Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Nikola Tesla

Serbian-American Inventor, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer, Inventor of Alternating Current and Holder of Over 1200 Patents

"The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power. My Mother had taught me to seek all truth in the Bible; therefore I devoted the next few months to the study of this work. One day, as I was roaming the mountains, I sought shelter from an approaching storm. The sky became overhung with heavy clouds, but somehow the rain was delayed until, all of a sudden, there was a lightening flash and a few moments after, a deluge. This observation set me thinking. It was manifest that the two phenomena were closely related, as cause and effect, and a little reflection led me to the conclusion that the electrical energy involved in the precipitation of the water was inconsiderable, the function of the lightening being much like that of a sensitive trigger. Here was a stupendous possibility of achievement. If we could produce electric effects of the required quality, this whole planet and the conditions of existence on it could be transformed. The sun raises the water of the oceans and winds drive it to distant regions where it remains in a state of most delicate balance. If it were in our power to upset it when and wherever desired, this might life sustaining stream could be at will controlled. We could irrigate arid deserts, create lakes and rivers, and provide motive power in unlimited amounts. This would be the most efficient way of harnessing the sun to the uses of man. The consummation depended on our ability to develop electric forces of the order of those in nature."

"He had the highest regard for my attainments and gave me every evidence of his complete faith in my ability to ultimately achieve what I had set out to do. I am unwilling to accord to some small−minded and jealous individuals the satisfaction of having thwarted my efforts. These men are to me nothing more than microbes of a nasty disease. My project was retarded by laws of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time, but the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success."

"It would be calamitous, indeed, if at this time when the art is in its infancy and the vast majority, not excepting even experts, have no conception of its ultimate possibilities, a measure would be rushed through the legislature making it a government monopoly. …universal evidence unmistakably shows that the best results are always obtained in healthful commercial competition."

"It is a simple feat of scientific electrical engineering — only expensive — blind, faint-hearted, doubting world."

"While I have not lost faith in its potentialities, my views have changed since. War can not be avoided until the physical cause for its recurrence is removed and this, in the last analysis, is the vast extent of the planet on which we live. Only though annihilation of distance in every respect, as the conveyance of intelligence, transport of passengers and supplies and transmission of energy will conditions be brought about some day, insuring permanency of friendly relations. What we now want most is closer contact and better understanding between individuals and communities all over the earth and the elimination of that fanatic devotion to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride, which is always prone to plunge the world into primeval barbarism and strife. No league or parliamentary act of any kind will ever prevent such a calamity. These are only new devices for putting the weak at the mercy of the strong."

"It is true that some of them have had to do with wireless telegraphy and that in addition to the tower and poles there is a hole dug in the ground. This is 150 feet deep and is used in these experiments. The people about there, had they been awake instead of asleep, at other times would have seen even stranger things. Some day, but not at this time, I shall make an announcement of something that I never once dreamed of."

"We build but to tear down. Most of our work and resource is squandered. Our onward march is marked by devastation. Everywhere there is an appalling loss of time, effort and life. A cheerless view, but true."

"With a different form of wireless instrument devised by me some years ago it was found practicable to locate a body of metallic ore below the ground, and it seems that a submarine could be similarly detected."

"The papers, which thirty years ago conferred upon me the honor of American citizenship, are always kept in a safe, while my orders, diplomas, degrees, gold medals and other distinctions are packed away in old trunks."

"There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which never came into being and never will end. The human being is no exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine. Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from without."

"If the genius of invention were to reveal to-morrow the secret of immortality, of eternal beauty and youth, for which all humanity is aching, the same inexorable agents which prevent a mass from changing suddenly its velocity would likewise resist the force of the new knowledge until time gradually modifies human thought."

"Most certainly, some planets are not inhabited, but others are, and among these there must exist life under all conditions and phases of development."

"The idea gradually took hold of me that the earth might be used in place of the wire, thus dispensing with artificial conductors altogether. The immensity of the globe seemed an unsurmountable obstacle but after a prolonged study of the subject I became satisfied that the undertaking was rational."

