The New Wizard of the West

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

In 1899, Chauncy Montgomery M’Govern of Pearson’s magazine called Nikola Tesla the new wizard of the west and discussed his ideas for solar-thermal generation and — yes — wireless transmission:

This consists of a means of generating electricity in one spot, where it can be done with little cost, and transmitting the electricity to some other spot where it is impossible to generate electricity except at a big outlay of money.

Of course, it is now possible to transmit electrical power from one place to another by the use of electrical cables, but the cost of these transmitting cables is nearly as great as would be the cost of generating the electricity itself in the locality to which it is desired to transmit it. By the use of Tesla’s invention, the atmosphere takes the place of the electrical cables in the transmission of the power, and as the use of the atmosphere would be free, the cost of the transmission ofelectricity from one city to another would be merely nominal.

To make the atmosphere take the part of the costly cables, Tesla’s plan is to erect large power stations at every spot where a great waterfall like Niagara, for instance, makes the cost of generating electricity only trifling when the apparatus has once been constructed.

Above each of the stations Tesla wants to build a high tower, over which will be suspended a large balloon. As the electricity is generated in the station below it is conveyed by cables to the tower, and thence to the balloon, where the electricity is set free into the atmosphere. As the atmosphere at this height is much rarefied, and as Tesla has demonstrated rarefied atmosphere to be a good conductor of electricity, the electricity which is thus set free will be carried on by the atmosphere to any indefinite distance.

The second part of the Tesla plan for transmitting electrical power without wires calls for the erection of receiving stations wherever desired. These will act as sort of receivers and storage houses for the electricity set free into the atmosphcre at the generating station miles away. Over each of the receiving stations will be put up a tower and a balloon, which will be equipped with the apparatus necessary to absorb the free electricity in the atmosphere and send it to the receiving station below, from which it can be sent out on wires to light the surrounding country and drive all the machinery of that particular district.

I have more faith in his plans for wireless telegraphy. That seems like a winner.

Leave a Reply