I read a 1917 story,
Blows Up Tesla Radio Tower," about the destruction of
Wardenclyffe which suggests that Tesla said he had no interest in wireless
communications, and that he only wanted to transmit power for electric
lights and motors. If what was written about him is true, he rather shot himself in the foot.
While it is true that Tesla intended to use the Long Island facility to perform experiments, "with the transmission of electrical energy for power and lighting purposes by wireless. . . ."
he repeatedly made it clear the Wardenclyffe plant's primary function was global wireless telecommunications and broadcasting.
For example, from
"The Future of the Wireless Art," WIRELESS TELEGRAPHY & TELEPHONY, Walter W. Massie & Charles R. Underhill, 1908, pp. 67-71:
It is intended to give practical demonstrations of these principles with the plant illustrated.
As soon as completed, it will be possible for a business man in New York to dictate instructions, and have them instantly appear in type at his office in London or elsewhere.
He will be able to call up, from his desk, and talk to any telephone subscriber on the globe, without any change whatever in the existing equipment.
An inexpensive instrument, not bigger than a watch, will enable its bearer to hear anywhere, on sea or land, music or song, the speech of a political leader, the address of an eminent man of science, or the sermon of an eloquent clergyman, delivered in some other place, however distant.
In the same manner any picture, character, drawing, or print can be transferred from one to another place.
Millions of such instruments can be operated from but one plant of this kind.
More important than all of this, however, will be the transmission of power, without wires, which will be shown on a scale large enough to carry conviction.
True Wireless, which includes a comparison of the Tesla and Marconi
systems, affirms this conclusion.
As early as 1899 Tesla was motivated to develop a transportable system for wireless telecommunications.
This was one of his missions while at the Colorado Springs lab, as can be seen from the following
two snippets of correspondence:
Office of the Light-House Board
Washington, D. C.
May 11, 1899.
Mr. Nicola Tesla,
46 Houston Street,
New York, N. Y.
I would like to ask you if you if you can not arrange to establish a system of wireless telegraphy upon the Light-Vessel No. 66, Nantucket Shoals, Mass., which lies off about 60 miles south of Nantucket Island. . . .
Hoping you will give this proposition your early consideration, I am
(Signed) Francis J. Higginson
[Lightship 66 was built
in 1896 by Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine for $69,282.00. The
vessel was built on a wood-sheathed steel frame and equipped with a
12-inch steam chime whistle, and a cluster of four electric lens
lanterns mounted in galleries at each mast head. It carried a Baird
evaporator and distilling apparatus. Breaking adrift required
replacement of seven mushroom anchors and 565 fathoms (1,033 m) of chain
between 1896 and 1900. Wireless telegraph equipment was
experimentally installed aboard Lightship 66 in 1901 and it became the
first United States lightship with permanent radio equipment in 1904.
The vessel was placed in relief service following replacement by
Lightship 85 in 1907. --
And in a July 1899 letter
from the Colorado Springs lab, Tesla writes to an assistant,
Dear Mr. Scherff,
We want as soon as possible four sizes of this little instrument completed in annexed sketch and there ought to be two pieces of each size, that is, 8 pieces in all.
These pieces are to go on the clockworks as Mr. Uhlman will surely understand. . . .
. . . Push this work through as quickly as possible, as I am preparing myself for the plant at Nantucket (for the government) and want to have as much work done as possible before I return. . . .
Further evidence is provided by a short newspaper article, "To Test Tesla's System," Brooklyn Eagle, Sept., 1899.
Lighthouse Board to Ask Congress for an Appropriation (Special to the Eagle)
Washington, September 7 — The members of the Lighthouse Board intend to ask Congress for an appropriation during the coming session of Congress to enable them to conduct some extensive experiments with wireless telegraphy at Fire Island.
This scheme is a popular one with Admiral Higginson and the other members of this board who believe that it will eventually figure prominently in the lighthouse and life saving systems.
Admiral Higginson has already had some correspondence with Tesla, the electrical expert, and others in New York who are interested in this subject and it is possible that some semi-official tests may take place this fall.
The members of the board will work from either Nantucket or Fire Island and the mainland.
The greatest difficulty now in the way is lack of funds, no appropriation being available for experiments of any kind.
It is possible that in 1917 Tesla was
receiving heavy fire, but it certainly wasn't from his own gun.