The last words of Nikola Tesla: “All these years that I had spent in the service of mankind brought me nothing but insults and humiliation”
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is the world’s richest person with a net worth of about $300 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaire Index. In just over a decade, Tesla has gone from a one-car company that almost went bankrupt to becoming the world’s most valuable automaker. However, while millions around the world celebrate Elon Musk, not many people know the origin of Tesla and how the company got its name.
Tesla was founded in July 2003 by Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning as Tesla Motors. According to Business Insider, Tesla’s name was thought up in Disneyland’s Blue Bayou restaurant, when Eberhard pitched the name to his then-girlfriend, and now wife, Carolyn. After many months of unsuccessful pitches, Eberhard decided to choose the name Tesla to honor Nikola Tesla, the Serbian American inventor and the inventor of the AC electric motor that is used in Tesla’s cars to this day.
In February 2004, Elon Musk became Tesla’s largest shareholder and chairman after he invested 6.5 million investment in the company. You can read the rest of the story of how Musk became Tesla CEO here.
Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, to Serbian parents in Smiljan, in what was then the Austrian Empire (today’s Croatia). In his teen years, Tesla contracted a severe case of cholera and was bedridden for 9 months. Tesla immigrated to the United States in 1884. He arrived in New York with just four cents in his pocket, a few of his own poems, and calculations for a flying machine. After arriving in the US, Tesla got a job as an engineer with Thomas Edison, where he was tasked with improving Edison’s DC power system.
A few years later, Tesla and Edison eventually had a falling out after Edison dismissed Tesla’s proposed plans to utilize an AC power system, leading to Tesla’s decision to join Westinghouse Electric Company in 1888 and marking the start of the “War of Currents” between Thomas Edison’s DC power system and Tesla’s AC power system. In the end, Tesla’s ultimately prevailed and his AC power system is the predominant electrical system used across the world today.
Today, not many people know about Tesla’s history and vision. Did you know that Nikola Tesla was the first person to create a way to send electricity wirelessly even before the invention of wireless technology? Did you also know that Tesla wanted to supply the world with free wireless electricity?
Back in the 1890s, Tesla spent a considerable amount of time developing a way to transmit electrical power without wires. He went on to develop the ideas for wireless lighting and worldwide wireless electric power distribution in his high-voltage, high-frequency power experiments in New York and Colorado Springs.
During his life, Tesla held a total of 112 registered US patents, while the total of Tesla’s patents in other countries has not yet been definitively determined, according to Nikola Tesla Museum. To date, 196 patents held by Tesla have been identified from another 26 countries, apart from the US. The largest number of these patents (30) were granted in France.
Other sources also said Tesla had about 300 patents worldwide for his inventions while some of his patents are not accounted for, and various sources have discovered some that have lain hidden in patent archives.
Despite being so smart and holding world-changing patents, Nikola Tesla was plagued with financial problems later in life. In 1915, for example, his famous Wardenclyffe tower plant was sold to help pay off his $20,000 debt at the Waldorf-Astoria.
On January 7, 2021, Elon Musk became the richest man on the same day Nikola Tesla died 78 years ago. While Musk becomes the world’s richest person using some of Nikola Tesla’s inventions, Nikola Tesla on the other hand died a poor man.
Swindled and abandoned by both Thomas Edison and JP Morgan, two of the most powerful men at the time, Nikola Tesla died penniless and alone on January 8, 1943, in a hotel room in New York. In his last letter to his mother, Tesla said:
“Please mother, pray for me over there! ‘I wish I could be beside you now mother, to bring you the glass of water. All these years I have spent in the service of mankind brought me nothing but insults and humiliation.”
Below is a video documentary of Nikola Tesla, The Forgotten Inventor.