Tesla. "It seems," he says, "that I have always been
ahead of my time."
Editor's Note: Nikola Tesla, now in his seventy-eighth year, has been
called the father of radio, television, power transmission, the
induction motor, and the robot, and the discoverer of the cosmic ray.
Recently he has announced a heretofore unknown source of energy present
everywhere in unlimited amounts, and he is now working upon a device
which he believes will make war impracticable.
Tesla and Edison have often been represented as rivals. They were
rivals, to a certain extent, in the battle between the alternating and
direct current in which Tesla championed the former. He won; the great
power plants at Niagara Falls and elsewhere are founded on the Tesla
system. Otherwise the two men were merely opposites. Edison had a genius
for practical inventions immediately applicable. Tesla, whose inventions
were far ahead of the time, aroused antagonisms which delayed the
fruition of his ideas for years.
However, great physicists like Kelvin and Crookes spoke of his
inventions as marvelous. "Tesla," said Professor A. E.
Kennelly of Harvard University when the Edison medal was presented to
the inventor, "set wheels going round all over the world. . . .
What he showed was a revelation to science and art unto ail time."
"Were we," remarks B. A. Behrend, distinguished author and
engineer," to seize and to eliminate the results of Mr. Tesla's
work, the wheels of industry would cease to turn, our electric cars and
trains would stop, our towns would be dark, our mills would be dead and
Forecasting is perilous. No man can look very far into the future. Progress and
invention evolve in directions other than those anticipated. Such has
been my experience, although I may flatter myself that many of the
developments which I forecast have been verified by events in the first
third of the twentieth century.
It seems that I have always been ahead of my time. I had to wait
nineteen years before Niagara was harnessed by my system, fifteen years
before the basic inventions for wireless which I gave to the world in
1893 were applied universally. I announced the cosmic ray and my theory
of radio activity in 1896. One of my most important
discoveries--terrestrial resonance--which is the foundation of wireless
power transmission and which I announced in 1899, is not understood even
today. Nearly two years after I had flashed an electric current around
the globe, Edison, Steinmetz, Marconi, and others declared that it would
not be possible to transmit even signals by wireless across the
Atlantic. Having anticipated so many important developments, it is not
without assurance that I attempt to predict what life is likely to be in
the twenty-first century.
Life is and will ever remain an equation incapable of solution, but
it contains certain known factors. We may definitely say that it is a
movement even if we do not fully understand its nature. Movement implies
a body which is being moved and a force which propels it against
resistance. Man, in the large, is a mass urged on by a force. Hence the
general laws governing movement in the realm of mechanics are applicable
There are three ways by which the energy which determines human
progress can be increased: First, we may increase the mass. This, in the
case of humanity, would mean the improvement of living conditions,
health, eugenics, etc. Second, we may reduce the frictional forces which
impede progress, such as ignorance, insanity, and religious fanaticism.
Third, we may multiply the energy of the human mass by enchaining the
forces of the universe, like those of the sun, the ocean, the winds and
The first method increases food and well-being. The second tends to
bring peace. The third enhances our ability to work and to achieve.
There can be no progress that is not constantly directed toward
increasing well-being, peace, and achievement. Here the mechanistic
conception of life is one with the teachings of Buddha and the Sermon on
While I am not a believer in the orthodox sense, I commend religion,
first, because every individual should have some ideal--religious,
artistic, scientific, or humanitarian--to give significance to his life.
Second, because all the great religions contain wise prescriptions
relating to the conduct of life, which hold good now as they did when
they were promulgated.
There is no conflict between the ideal of religion and the ideal of
science, but science is opposed to theological dogmas because science is
founded on fact. To me, the universe is simply a great machine which
never came into being and never will end. The human being is no
exception to the natural order. Man, like the universe, is a machine.
Nothing enters our minds or determines our actions which is not directly
or indirectly a response to stimuli beating upon our sense organs from
without. Owing to the similarity of our construction and the sameness of
our environment, we respond in like manner to similar stimuli, and from
the concordance of our reactions, understanding is barn. In the course
of ages, mechanisms of infinite complexity are developed, but what we
call "soul " or "spirit," is nothing more than the
sum of the functionings of the body. When this functioning ceases, the
"soul" or the "spirit" ceases likewise.
I expressed these ideas long before the behaviorists, led by Pavlov
in Russia and by Watson in the United States, proclaimed their new
psychology. This apparently mechanistic conception is not antagonistic
to an ethical conception of life. The acceptance by mankind at large of
these tenets will not destroy religious ideals. Today Buddhism and
Christianity are the greatest religions both in number of disciples and
in importance. I believe that the essence of both will he the religion
of the human race in the twenty-first century.
The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past
ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out
the less desirable strains. Then man's new sense of pity began to
interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue
to keep alive and to breed the unfit. The only method compatible with
our notions of civilization and the race is to prevent the breeding of
the unfit by sterilization and the deliberate guidance of the mating
instinct, Several European countries and a number of states of the
American Union sterilize the criminal and the insane. This is not
sufficient. The trend of opinion among eugenists is that we must make
marriage more difficult. Certainly no one who is not a desirable parent
should be permitted to produce progeny. A century from now it will no
more occur to a normal person to mate with a person eugenically unfit
than to marry a habitual criminal.
