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Nikola Tesla
Revolutionary Contributions and Inventions in Electricity and Magnetism
AC Electric Power and Distribution, AC Motor, Robotics, Remote Control, Radar, Radio
Hands On Activity: Repeat Tesla's Egg of Columbus Experiment

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  • What Did Nikola Tesla Invent?

    Nikola Tesla on a 100 Serbian dinar banknote
    Nikola Tesla on a 100 Serbian dinar banknote

    Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943) a mechanical and electrical engineer, was maybe the most prolific inventor ever.

    He was an ethnic Serb, subject of the Austrian Empire and later became an American citizen.

    Tesla is often described as the most important scientist and inventor of the modern age. He is best known for many revolutionary contributions and inventions in the field of electricity and magnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current electric power (AC) systems, including the polyphase power distribution systems and the AC motor, with which he helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

    After his demonstration of wireless communication (radio) in 1894 and after being the victor in the "War of Currents" ( in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over alternating current (AC) advocated by Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.), he was widely respected as one of the greatest electrical engineers who worked in America. Much of his early work pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance. But due to his eccentric personality and his seemingly unbelievable and sometimes bizarre claims about possible scientific and technological developments, Tesla was ultimately ostracized and regarded as a mad scientist. Never having put much focus on his finances, Tesla died impoverished at the age of 86.

    Aside from his work on electromagnetism and electromechanical engineering, Tesla has contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics.

    Many interpret the 1943 Supreme Court of the United States decision as crediting Tesla as being the inventor of the radio.

    Many of his achievements have been used, with some controversy, to support various pseudosciences, UFO theories, and early New Age occultism.

    Repeat Tesla's Egg of Columbus Experiment

    Egg of Columbus - Tesla's Presentation 1893
    Egg of Columbus - World's Fair Tesla Presentation (1893)

    Warning: Before you begin, take in account that experiments with electricity should be performed under the supervision of teachers or adults familiar with electricity safety procedures.

    Most Tesla's experiments and scientific activities are too complicated for amateur scientists. However, his Egg of Columbus demonstration is appropriate for science hobbyists and advanced science fair projects.

    The egg of Columbus or Columbus's egg usually means an idea or discovery that seems simple or easy after the fact.

    The expression refers to a popular story of how Columbus, having been told that discovering the Americas was no great accomplishment, challenged his critics to make an egg stand on its tip; and, after they gave up, he did it himself by tapping the egg on the table so as to flatten its tip.

    Tesla's Egg of Columbus, basically, is a metal egg that stands on end in a rotating magnetic field.

    Nikola Tesla, at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, demonstrated a device he constructed known as the "Egg of Columbus." It was used to demonstrate and explain the principles of the rotating magnetic field model and the induction motor. Tesla's Egg of Columbus performed the feat of Columbus with a copper egg in a rotating magnetic field. The egg spins on its major axis, standing on end due to gyroscopic action.

    Tesla's device (two-phased induction motor) used a toroidal (doughnut shaped) iron core stator on which four coils were wound. The device was powered by a two-phase alternating current source (such as a variable speed alternator) to create the rotating magnetic field. The device operated on 25 to 300 hertz frequency. The ideal operating frequency was described as being between 35 to 40 hertz. Reproductions of the device are displayed at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, the Technical Museum in Zagreb and in the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum.

    Another trick for balancing an egg on its end is to make a tiny pile of table salt, balance the egg on the pile then gently blow away the salt. A few grains will remain trapped by the egg and will keep it balanced, undetected. This trick works even with the egg's sharp end.

    Repeat Tesla's Egg of Columbus Experiment
    Egg of Columbus - Brian D. Basura
    Tesla's Egg of Columbus - Youtube
    Nikola Tesla's "Egg of Columbus" - Twenty First Century Books
    Tesla´s Egg of Columbus, Radar Stealth, the Torsion Tensor, and the 'Philadelphia Experiment' - Corum, Corum & Daum
    Nikola Tesla`s Columbus Egg von 1893 Chicago (German) -

    Books and Articles
    Corum, K. L., J. F. Corum, and J. F. X. Daum, "Tesla´s Egg of Columbus, Radar Stealth, the Torsion Tensor, and the 'Philadelphia Experiment' ". Tesla symposium, International Tesla Society. Colorado Springs, 1994.

    "Tesla's Egg of Columbus". Electrical Experimenter. New York, March 1919. (Reprinted in "Strange Stories from Electrical Experimenter Magazine, 1917-1919" by Lindsay Publications)

    Nikola Tesla General Links
    Nikola Tesla - Wikipedia
    Tesla: Master of Lightning - PBS
    Tesla Biography - Tesla Memorial Society of New York
    Who Invented Radio? Marconi or Tesla? -
    First Electricity Power Station and Grid - Edison or Tesla? -

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    Last updated: June 2013
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