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  • 8/10/2019 Mrkic - Nikola Tesla - The European Years (1856-1884)


    Nikola Tesla:The European Years (1856-1884)

    Tesla in his laboratory, 1899

    D. Mrkich

    Part I

    I was in Europe in October of 2001, to see a number of

    cities where the young Nikola Tesla once lived, studied,

    worked and divined his future inventions.

    GRAZ, Austria, October 10.

    Nikola Tesla studied electrical engineering at the Graz Poly-technic School, theIoanneum, now the Technical Universityof Graz, from September 1875 until late 1877. TheIoanneumwas one of only four technical schools in the entire Austrian

    Empire others being in Vienna, Prague and Brno whichgranted engineering degrees.

    The school is very proud of its illustrious alumni, myhosts, two professional employees of the University, tell me,

    and present me with a school memorial book, which featuresTeslas picture on its cover, and a 20-page profile inside.

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  • 8/10/2019 Mrkic - Nikola Tesla - The European Years (1856-1884)


    4 Nikola Tesla: The European Years, copyright 2002 D. Mrkich For viewing only, to purchase book, 5

    Nikola Teslas school records in Graz (Courtesy Technische

    Universitt Graz, Austria)

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    stunned silent. Tesla wrote later,I could not demonstrate my belief at that time, but

    it came to me through what I might call instinct,

    for lack of a better name. But instinct is some-thing which transcends knowledge. We undoubt-

    edly have in our brains truths which we could not

    attain through logical deductions, and which it

    would be futile to attempt to achieve through any

    wilful effort of thinking.

    Poeschl is remembered today chiefly for his rigid stancein this discussion with his visionary student.

    At the end of his second year, Nikola Tesla found himselfwithout a further scholarship from the Military Border Au-thority back home. The scholarship was 420 gulden, paid outten times a year, at the end of each month, following the suc-cessful completion of exams.

    Why did he lose his scholarship?There are no simple answers.There were wars brewing in the Balkans throughout the

    years of 1875, 1876 and 1877 for the Orthodox Cross,against the Ottoman Turks first the rebellion of the Serbs ofHerzegovina against the Turks, then two wars between Ser-bia and Turkey, then in July of 1878, Austria-Hungary occu-pied Bosnia and Herzegovina. And Tesla owed a military serv-ice to the diverse powers of the day.

    My hosts hand me a freshly typed copy of a documentissued by the Military Frontier Administration Authorities(Grenzlandsverwaltungsbehoerde) in Agram (Zagreb), on

    September 22, 1876, and addressed to the Rector of theIoanneum, emphasizing that Nikolaus Tesla, of Gospic inLika, the Military District of Otocac in return for scholar-ship of 420 gulden per year, has pledged that, on conclusionof his studies, he will discharge his military duty and serve aminimum of eight years in the army The German-lan-guage sentence runs to 97 words. Krajina had been disman-tled three years earlier, and its south-western part handed over

    to the civil administration in Zagreb, while the eastern terri-tories were delivered to Budapest. A Unilateral Agreement: a three-year scholarship for eightyears in the army.

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    Teslas letter seeking another scholarship (Courtesy Nikola

    Tesla Museum, Belgrade, Yugoslavia)

    It took two days for the letter to reach Novi Sad; threedays later, his request was turned down again, and his life inGraz comes to an end.

    There is nothing left today of the old Botanical Gardens.There was construction scaffolding in one of the court-

    yards of the University, and a cluster of men, repairing the

    building, were all speaking in Croatian.We have lots of foreign workers now Ukrainians and

    others, said my hosts.

    Austria is a small country today, tucked away in the peace-able centre of Europe, rich but, like all western countries,

    suffering from a low birthrate. My hosts worried if twenty-five years from now, there would be enough working people

    to sustain the society, and wondered what kind of foreignnationals Austria should let into the country.

    In Austria, we must be careful how we treat minorities,

    because of our recent history, says the more senior of myhostesses.