Hygiene, physical culture will be recognized branches of education
and government. The Secretary of Hygiene or Physical Culture will he far
more important in the cabinet of the President of the United States who
holds office in the year 2035 than the Secretary of War. The pollution
of our beaches such as exists today around New York City will seem as
unthinkable to our children and grandchildren as life without plumbing
seems to us. Our water supply will he far more carefully supervised, and
only a lunatic will drink unsterilized water.
More people die or grow sick from polluted water than from coffee, tea,
tobacco, and other stimulants. I myself eschew all stimulants. I also
practically abstain from meat. I am convinced that within a century
coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue. Alcohol, however,
will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of
life. The abolition of stimulants will not come about forcibly. It will
simply be no longer fashionable to poison the system with harmful
ingredients. Bernarr Macfadden has shown how it is possible to provide
palatable food based upon natural products such as milk, honey, and
wheat. I believe that the food which is served today in his penny
restaurants will be the basis of epicurean meals in the smartest banquet
halls of the twenty-first century.
There will be enough wheat and wheat products to feed the entire
world, including the teeming millions of China and India, now
chronically on the verge of starvation. The earth is bountiful, and
where her bounty fails, nitrogen drawn from the air will refertilize her
womb. I developed a process for this purpose in 1900. It was perfected
fourteen years later under the stress of war by German chemists.
Long before the next century dawns, systematic reforestation and the
scientific management of natural resources will have made an end of all
devastating droughts, forest fires, and floods. The universal
utilization of water power and its long-distance transmission will
supply every household with cheap power and will dispense with the
necessity of burning fuel. The struggle for existence being lessened,
there should be development along ideal rather than material lines.
Today the most civilized countries of the world spend a maximum of
their income on war and a minimum on education. The twenty-first century
will reverse this order. It will be more glorious to fight against
ignorance than to die on the field of battle. The discovery of a new
scientific truth will be more important than the squabbles of diplomats.
Even the newspapers of our own day are beginning to treat scientific
discoveries and the creation of fresh philosophical concepts as news.
The newspapers of the twenty-first century will give a mere
"stick" in the back pages to accounts of crime or political
controversies, but will headline on the front pages the proclamation of
a new scientific hypothesis.
"It will be possible to destroy anything approaching within 200
miles. My invention will provide a wall of power," declares Tesla.
Progress along such lines will be impossible while nations persist in the savage
practice of killing each other off. I inherited from my father, an
erudite man who labored hard for peace, an ineradicable hatred of war.
Like other inventors, I believed at one time that war could he stopped
by making it more destructive. But I found that I was mistaken. I
underestimated man's combative instinct, which it will take more than a
century to breed out. We cannot abolish war by outlawing it. We cannot
end it by disarming the strong. War can be stopped, not by making the
strong weak but by making every nation, weak or strong, able to defend
Hitherto all devices that could be used for defense could also be
utilized to serve for aggression. This nullified the value of the
improvement for purposes of peace. But I was fortunate enough to evolve
a new idea and to perfect means which can be used chiefly for defense.
If it is adopted, it will revolutionize the relations between nations.
It will make any country, large or small, impregnable against armies,
airplanes, and other means for attack. My invention requires a large
plant, but once it is established it will he possible tb destroy
anything, men or machines, approaching within a radius of 200 miles. It
will, so to speak, provide a wall of power offering an insuperable
obstacle against any effective aggression.
If no country can be attacked successfully, there can be no purpose
in war. My discovery ends the menace of airplanes or submarines, but it
insures the supremacy of the battleship, because battleships may be
provided with some of the required equipment. There might still be war
at sea, but no warship could successfully attack the shore line, as the
coast equipment will be superior to the armament of any battleship.
I want to state explicitly that this invention of mine does not
contemplate the use of any so-called " death rays." Rays are
not applicable because they cannot be produced in requisite quantities
and diminish rapidly in intensity with distance. All the energy of New
York City (approximately two million horsepower) transformed into rays
and projected twenty miles, could not kill a human being, because,
according to a well known law of physics, it would disperse to such an
extent as to be ineffectual.
My apparatus projects particles which may.be relatively large or of
microscopic dimensions, enabling us to convey to a small area at a great
distance trillions of times more energy than is possible with rays of
any kind. Many thousands of horsepower can thus be transmitted by a
stream thinner than a hair, so that nothing can resist. This wonderful
feature will make it possible, among other things, to achieve
undreamed-of results in television, for there will be almost no limit to
the intensity of illumination, the size of the picture, or distance of
I do not say that there may not be several destructive wars before
the world accepts my gift. I may not live to see its acceptance. But I
am convinced that a century from now every nation will render itself
immune from attack by my device or by a device based upon a similar
At present we suffer from the derangement of our civilization because
we have not yet completely adjusted ourselves to the machine age. The
solution of our problems does not lie in destroying but in mastering the
Innumerable activities still performed by human hands today will be
performed by automatons. At this very moment scientists working in the
laboratories of American universities are attempting to create what has
been described as a "thinking machine." I anticipated this
I actually constructed "robots." Today the robot is an
accepted fact, but the principle has not been pushed far enough. In the
twenty-first century the robot will take the place which slave labor
occupied in ancient civilization. There is no reason at all why most of
this should not come to pass in less than a century, treeing mankind to
pursue its higher aspirations.
And unless mankind's attention is too violently diverted by external
wars and internal revolutions, there is no reason why the electric
millennium should not begin in a few decades.