Tesla, that is a name that today is mostly associated with cars. But who was Nikola Tesla and why is the Belgrade Airport named after him? Answers to all of those questions can be found in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.
Who was Nikola Tesla?
Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan, present-day Croatia. He was the son of an Orthodox priest.
He started his general studies at the Imperial and Royal Graz University of Technology in 1875 and soon after decided to make engineering his major. He was exmatriculated in 1877/78 because he did no longer pay his student fees. He moved to Marburg an der Drau and worked as an engineer. A police decree forced him to leave the city in 1879 and he moved back to his hometown where he worked as an assistant teacher.
He later moved to Budapest and then to Paris. He supervised the installation of the first electric lights at the Gare l’Est.
In 1884 Tesla moved to New York where he briefly worked for the Thomas Alva Edison Company. In the same year, he and two businesspeople founded the Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing Company. They registered their first few patents but soon after they had to declare bankruptcy.
Things turned around for Tesla when he met Alfred S. Brown and Charles F. Peck. He enthraled them with his ideas about a rotating magnetic field (rotary field), a field made of two alternating currents which are phase-shifted by 90°. Their joint venture swiftly registered 7 patents, the most important one being the first two-phase synchronous machine. Tesla's work found great recognition in the following years. He kept registering patents and had many ideas that he never implemented. He kept chasing his dream of contactless energy transmission. It was only in 1900 that he was able to register a patent for contactless energy transmission. Today this is recognised as the first patent concerning radio engineering. In total Tesla registered 112 patents in 50 years.
Tesla passed away at the age of 86 in a hotel. His documents were confiscated by US officers. His ashes are kept in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.
About the Nikola Tesla Museum
The Nikola Tesla Museum Belgrade is located in a former apartment building right in the centre of the city. The museum isn’t very big but still, its first floor holds 160.000 original documents, 2000 books and magazines, 1200 exhibits of importance to the history of technical development, 1500 photographs, photographic plates, instruments and tools as well as 1000 drawings and schemes. This part of the museum is not open to the public. The archive was declared part of the Memory of the World Programme in 2003.
The exhibition that is open to the public is on the ground floor of the building. Tours of the museum start hourly. Part of the tour is a 15-minute movie (in English) about the life of Nikola Tesla. I really liked the style of the movie, even though I wasn’t familiar with some of the specialist terminology. However, I was still able to understand the context without any problems.
After the movie, a member of staff explained some of the technical exhibits. Fortunately, she demonstrated their functionality as well. To be honest, my physics classes in school were great, but they’re also a long time in the past. Especially creating lightning out of electric currants was quite the experience.
We then proceeded to have a look at the exhibits about Nikola Tesla’s life. Many pieces from the life of Tesla are on display.
A visit to the Tesla museum doesn’t take long. The next tour starts after an hour and this is also the time needed to get a good look at everything. We liked it a lot and I find that taking the time to explore this little museum is a good idea.
Tuesday to Sunday: 09:45 – 20.00
Tours start every hour
Adults: 500 Serbian Dinar (about 4,20€)