PART 2: Nikola Tesla
(22:17) Project Invisibility actually began in 1931. The technical director of the project at a later date was Nikola Tesla. But it began in 1931. Tesla got together, as he had done with other people in the past on many, many projects—I will give you a history of him briefly.
Tesla was working at that time at the University of Chicago with Dr. John Hutchinson, who was the dean at the university’s School of Engineering, and a staff physicist by the name of Dr. Emil Kirtenauer. These people, including Tesla, got together for a theoretical discussion of: Can you make an object invisible, and if so, how do you do it? Now this was literally a paper study; nothing came up with this in terms of building any hardware during this period of time.
In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became president of the United States; and he knew Tesla from World War I. Roosevelt, of course, was at that time undersecretary of the Navy during the period of World War I, and Tesla was invited and asked if he’d work for the government in lieu of other things during the period of World War I, which he did. This, of course, established a friendship between Roosevelt and Tesla, and when Roosevelt became president, Tesla was invited to Washington, kind of a get-together of old friends. “Ah, Nikola, what are you doing these days?” and so forth. Nikola talked about his theoretical studies and the things he had been doing, and what most particularly was important, that he was looking at the study of a program for invisibility. And at that time it was purely theoretical. But Roosevelt, not being an uneducated man, thought this was a very interesting project. And he says, “I think this would be of interest to the military.” And he said, “I’ll see that you get some money to fund this project. And, “Oh, yes, I would like you to be the director. And it will be moved from Chicago to New Jersey to the Institute for Advanced Study,” which he had just started up, and it opened its doors, so to speak, for business in 1933.
And there were four original scientists, mathematicians, who were assigned there: they were invited, and of course they were paid a salary. Dr. John von Neumann: he accepted a salary there at what was an almost unheard-of amount—$10,000 per year—to join the staff at the Institute. A man by the name of Dr. Alexander joined: he was not part of this project. A man by the name of Dr. Osvald Veblen joined the staff: he was not part of this project, but he was one of the first four people brought on board. And, of course, Dr. Albert Einstein. These were the four original scientists, engineers, assigned to the Institute, and of course, the projects undertaken by the Institute, being a premier think-tank for the United States at that time, caused the expansion of the staff over the following years. But these were the four originals. And of those, only two were heavily involved as time went on with the [UI] Project and with the Philadelphia Experiment.
Einstein was a very, shall we say, strange person in the sense that he was there as a consultant. He was into mathematics and pure physics. And I don’t need to go much into his history because it’s well established, except for one point. Many of his biographers say that he left Germany in 1933, because that was when Hitler took over and he fled for his life—or what he feared for his life if he stayed. He actually left in 1930 at the insistence of friends, who saw where the political scenario in Germany was going, and said, “We recommend that you leave Germany now while it’s easy to leave.” The National Socialist Party, which became the party of Hitler, did not want him to leave because he was considered a national asset. He was virtually kidnapped and taken out of Germany to the United States, and he was at Cal Tech (California Institute of Technology) for three years, from 1930-1933, which is not well known. A friend of mine, now deceased, who was an English mathematician and scientist, had seen and met Einstein at Cal Tech during that period of 1930 and 1933, and verified he saw Einstein many times and even was in Einstein’s home in California at that time.
In 1933, he accepted the appointment from Cal Tech to the Institute for Advanced Study, and, of course, joined the staff, and remained there until he died in 1955. But Einstein was a brilliant man, and, of course, he was in many different projects, and he was the consultant, if you will, internally.
The project was moved there, as I said, in 1933, and, of course, it continued then with Navy funding, but was an open project, not classified, and was quite basically a research study. This went on until 1936 and on beyond that. But in 1936 they had their first test of some hardware to see whether they could actually make an object invisible, and it didn’t really work; but it gave them encouragement that they were working in the right direction.