"That is the trouble with many inventors; they lack patience. They lack the willingness to work a thing out slowly and clearly and sharply in their mind, so that they can actually 'feel it work.' They want to try their first idea right off; and the result is they use up lots of money and lots of good material, only to find eventually that they are working in the wrong direction. We all make mistakes, and it is better to make them before we begin."

"Following up these promising revelations I demonstrated conclusively by experiments that great amounts of electrical energy can be transmitted to any distance through upper air strata which are easily accessible, and since this truth has been recognized every fiber has been strained to realize such a transmission on a large scale."

"These scientific developments may even affect our morals and customs. Perhaps we shall shortly get so used to this state of things that nobody will feel the slightest embarrassment while he is conscious that his skeleton and other particulars are being scrutinized by indelicate observers."

"The opinion of the world does not affect me. I have placed as the real values in my life what follows when I am dead."

"Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but it contains certain known factors."

"It is quite evident, though, that this squandering cannot go on indefinitely, for geological investigations prove our fuel stores to be limited. So great has been the drain on them of late years that the specter of exhaustion is looming up threateningly in the distance."

"Technical invention is akin to architecture and the experts must in time come to the same conclusions I have reached long ago. Sooner or later my power system will have to be adopted in its entirety and so far as I am concerned it is as good as done."

"The desire that guides me in all I do is the desire to harness the forces of nature to the service of mankind."

"My project was retarded by laws of nature. The world was not prepared for it. It was too far ahead of time. But the same laws will prevail in the end and make it a triumphal success. [on the magnifying transmitter]"

"But I hope that it will also be demonstrated soon that in my experiments in the West I was not merely beholding a vision, but had caught sight of a great and profound truth."

"What the result of these investigations will be the future will tell; but whatever they may be, and to whatever this principle may lead, I shall be sufficiently recompensed if later it will be admitted that I have contributed a share, however small, to the advancement of science."

"Our senses enable us to perceive only a minute portion of the outside world."

"Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more."

"You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension."

"More than 35 years ago, I undertook the production of these phenomena (of lightning) and, in 1899 I actually succeeded, using a generator of 2,000 horsepower, in obtaining discharges of 18,000,000 volts carrying currents of 1,200 amperes, which were of such power as to be audible at a distance of 13 miles. I also learned how to produce such lightnings as occur in Nature, and mastered all the technical difficulties in this connection. But I found that even in the small and comparatively negligible trigger work called for the employment of thousands of horsepower; and this is the great obstacle now in the way of this supreme accomplishment."

"Out of this war, the greatest since the beginning of history, a new world must be born, a world that would justify the sacrifices offered by humanity. This new world must be a world in which there shall be no exploitation of the weak by the strong, of the good by the evil; where there will be no humiliation of the poor by the violence of the rich; where the products of intellect, science and art will serve society for the betterment and beautification of life, and not the individuals for achieving wealth. 7 his new world shall not be a world of the downtrodden and humiliated, but of free men and free nations, equal in dignity and respect for man."

"The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. No big laboratory is needed in which to think. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born."

"The greatest value of my invention will result from its effect upon warfare and armaments, for by reason of its certain and unlimited destructiveness it will tend to bring about and maintain permanent peace among nations."

"Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them."

"My conviction has grown so strong that I no longer look on this plan of energy or intelligence transmission as a mere theoretical possibility, but as a serious problem in electrical engineering, which must be carried out some day."

"If the potential be sufficiently high and if the terminals of the coils be maintained at the proper altitudes the action described will take place, and a current will be transmitted through the elevated air strata, which will encounter little and possibly even less resistance than if conveyed through a copper wire of a practicable size."

"When the great truth accidentally revealed and experimentally confirmed is fully recognized, that this planet, with all its appalling immensity, is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball and that by this fact many possibilities, each baffling imagination and of incalculable consequence, are rendered absolutely sure of accomplishment; when the first plant is inaugurated and it is shown that a telegraphic message, almost as secret and non-interfereable as a thought, can be transmitted to any terrestrial distance, the sound of the human voice, with all its intonations and inflections, faithfully and instantly reproduced at any other point of the globe, the energy of a waterfall made available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere — on sea, or land, or high in the air — humanity will be like an ant heap stirred up with a stick: See the excitement coming!"

