Nikola Tesla may be known as the inventor of the alternating current motor and power system, which helped George Westinghouse win the “War of the Currents” and go on to produce the first electric home appliances. But the Smithsonian Institution ran a story in this month’s member magazine that highlighted the lesser known fact that Tesla competed with Guglielmo Marconi to broadcast the first wireless signals. Tesla was also first unsuccessful wireless site developer.
Tesla received several patents for a technology that could send and receive wireless signals in 1896. He received $150,000 from J.P. Morgan and began to build a 186-foot tower in the middle of Long Island, N.Y., in 1901, which would become known as Wardenclyffe Tower. But the Tesla began to run out of money before the tower was finished and Marconi broadcast his signal across the Atlantic to Newfoundland later in 1901.
Tesla engaged in a patent-infringement lawsuit against Marconi that left him penniless and his vision of a global wireless transmission system unfulfilled. The tower was knocked down in 1917, and Tesla suffered one of his worst mental breakdowns. After Tesla died, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 1943 and confirmed his role in inventing the radio.
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