Now, this continued on until 1940. And in the period after I was brought on board with Duncan in January of 1940, in September of 1940 a very successful test was conducted at the Brooklyn Navy Yard using a small Navy ship, a tender if you will—about 350 tons—which was dockside but in deep water. And some of the equipment was on board the ship—mostly the coils and antenna system—and all of the heavy hardware was not on board that ship. It was on the dock, and it ran cables to the various elements involved on the ship. It was all turned on, and the ship became invisible optically. Nobody was on board the ship: everybody was removed for safety. And they were concerned that something could go wrong with this test. They wanted it on long cables, so that if they had to, they could cut the cables, and if it was important enough, they’d sink the ship. No such precaution was actually required, though they took those precautions, and, of course, there was no problem. Everything worked according to plan; the ship was invisible. Nobody was on board, which was very important because of later results with further tests at a later date.
So, we were at this point. Roosevelt was elated, the Navy was elated; he was funding this project. It was immediately classified. With this completed test— it was only actually the first phase of continuing work. At that point the Navy classified it. And, of course, everybody else had to get clearances that was working with this project, and our offices were opened in a special building on the Philadelphia Navy Yard. The project was moved there, as I stated, and, of course, we had to move back and forth. The theoretical work continued on at the Institute; and it was sort of a case of, the theory was at the Institute, and the work in terms of the hardware was at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
The next thing that happened was that Roosevelt, being elated over this, says to Nikola Tesla, who was the director: “If you can make a larger ship invisible, you can make anything invisible. I’m going to give you a real ship now—a battleship.” Now, here we were going from a ship of some 350 tons, with relatively low power to produce a field of invisibility, to a battleship of some 30,000 tons. Now, it was moved into the back section of the Navy yard at Philadelphia, and the work proceded from that point on for quite a period of time—actually from 1941, which is when it occurred that it was moved in there, until some time in 1942.
I need to fill in some other things from the background here in terms of myself and Duncan. While we were there at the Institute, of course, we were living off the grounds of the Institute itself: we had our own little residence. And, of course, being young men in the Navy, we were running around town, and we were dating, and doing those sort of things, and then certain things turned up at a later date regarding, let’s say, our social life. There’s a strange series of events I want to get into, but this will be just a little bit further down the line.
In the period in which all of this work was done—we were not, of course, privy to the earliest work, but we were brought up to speed; we were told what had happened—and Tesla, of course, became rather friendly. He was a very quiet, and, shall we say, withdrawn man.
Nikola Tesla’s childhood
The history of Nikola Tesla is very interesting, and one has to understand something of his past and what he went through to understand how he wound up where he did, and why he had the personality and character which was known through him at that time, to his friends, which were rather few. He was born in  in Smiljan, Croatia, and he was the younger son of a priest. The priest had a wife, and there was an older son, a brother. Tesla was born in ; the other son, the first-born, was three years older. He grew up in this family in rather poor circumstances, but they did learn how to ride because that was the transportation at that time. But his brother, at the age of ten, had a horse accident, in which he fell off the horse, broke his neck, and died. This, apparently, broke up Tesla very badly because he was very close to his brother—for whatever reason, they had that very close feeling, the relationship. Quite possibly, he never got over it.
As time went on, the father was trying to groom Nikola for the priesthood. And Nikola couldn’t have cared less: he wanted to go to engineering school. Of course, he went through the normal schools at the time, and at the age appropriate to joining the schools, the more advanced schools, he went through the secondary schools. But then he finally, after long arguments with his father, who said, “Absolutely no, you will not go to engineering school; you are going to become a priest,” Tesla became very ill. Whether it was a feigned illness or whether it was a genuine illness, psychologically induced, history does not record. He became very ill, and his father thought might be dying like the older son, and he finally relented and says, “All right, Nikola, you can go to engineering school.” Nikola miraculously recovered. And, of course, when the time was appropriate, he went to engineering school.
He went for one year. And in 1879, his father died. And, of course, therein, the funds were cut off; he could not continue on in school formally. So, he went to work, first in the telephone system works in Budapest (1881), I believe; tried to continue his schooling on the side—as the saying goes, monitoring the classes without being a matriculated student paying the normal tuition. Considered very brilliant by his parents—not only his parents, but most particularly by his professors.
At Edison Works in Paris (1882)
And then in 1882, he went to Paris, went to work for the Edison Works in Paris; was there until 1884. During this entire period of time, he had argument after argument with his professors because he was, at that point, even, so brilliant that he envisioned new forms of electricity. DC, of course, was the common thing at that time, developed by Thomas Alva Edison. And, of course, Edison’s works were all over the world at that time, and they had a major installation in Paris, which he went to work with. And the head of the engineering works in Paris considered Tesla very brilliant.
