a top level price of $39 per kg and complete utilization of the breeders. These reserves are even greater if we consider that the breeders allow of more expensive fuels.

For the purpose of comparison let us state that the reserves of coal, oil and gas amount to about 250 Q units, and that the total energy consumption in 1980 will be about 0.3 Q units. Anticipated is the application of nuclear energy with the fusion process and DT reaction or DD reaction.

The laser-induced reaction has promising future, and it will be expedient to develop lasers of greater irradiation power than has been achieved so far.

Then the sources of energy at our disposal will be immense, because of the water in which heavy water can be found. Fusion energy falls into the category of a primary form of energy, such as solar energy, geothermal energy or water energy.

As Tesla predicted, solar energy and geothermal energy will also be exploited. However, the energy of waterfalls cannot even play a fraction of the role attributed to it by Tesla. He anticipated that America would export the water energy in the form of electricity, without wire, to Europe, which lacked energy.

There are countries that have built up their energy basis on water. Yugoslavia was one of them. It has been shown, however, that this is not feasible. Water energy, especially today through the medium of accumulated water pump power plants, serves well as a regulator in the economy of electrical energy.

There still remains the problem of how to convey energy. Tesla spent the whole of his life investigating the possibility of transporting electrical energy without wire. Until the end of his life he asserted having solved the problem of transport without wire.

Nikola Tesla’s experimental wireless power station in New York. His dream of transmitting power long distances was not realized.
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