Beyond Science Fiction: Tessla’s Wardenclyffe Tower

I keep stumbling into fans of Nikola Tessla(1846-1943) , and my latest collidee(?) told me the story of this incredible structure.

It was built in 1905 to tap into wifi electricity. The theory had been tested as a lightning machine at Crook’s Peake in Colorado which had shown promising results as well as collapsing the local electricity grid in its production of giant arcs of light. It promised to produce huge amounts of electricity from the atmosphere as well as controlling weather, transmitting text and images.  It was, as much of Tessla’s work, light years ahead of its time, and remains so, over a century later.

Tessla’s tower had a 55 ton tower of conducting metals and a 300 foot system of metal reaching into the earth. He  described :”In this system … it is necessary for the machine to get a grip on the earth, otherwise it cannot shake the earth. It has to get a grip… so that the whole of this globe can quiver.”

JP Morgan saw this as a good investment, so he put up $150,000 to build Wardencliffe Tower in Shoreham, New York. Though the project showed much promise, witnesses were, as often with Tessla’s work ‘engrossed but bewildered’

But Marconi sent the first wireless telegraph message, so developing a system of  communication that would be both simpler and cheaper than Tessla’s model. The stock market crash of 1901 and the soaring costs of the tower led to the scheme’s collapse and the tower was demolished for salvage in 1917.

According to other sources, and this picture, the tower still stands, and attempts are being made to save it from decay and preserve it as a historic monument. Looks like all the electrical stuff and the expensive metals were scrapped but the building survives.

I am confused, but that is the usual response to reading anything about Tessla. Perhaps that is his most important legacy of all, to astound and dumbfound us all.

Here’s a clip that shows the importance of Tessla – Jack and Meg White in Jim Jarmusch’s film ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’. It’s a slow start, but bear with it…..

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2 thoughts on “Beyond Science Fiction: Tessla’s Wardenclyffe Tower

    • Me too. But more than that, as Jack White says, how much of our world today do we owe to him, and how much more could have been better if his ideas had been taken seriously? Free electricity? Or would it have been an environmental disaster?

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