Tesla emigrates to the United States (1884)
Tesla decided he wanted to come to the United States in 1884 for greener pastures, if you will, and he got a letter of introduction from the works manager in Paris to Thomas Alva Edison at Menlo Park, New Jersey. So he bid his farewells, and got on, went to England, and, of course, got on one of the regular steam-boat trips. And he didn’t have much money. Someplace along the way, he lost his suitcase of clothes. The only thing he managed to keep, and to survive on his trip, was a book of poetry he liked, the letter of introduction to Edison, and literally four cents in his pocket. This was, of course, the way he arrived in New York. So what does he do? He tries to get temporary work in order to survive, and eventually meets Thomas Edison in New Jersey and gives him the letter of introduction.
Edison was impressed by this—Tesla was perhaps not quite so impressed with Edison as Edison was with Tesla because of the letter—and he says, “Tell me, Mr. Tesla, what are some of the things that you have done and what are you interested in?” So he told Edison about his ideas, in which he envisioned a new form of electricity, alternating current. Edison, of course, had been the principal proprietor in terms of building hardware—all DC: DC motors, DC generators, a lighting system, which, of course, didn’t care whether it was AC or DC; but having invented the lightbulb and a few other things—that is, the incandescent lamp—he saw in Tesla a man who was, to his idea, argumentative, but nonetheless brilliant. Tesla felt that he had no chance to be with Edison and was about to walk out, and Edison said, “No. We may not agree on some things, but I need all of the engineers, and good engineers, that I can get. Report at 7:00 AM in the morning for work. So he did.
Edison refuses to pay Tesla for his work
The first project that Tesla worked on, and the only one, apparently, that he worked on during this period of time, is one that Edison gave him: how to stop the locking of the process in DC motors. It was quite a problem at that time, and we’re talking of the period around 1884. Obviously, there’s been a great deal of change and progress since, but this was the beginning of progress, if you will. And he also promised Tesla that if he completed this project in time, he would give him a $50,000 bonus. Well, of course Tesla went to work; he wanted to establish his own laboratory, and, of course, he couldn’t do it without money. So he completed the work in proper time: everything was according to what Edison wanted, so he asked Edison for the bonus. Edison sort of laughed, and says, “Bonus?” He says, “You don’t understand the American sense of humor.” And Tesla looked at him and says, “No, I don’t,” and walked out the door. And went back to work digging ditches quite literally. He had to survive, and, of course, he had no resources at that point.
While he was digging ditches, of course the word got around New York that here was a brilliant man digging ditches who had great deal of capability in the electrical field. The first person that contacted him was the then head of an owner of the telegraph company in New York. And he approached Tesla and says, “Mr. Tesla, I’d like to have you to go to work for me. I’ve heard about your ideas for AC motors and generators. How much money would it take to establish a laboratory?” And Tesla thought for a moment and says, “Well, I think I could establish a working laboratory and go to work for about $35,000.” This man, being the president of the telegraph company at the time, wrote him a check on the spot for $35,000—or so goes the history that is recorded—and says, “Go to work.” So, he got himself a building and started building his laboratory. He built some of the earliest motors and generators.
Westinghouse meets Tesla
At that time when he arrived in the year 1884 was the year that the Institute of Electrical Engineers was founded in New York City. Of course, it persists to this day, and is now known as the Electrical and Electronic Engineering today, but at that time was the Institute of Electrical Engineers. Tesla became a fixture there, in that he gave many lectures. And at one of them, he demonstrated his AC system of AC power generators, the lighting, and so forth—a very impressive demonstration. And in the audience, unknown to him at the time, was a man known as George Westinghouse, of Westinghouse Air Brake Company, Westinghouse Rail Car Company, a man who already had a lot of money and was very successful in business. Westinghouse liked what he heard. He says to Tesla after the lecture was over, “Would you join me for dinner at the Waldorf?” And he said, “Of course.”
He discussed the history; he discussed the possible future for Tesla. Tesla at this point already had 20 patents assigned for AC power, AC theory, and the whole nine yards of AC equipment. Issued patents. And he says, “How much do you want for all 20 patents if you assign them to me? What kind of money is involved?” Well, I’m sure they negotiated for a period of time, but they finally worked out a deal, which history says Westinghouse gave him a check outright for assignment of all of his patents to the Westinghouse Company for one million dollars cash. This was in approximately 1887—a lot of money in those days. “Oh, yes, and we’ll give you a royalty: one dollar per horsepower for every AC motor and generator that will be built.” Well, Tesla was very much in business over that, and of course, his laboratory expanded and he continued his work.
First hydroelectric power plant Niagara Falls
Well, in 1888-89, there was a commission appointed out of England to see who would build the first hydroelectric power station in the United States. And all during this period of time there was a great deal of animosity between Tesla and Edison. Edison never lost a chance to attempt to prove that Tesla’s AC system was really very dangerous. Of course, Edison wanted to continue using DC power and generating DC’s equipment, hardware, and keep the whole DC system going. Tesla won the contest to build the first hydroelectric power system at Niagara Falls, which was completed about 1891—AC power, of course. And because of the nature of AC, you can use transformers; you cannot with DC, obviously to those who understand electricity, transformers and the whole nine yards of this. You can use a transformer, step up the voltage, and transfer the power via high-voltage and lower current over very great distances. The first city in the country that got power from the new Niagara power plant was, of course, the city of Buffalo, 35 miles away. Well, that was a great accomplishment in those days. We don’t think anything of that today, but this was the beginning of progress.
Columbian Exposition powered by Westinghouse-Tesla system
Tesla was busy doing many other things, and in his history he actually had 400 patents issued to him. And this information is available out of the Belgrade Museum today. He was also involved in other things besides the AC power. He became involved with the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893). He supplied the power, generating all the power for the exposition, and photos were taken of the Westinghouse-Tesla system, which I have, believe it or not—slides taken in 1892. A little bit foggy, but they are of interest to show the history of that exposition. In fact, they had a great exhibit there of Tesla and Westinghouse. And General Electric, which, of course, was backing a certain man by the name of Edison, also had an exhibit.
Radio-controlled boat (first unmanned vehicle)
In 1893, Tesla exhibited and tested and shared publicly a radio-controlled model boat. Now, this is the use of a radio system before the turn of the 20th century. In 1898 he again demonstrated it at one of the big stadiums in New York, which did get flooded with water, and he put a boat basin in there, and he demonstrated he could control the boat by radio in this boat basin in New York City, in one of the large stadiums, which has since been torn down.
Wireless electrical transmission in Colorado Springs (1899)
1899 he goes to Colorado Springs to do his research—just general, pure research. He wanted an area totally away from the city, in the boonies, if you will, and it was very much in the boonies. And he took power, of course, from the local power generating system, which was in Colorado Springs. He built this huge Tesla coil, and he wanted to demonstrate and prove conclusively that power could be transmitted a great distance without wires, without any visible means of transmission. History says, and he proved, that he could do this and light lightbulbs 26 miles away from ground-zero. But in the process of his tests, and building this gigantic Tesla coil and associated apparatus, he quite literally burned out the power station in Colorado Springs. He apologized over this, and he went down and personally helped rebuild it.
Communication with extraterrestrials
He also claimed that he had communications with somebody from off-planet. Well, this, of course, made great press. Whether or not anybody believed him at the time—which is hard to [imagine] that anybody would believe him in those days because of the very materialistic views then prevalent. But nonetheless, it made press.
He closed up the operations at Colorado Springs, came back to Long Island, and of course, one of the people backing him at that time was J.P. Morgan. Morgan became, at an early time, quite interested in Tesla. And Tesla said, “I can demonstrate radio for you. We could do something commercial with it.” Of course, J.P. Morgan, being a financier, was very interested in the prospects of making vast amounts of money over this, and he authorized the building of the Warden Cliff Tower on Long Island in 1901.
Marconi is the first to transmit a radio signal across Atlantic
At that point, there was a race on to see who could first transmit a radio signal across the Atlantic, from the United States or [Newfoundland]. Actually, [Newfoundland] was the point that was chosen for the receiving end, and the transmitting end was to be in England—or either way, whichever went first. The man who won the contest at that point was a man by the name of Marconi—Guglielmo Marconi, and Italian, who was a friend of Tesla’s and had visited Tesla in his laboratories in New York. And at that time Tesla was very open with his files and any of his technical information—“Oh, it’s in such-and-such file; let’s go take a look.”
Marconi did, and whether he made notes or took some of the files history does not record. But he went back to Italy and then later to England, became involved in this contest, and transmitted some Morse code signals across the Atlantic received in [Newfoundland] and he won the international prize. Tesla was intending to win it but did not. And, of course, Mr. Tesla’s backer, Mr. J.P. Morgan, was perhaps a little disappointed.
J.P. Morgan suppresses free electrical energy
Then Mr. Tesla goes to Mr. Morgan and says, “Mr. Morgan, what I really want to do with the Warden Cliff Tower is demonstrate the feasibility not only of radio and television transmission,” which was why it was built in the first place (or as he called it at the time, transmitting sound and pictures through space, what we now call television and radio); “what I really want to do with this tower is to prove that you can transmit power through space and people can receive this power for free.” Tesla was a visionary and he really wanted to do something for the people of Earth, if you will, and he didn’t care about the finances of what would be a vast power network at a later date. But J.P. Morgan looked at him and says, “Mr. Tesla, do you mean to tell me that somebody could put a rod of wire up in the air, and another one in the ground, and pick up all the power they want, and I can’t put a meter on it? I will let you know when I’m ready, Mr. Tesla.” He was very polite, but he obviously let Tesla know that he wasn’t backing that idea.
Well, the Warden Cliff Tower was abandoned, and eventually was transferred to, I believe, the Waldorf Astoria Hotel system, and the backers for the hotel, in payment of some debts, because at that point on, Tesla was in dire need of funds because J.P. Morgan, in his operations, attempted to take over the Westinghouse Air Brake Company and all of Westinghouse’s holdings by backing him into a corner financially. J.P. Morgan was an expert at this sort of thing.
Tesla helps save Westinghouse from J.P. Morgan
The way it was saved, and Westinghouse retained control, was because of the fact that he went to Tesla and says to Tesla, “What am I going to do?” Westinghouse and Tesla were great friends. I do not know exactly what year this occurred. But he said to him, he said, “I owe you all this money; I haven’t been able to pay it because of the financial problems I’m in.” [He was] trying to keep the rail company going, and trying to keep the dining car company going and all of this, and the whole air brake company, which, of course, Westinghouse air brakes were well known on trains and still are to this day. “What am I going to do?” Tesla looks at him and he says, “Mr. Westinghouse, would you give me those agreements we signed? I would like to look at them.” And he said, “What do you want to look at them for?” And he says, “Please just get them out of the file. Let me look at them.” So, he hands them to Tesla. Tesla looks at them and reads them; tears them in half. Westinghouse says, “Mr. Tesla, what are you doing?” And he says, “You don’t owe me anything. He says, “But I owe you all this money? What are you going to do?” He says, “Mr. Westinghouse, George, you held out your hand when everybody else turned his back. You do not owe me anything.” That saved his company. He was able to pay off his debts and keep J.P. Morgan from taking over.
Tesla meets Roosevelt and works for the Navy during WWI
During this period prior to World War I, of course, Tesla kept working as best as he could. He had a business manager who tried to get his patents sold, if you will, to make some profits. He managed to hang on during this period of time. [UI] World War I, he had, of course, gone to work—which not many people know—for the Marconi Company, the one that was established in the United States. In 1917, Marconi Company West, U.S. West, [was] dissolved by the U.S. government because they felt that it was going to be a hotbed of spies and saboteurs, having this Italian connection. Of course, Italy was at that time on the side of Germany and we were fighting both of them. Tesla, of course, was without employment at the time, and that was when the undersecretary of the Navy (Franklin Roosevelt) approached Tesla and says, “I would like to have you do some government work for the war.” And he said, “Of course.”
Radio Corporation of America (1919)
So he worked for a period of time, about two years, and when the war was over, there was a commission that met, and decided that we needed a new electronics [UI]. They wanted to combine the efforts of all of these companies, including Marconi, and establish a new organization, and all of the patents that had been issued to the various companies would be put in a pool and given to this new company. It became—well known today, of course—it became the Radio Corporation of America, which was established in 1919. And Tesla and most of the people that worked for Marconi were taken on board that company. Very few people know that Tesla worked for RCA from 1919 until 1939. This was one of the little things he did in the background. He was the engineer, then the chief engineer, and later on, in the period between 1935 and 1939, when he was allegedly such a recluse living in the little room in the Hotel New Yorker, it was actually the busiest period of his life in 1931 to 1939, and on into 1941. He was not only the chief engineer, but eventually the director of engineering and research worldwide for RCA. And they held a big retirement party for him in 1939 at Cherry Hill, New Jersey. I’ve never been able to locate any of the monthly bulletins which RCA put out for many, many years, but I understand there was one showing pictures of him at the retirement party.
People since have tried to trace the history of Tesla in RCA and they can’t find it. The paychecks that were issued to him were not issued to him under the name of Nikola Tesla. They were issued to him under the name of Nikola Turbo, because Turbo was a nephew, and he decided to use that, for whatever reasons, as his official name on the records at RCA. And at some later date, all of the records were destroyed—whether this was accidental or deliberate nobody is quite sure.
The first electric car ran on free energy (1931)
But during this period he was working on many projects. He decided to go back into, shall we say, the free energy business. In 1931, he took a Pierce Arrow automobile, ripped out the standard engine, put in a 75 horsepower electric motor. And they had a little black box—this free-energy device, if you will, derived from the work he had done in the period around the turn of the century, and of which Mr. J.P. Morgan wanted no part. [He] built this black box, converted the car to an electric motor, and had this place in the car on the dashboard, according to those who saw it, where he put in this black box and plugged it in and then turned it on, and it provided the power for this 75-horse electric motor. And he drove the Pierce Arrow all over New York City, and eventually all over New York State, without any gasoline, without any visible source of power except what he picked up. This part was documented much later by some Japanese, in a video which was done many, many years later, and they said, “Tesla did it better than any of us and nobody knows how he did it.” And that, apparently, was a secret that died with him.
Tesla sells particle-beam weapon to Russia (1935)
He also developed a particle-beam weapon system, which he attempted to sell to the U.S. government. At first they were interested, then turned it down; this was in the 1935-36 period, while he was working on Project Invisibility. They turned it down, the Canadians turned it down, the British government turned it down, but believe it or not, the Russian government bought it, and snapped it up for $25,000 cash. Can you imagine, in view of what the financial structure is today, him selling a working model on a year’s consultancy for a particle-beam weapon system to the Russians or anybody for $25,000 cash? He was very hard-up for money at that time. And eventually, his own government gave him a stipend, which kept him alive, so to speak, during that period of time after his paycheck was no longer available from RCA.
Many different projects
But in fact, he was not a recluse. Of course, he knew Franklin Delano Roosevelt from some years prior, that is, World War I, and when he was meeting with Roosevelt in 1933, he told Roosevelt some of the things he had done and what he was working on. And because of this, and the fact that he had a perfect track record and already had many patents to his name, Roosevelt appointed him the director of Project Invisibility. Now, he was working here at this period of time on Project Invisibility, developing the particle-beam weapon system, free energy for a car, and who knows what else? Because he had a laboratory—actually two laboratories—in New York City in the twin towers of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Not well known to most people. This was found out, shall we say, after he was dead, and many, many years later, doing historical research of his life and so forth. Preston Nichols got into this, and part of the information came from Preston, due to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel Association saying, “We got all this equipment here: we don’t know what it is or what to do with it.” They knew Preston was heavily involved in surplus equipment, and they went over to look at it and saw it and he realized whose equipment it was, and he acquired it for a song.
He also allegedly had a secret laboratory in New Jersey. I have papers in my file which allude to this. And, of course, he also was working at this time for the Institute for Advanced Study. At a later date, when I was doing historical research (as Al Bielek) into the life of Tesla and the fact that he worked at the Institute, the curator there, I asked him, “Do you have a file on Tesla?” And he says, “Well, not really.” And he says, “No one who didn’t work here and [didn’t] receive a paycheck from the Institute did we have a file on.” But he went and dug in his files, and he said, “We do have a folder on him,” on Nikola Tesla, and he showed it to me. It was a telegram sent to the Institute from New York saying that Nikola Tesla had died on the seventh of January, 1943, and announcing the plans for his funeral. This was the only thing they had in the file, and it’s interesting that they had that. They made it quite clear to me: “Many people come and go in the Institute, or are involved in various projects that the Institute is funding, and are there as consultants. If they’re not on staff, we don’t keep a file.”