    There were student signs and banners throughout the cam-

    pus, protesting increased tuition fees.The student Tesla had roomed at four different locations:

    Attemsgasse 8, in his first year; then Hans-Sachs-Gasse 10;Jahngasse 5; and Heinrichstrasse 11. Two buildings have been

    replaced by new ones, but two still stand: stately, big-windowed, tall-ceilinged. I am shown all four sites, and myhostesses then invite me to visit the Schlossberg Castle, theone standing on the hump of a hill in the middle of the city.

    We walked down the street, under rows of chestnut trees,which were just beginning to drop their chestnuts, then wentup the winding road, through the sunless forested hill. The

    air was cool, sharp and scented with pine trees and decayingvegetation. My guides are younger than I am, and I find theroad steep and the forest-heavy air sharp, and by the time wereach the clearing at the foot of the formidable Castle, I havehad enough of walking. But when I looked down, over thetree tops, back at the city, the walk was well worth it: below

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    unusually long. His weight would remain at 59 kilograms fornearly forty years.

    Nikola Tesla as a young man (Courtesy Nikola Tesla Mu-

    seum, Belgrade)

    Nikola Tesla returned to Austria, to Vienna, in April, 1892:some say on the 22nd of that month, which is not likely thecase, as his mother died on April 16, and it is generally ac-

    cepted, that he arrived in Gospic the day before she died, andstayed there, grief-stricken and in ill health, for the next fourweeks. Nevertheless, the VienneseElektrotechnik Zeitschrift

    for May of that year, notes Teslas presence in the country,and states, It is commonly held that Tesla is an Americanbut by nationality, he is an Austrian Serb, born in Lika in the

    former Military Krajina. One of his uncles is a senior officerin the Austrian army, Paja Mandic; the other uncle, Nikola

    Mandic, is a Metropolitan of the Tuzla-Zwornik Diocese. Hegained his first knowledge of the magneto-electric dynamo-

    machines under the late Professor Poeschl.The University of Vienna awarded Tesla an Honorary

    Doctorate in 1908.

    It is only an hours train ride from Graz to Maribor, and itisnt even clear when one crosses the border. Night falls dur-

    ing the journey. The only other passengers in the car are agroup of Bosnians, having problems with passports andwork visas. Not unlike what Tesla might have encounteredon his journeys in the 1870s, especially on that last ride out

    of Graz, sometimes between mid-September and mid-Novem-ber 1878.

    MARIBOR, Slovenia, October 11.

    In Maribor, Nikola Tesla found temporary employment as adraftsman with an engineering firm, managed by one Master

    Drusko. He lived in the vicinity of the train station, and spentmuch of his free time in a pub calledHappy Peasant, a hangoutfor passengers with time on their hands. The Peasantwasdemolished in 1985, to make room for the new Bus Termi-nal.

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    the Faculty of Technical Engineering, Director of the MariborMuseum and a Slovene Teslac, who had written about Tesla.

    The Mayor assured me that the city planned to renovate

    the area in front of the Faculty of Technical Engineering, andrename it the Nikola Tesla Square. The square was now mostlya parking lot. The Mayor, an impressive young politician,

    with a studentish beard, was confident that the work wouldbe completed within two or three years, during his civic watch.

    We are proud of the fact that Nikola Tesla lived in

    Maribor. Its too bad that his stay here wasnt more pleasant,but it was an important part of his life.

    The Dean of the Faculty offered a more positive Sloveneconnection to Tesla, and we rehashed the story of the Magnet

    flux density unit: tesla. In 1956, at the session of the Interna-tional Commission of Measurements in Paris, a Slovene inthe Yugoslav delegation, Dr. Milan Vidmar a physicist, and

    a world class Chess Grand Master, who had visited Tesla inNew York in 1936 - proposed that a unit of measurement of amagnetic fields strength be named in memory of Tesla. There

    was a number


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