Nikola Tesla in Colorado Springs
The Modern Age starts with the genius and inventions of Nikola Tesla. The post-war futurism of the 1950s would not have been abandoned if this man’s work was allowed to reach it’s full potential in the earlier part of the century. We would have had our push-button paradise, our flying cars and free energy for all.
(or maybe this scenario is the reason Tesla’s free energy has not been pursued)
In 1893, Nikola Tesla demonstrated the first public application of his polyphase alternating-current system at the Columbian Exposition at the Chicago World’s Fair. A remarkable, temporary town was built called The Magic City or White City which was heavily decorated with light bulbs lit by Tesla’s generators. As alternating-current spread across the United States, light bulb-covered, amusement park-imitations of The White City popped up in Chicago, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Massachusetts and Denver. Denver’s White City was renamed Lakeside Amusement Park in the 1930s. The Tower of Jewels and other older portions of the park are still covered with light bulbs in imitation of the city built for the Chicago World’s Fair.
The Tower of Jewels at Lakeside Amusement Park
After his enormous success with The Columbian Exposition and after building the first hydro-electric plant at Niagara Falls with George Westinghouse, Tesla decided his next goal would be the wireless transmission of power.
Patent lawyer Leonard Curtis helped Tesla find land just east of the city of Colorado Springs (which is now N. Foote Street, just north of Pikes Peak Avenue). The spot had many benefits to Tesla; the thinner, more conductive air of the high altitude (6,037 feet above sea level), the large amount of lightning storms attracted to the area, the conductive geology and most of all… free AC power from the El Paso Power Company.
In May of 1899, Tesla and his assistants, engineer Fritz Lowenstein and mechanic Kolmon Czito, moved into the Alta Vista Hotel, with Tesla himself choosing room number 222 as this number was divisible by 3. He told the Colorado Springs residents he intended to send a radio signal from Pikes Peak to Paris.
They built Tesla’s Colorado Springs laboratory to include an 80 foot tall wooden tower with a 142 foot tall metal mast supporting a large copper ball. The lab had large metal grounding plates underneath and a roof that rolled back to aid in preventing fires. Sign posts surrounding the building read KEEP OUT. GREAT DANGER.
Inside the laboratory building they built a large spark-gap magnifying transmitter, which is an advanced version of the air-core Tesla coil. The primary and 7-turn secondary coils were wound around a 51 foot diamater frame. A third 100-turn, 8 foot diameter coil was placed within the other coils magnifying the electrical effects by something called resonant rise. This magnifying transmitter delivered 1,100 amps and 1,000,000 volts.
While in Colorado Springs, Tesla researched transmitters, receivers, additional smaller resonance transformers and concatenated, tuned electrical circuits. Tesla used his equipment to measure the effects of the electrical waves that the Colorado Springs’ lightning storms would create within the very earth itself. Tesla had discovered evidence of terrestrial stationary waves. Tesla then had the idea of sending these extremely-low frequency waves into the earth and as the waves bounced back, Tesla would add a boost, creating resonance rise. This would charge the earth with electricity.
That communication without wires to any point of the globe is practicable with such apparatus would need no demonstration, but through a discovery which I made I obtained absolute certitude. Popularly explained, it is exactly this: When we raise the voice and hear an echo in reply, we know that the sound of the voice must have reached a distant wall, or boundary, and must have been reflected from the same. Exactly as the sound, so an electrical wave is reflected, and the same evidence which is afforded by an echo is offered by an electrical phenomenon known as a “stationary” wave – that is, a wave with fixed nodal and ventral regions. Instead of sending sound-vibrations toward a distant wall, I have sent electrical vibrations toward the remote boundaries of the earth, and instead of the wall the earth has replied. In place of an echo I have obtained a stationary electrical wave, a wave reflected from afar.
– Nikola Tesla, July 3, 1899
Tesla also proposed transmitting ELF waves into the cavity that exists between the surface of the Earth and the ionosphere, 80 kilometers above the surface. This was known as the Schumann Cavity, named after Winfried Otto Schumann who rediscovered this region in 1952. In the 1990s this was renamed the Tesla-Schumann Cavity. Tesla even proposed transmitting power into the ionosphere itself as he believed this ionosphere would be highly conductive. This proved true and experiments in heating portions of the ionosphere are used today to create various atmospheric effects.
In the Fall of 1899 Tesla used his Colorado Springs’ magnifying transmitter to test his idea of creating resonance with terrestrial standing waves projected through the earth. As he worked to tune the equipment to the earth’s resonance, the grass around Tesla’s laboratory glowed faint blue, sparks lept from the ground & fire hydrants and light bulbs close to the lab spontaneously lit up. Tesla gradually increased the strength of the wave by sending reinforcing pulses as each standing wave returned. Blue arcs shot up and down the inner coil. Lightning bolts, that progressively grew to over 100 feet in length, shot out of the copper ball atop the mast. This lightning could be seen as far away as Cripple Creek! Then it all just stopped.
Tesla’s experiment had burned out the dynamo at El Paso Electric Company, knocking out power for all of Colorado Springs. Tesla would receive no more free power. In fact they would receive no power at all until Tesla and his crew repaired the power station, which they did in about a week.
Tesla continued to conduct experiments in Colorado Springs for 9 more months, keeping a diary of his results titled Colorado Springs Notes, 1899–1900 June 1, 1899 to January 7, 1900 (first published in 1978). Sparks from his coils would sometimes create the mysterious plasma phenomenon of ball lightning, which would fly around his lab and explode when finally coming in contact with something.
Tesla’s Colorado Springs experiments in synchronised circuits demonstrated how a wireless receiver could be tuned to receive a specific signal to the exclusion of others. In 1900 he reported that in Colorado Springs, he had *received energy* in a resonance transformer tuned to the same frequency as a separate, larger resonance transformer. Not only was this a demonstration of the wireless transmission of electrical energy, these experiments also gave Tesla the priority for the invention of radio. While this was usurped at the time by Guglielmo Marconi, Tesla’s patent was later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 (sadly this was shortly after Tesla died).
In 1899, Tesla demonstrated the wireless transmission of power over 26 miles from his Colorado Springs lab, lighting 200 50-watt incandescent bulbs with electricity broadcast through the earth. While contemporary engineers have trouble duplicating this experiment, it appears that Tesla did not include everything in his extensive notes. Among other things, there are witnesses to some sort of fantastic beam device experiments that are not recorded in his published Colorado Springs Notes.
In the Summer of 1899, Tesla received rhythmic “dot-dot-dot” signals on his low-frequency receiver. He reported these a year or so later to the press, along with some good-natured speculation that these were from outer-space, maybe even Mars. The newspapers exaggerated his claims leaving Tesla’s reputation forever tarnished with this incredible story. Some have speculated that he may have been receiving signals from Marconi’s tests in Europe. Others think he may have received the regular pulses that we now know come from the Sun and other stars. If this was the case then Tesla was also the inventor of the first radio telescope.
In October 1899, during this period when Tesla was in Colorado Springs, Marconi transmitted radio signals across the English Channel, from France to Britian, using some of Tesla’s patents.
Tesla ended his very succesful Colorado Springs experiments and headed for New York to build a new lab at Wardenclyffe, New York. The El Paso Electric Company had successfully sued Tesla for electricity used, so the Colorado Springs laboratory was sadly torn down in 1904 and sold for lumber to pay the $180 judgment. His electrical equipment was placed in storage.
The Colorado Springs-based International Tesla Society operated a Tesla Museum down in the Springs for many years, but eventually went bankrupt in 1998. But as you may have read in the news recently, over $1,000,000 was just raised to create a new Tesla Museum at Wardenclyffe!
(Special thanks to Michael Riversong of the Tesla Academy)
This entry was posted on Monday, September 17th, 2012 at 9:11 pm and is filed under Colorado Springs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.