Friendship with Robert Underwood Johnson and Katherine Johnson
But back to the period of time when Tesla was involved with this project. It was because of these things [that] he had an incredible and impeccible reputation. And all during this time, of course, in fact, through his entire life, he never married. We get to the more personal side of Tesla. In the early period when he was in the United States, a period around 1884 to 1890, one of the people he met was the publisher of The Century Magazine (Robert Underwood Johnson), very well known at that time. And the man was married and had a wife (Katherine McMahon Johnson). And Tesla was introduced to his wife and so forth and immediately, shall we say, the sparks flew. And there was this attraction. This kind of thing, of course, you cannot explain appropriately, except that it’s a feeling which exists between two people which is like a magnetic pull and nobody understands why it’s there. And there’s this attraction, mutually between the two of them. Well, Tesla was an absolute gentleman. He refused to make any kind of a pass or overture to his wife, the man who published Century Magazine, and she, of course, and as women in those days were far more demure, she just didn’t do anything except be totally polite to Mr. Tesla. They met many times because there was a lot of correspondence and a lot of reporting being done by the head of Century Magazine on some of Tesla’s work. But he never married. That was the only woman he was ever known to have been interested in in his entire life, and eventually she faded out of his life. So, the rest of his life, it’s not known that he ever had any female relationships; he was totally devoted to his work.
In speaking of Tesla and his lifetime, there is a lot of research that’s been done about his life after he died. There were, perhaps, not that many people during his lifetime who were concerned with what he was doing other than those who were directly connected. This particular book, written, of course, after he had passed on, by Margaret Cheney—Tesla: Man Out Of Time—is most interesting. Many books have been written about Tesla, but at least on the cover it has a picture of Tesla as he appeared in his later years. There are many pictures extant of Tesla from the time he was a young man until he was in the U.S., and, of course, after he was in the U.S. he changed his appearance quite a bit. He wanted to give the scientific or professorial look so he grew a moustache. His hair darkened, and the usual pictures of Tesla, though perhaps younger than this one, show him in a very similar way, in a very similar outline. The group that had the best collection of pictures was a now-defunct Tesla Society at Colorado Springs, Colorado. They went belly-up a few years ago. They had a great collection of pictures of Tesla; I never did get all of them. And one of them showed him as a very young man in which he was an extremely good-looking person. It’s surprising, in many ways, that he never married and that he never had any close relationships. Many tales have been told about him, and he was totally devoted to his work; apparently he bypassed everything else.
And I’ll go back now to the later part of the life of Tesla. One of the people whom I met when he was still alive, namely Mr. Ralph Bergstresser; he was the principal technician for many years for Mr. Tesla. And he told me many interesting anecdotes, many interesting stories. Tesla, of course, was known to use, to have a room he lived in, if that’s the proper term, at the Hotel New Yorker. It was not a very large room, not very large quarters. But he also had for many years an original laboratory in New York City, back around the turn of the century and later, which was burned out with the fire—he lost most of his equipment. But later on he had two laboratories in the towers of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. And he had some facilities there, which he used for many years. And he also had a facility in New Jersey, and, of course, during the period of the time which we’re discussing, the Philadelphia Experiment, he had a secret lab someplace in New Jersey, as well as his occasional and not regular visits to the Institute for Advanced Study. While he was not only the consultant but the director of the project, he had other things going on, so he was getting around quite a bit. Tesla was a very energetic man, very much devoted to his research, all during the period right up to the time of his death.
Bergstresser knew a great deal about Tesla, and he told me some stories about the electronic equipment he had. Tesla, of course, who did work for RCA Corporation, from 1919, at the time of its inception, until just before, a few years before Tesla’s death. From 1935 to 1939, he was, of course, the director of engineering and research worldwide for RCA, and he had a retirement party at Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1939. So, that was one of the reasons why he didn’t show up at the Institute that often. After 1939 he had a lot more free time, because I’m sure his duties at the RCA Corporation in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where I believe he worked most of the time, were very demanding.