"If you only knew the magnificence of the 3, 6 and 9, then you would have the key to the universe."

"A single ray of light from a distant star falling upon the eye of a tyrant in bygone times, may have altered the course of his life, may have changed the destiny of nations, may have transformed the surface of the globe, so intricate, so inconceivably complex are the processes of nature."

"When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole. We shall be able to communicate with one another instantly, irrespective of distance. Not only this, but through television and telephony we shall see and hear one another as perfectly as though we were face to face, despite intervening distances of thousands of miles; and the instruments through which we shall be able to do his will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket."

"But we shall not satisfy ourselves simply with improving steam and explosive engines or inventing new batteries; we have something much better to work for, a greater task to fulfill. We have to evolve means for obtaining energy from stores which are forever inexhaustible, to perfect methods which do not imply consumption and waste of any material whatever."

"With these developments we have every reason to anticipate that in a time not very distant most telegraphic messages across the oceans will be transmitted without cables. For short distances we need a 'wireless' telephone, which requires no expert operators."

"It was the artist, too, who awakened that broad philanthropic spirit which, even in old ages, shone in the teachings of noble reformers and philosophers, that spirit which makes men in all departments and positions work not as much for any material benefit or compensation -- though reason may command this also -- but chiefly for the sake of success, for the pleasure there is in achieving it and for the good they might be able to do thereby to their fellow-men. Through his influence types of men are now pressing forward, impelled by a deep love for their study, men who are doing wonders in their respective branches, whose chief aim and enjoyment is the acquisition and spread of knowledge, men who look far above earthly things, whose banner is Excelsior! Gentlemen, let us honor the artist; let us thank him, let us drink his health!"

"These features chiefly interest the scientific man, the thinker and reasoner. There is another feature which affords us still more satisfaction and enjoyment, and which is of still more universal interest, chiefly because of its bearing upon the welfare of mankind. Gentlemen, there is an influence which is getting strong and stronger day by day, which shows itself more and more in all departments of human activity, and influence most fruitful and beneficial—the influence of the artist. It was a happy day for the mass of humanity when the artist felt the desire of becoming a physician, an electrician, an engineer or mechanician or—whatnot—a mathematician or a financier; for it was he who wrought all these wonders and grandeur we are witnessing. It was he who abolished that small, pedantic, narrow-grooved school teaching which made of an aspiring student a galley-slave, and he who allowed freedom in the choice of subject of study according to one's pleasure and inclination, and so facilitated development."

"But such cables will not be constructed, for ere long intelligence—transmitted without wires—will throb through the earth like a pulse through a living organism. The wonder is that, with the present state of knowledge and the experiences gained, no attempt is being made to disturb the electrostatic or magnetic condition of the earth, and transmit, if nothing else, intelligence."

"Of all the frictional resistances, the one that most retards human movement is ignorance, what Buddha called 'the greatest evil in the world.' The friction which results from ignorance can be reduced only by the spread of knowledge and the unification of the heterogeneous elements of humanity. No effort could be better spent."

"Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop. The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My first electric motor, the vacuum wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way."

"All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed - only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle. Let the future tell the truth and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs, the future, for which I really worked, is mine."

"We are whirling through endless space, with and inconceivable speed, all around everything is spinning, everything is moving, everywhere there is energy. There must be some way of availing ourselves of this energy more directly. Then, with the light obtained from the medium, with the power derived from it, with every form of energy obtained without effort, from the store forever inexhaustible, humanity will advance with giant strides. The mere contemplation of these magnificent possibilities expand our minds, strengthens our hopes and and fills our hearts with supreme delight."

"I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success....Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything."

"I have hundreds of inventions which I could not take the patents of, on account of my misfortune."

"My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain."