EPISODE 000 – Introductions

This is a story of America in the late 19th Century—the Gilded Age. It’s a story of New York City before the automobile. It’s a story of robber barons, of industry, and of inventions that would change the world. And it’s the story of one man—one inventor—in particular: Nikola Tesla.

In this 000 episode, I’ll introduce myself, my plans for the podcast, and just what you can expect from this on-going look at the life, inventions, and legacy of Nikola Tesla. And we’ll do our best over the course of this series to separate the man and his incredible real life from the myths that have sprung up about him

EPISODE 001 – Childhood (1856-1861)

Nikola Tesla was born at the stroke of midnight between July 9 and 10, 1856. In this episode, we’ll learn about Tesla’s childhood years on the rural frontier of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and how early tragedy and a contentious relationship with his father would shape the rest of his life and give him the abilities he needed to make later breakthrough innovations in electricity.

EPISODE 002 – School Days (1861-1874)

This week, we’ll cover Tesla’s schooling from the time he first enrolled in primary school, right up until he heads off for engineering school in the late 1870s. It’s a major turning point in Tesla’s life, and it makes sense to break there until next time.

EPISODE 003 – Big Man on Campus (1874 – 1877)

Tesla goes on the lamb not once but twice, with a bit of schooling and a bit of gambling and at least one brush with death keeping him busy in between.

EPISODE 004 – Frustrated Montage Years (1878-1882)

If Tesla’s life were a movie, these would be the “montage years”–five years edited down into a few minutes (probably with melancholy music playing underneath) showing us that things didn’t work out for our hero for a long time until his big break came at the end of Act 1.

EPISODE 005 – A Walk in the Park (1882)

The solution to Tesla’s alternating current motor problem came to him as a ‘eureka’ moment during a walk in the park in 1882: the rotating magnetic field, and the induction motor. The applications of this innovation would literally change the world.

EPISODE 006 – Is Paris Electrified? (1882-1884)

We follow Tesla to Paris and a job with the new Edison lighting company there. In Paris, Telsa gains his first real, practical exposure to the nitty-gritty of designing and building dynamos and motors, and gets a taste for just how good the good life can be.

EPISODE 007 – Tesla vs Edison: Round 1

The episode you’ve all been waiting for! Tesla arrives in New York City and takes a job with Thomas Edison. See the seeds of a life-long rivalry sown because of a broken million-dollar promise. It’s Tesla vs. Edison: Round 1–let’s get ready to rummmble!

EPISODE 008 – A Scandalously Short History of the Gilded Age

It is the era in which Tesla made his greatest breakthroughs and inventions, and the era in which he found fame and fortune: the Gilded Age. Today, a whirlwind tour of America in the Gilded Age–its time; its big themes; and how it changed United States (and Tesla!) forever.

EPISODE 009 – How Tesla (Eventually) Got His Groove Back

Not long after Tesla stormed out on Edison opportunity came knocking again…as did further betrayal and disappointment. But with the help of new business partners, Tesla was on his way to becoming a truly world-changing figure.

EPISODE 010 – Patent. Promote. Sell. (1887-1888)

Tesla was cranking out break-through inventions as fast as his partners could patent them. Plans to promote and sell them culminated in Tesla’s full-on arrival as a cutting edge figure in the electrical field with his groundbreaking address to the American Institute of Electrical Engineers.

EPISODE 011 – Paying the Cost to Be the Boss

You could call this episode: “Tesla: The Art of the Deal”, as we see Tesla and his business partners Peck and Brown bluff, finagle, and finally negotiate the lucrative sale of the AC motor patents to George Westinghouse. The sale changed Tesla’s life–and ours–forever.

EPISODE 012 – Tesla in Steel City (1889)

Did the Westinghouse engineers want Tesla to fail in Pittsburgh? He went to consult, but all Tesla found was a hornet’s nest of resentment, ego, and competing agendas. And what was Edison up to now that Westinghouse was a threat to his DC business? A current war is in the offing…

EPISODE 013 – War of the Currents Part 1: Opening Salvo (1886-1888)

The War of the Currents begins! Edison uses every dirty trick he can think of in the struggle for DC dominance vs. the AC upstart. There can be only one (format)!

EPISODE 014 -War of the Currents Part 2: First Casualties (1888)

War is hell, even when it’s the War of the Currents. Harold Brown’s campaign against AC turns deadly, as he conducts gruesome electrical experiments on stray dogs, and helps set the stage for New York’s first electric chair…

EPISODE 015 – War of the Currents Part 3: Shock & Awe (1888-1889)

When New York became the first state to execute people using the electric chair, Edison and his DC supporters would do anything to ensure it was alternating current that powered “Old Sparky”…

EPISODE 016 – War of the Currents Part 4: The Executioner’s Current (1889-1890)

The War of the Currents enters its most ghoulish and macabre phase: when the combatants were willing to play with a man’s life. William Kemmler became the first person put to death by deliberate electrocution. Viewer discretion is very much advised.

EPISODE 017 – The Biggest Mistake Nikola Tesla Ever Made (1890-1891)

Fresh from his return from Europe, Tesla goes on an inventing spree and dabbles in high-frequency currents. But when George Westinghouse comes calling and pleads poverty, Tesla makes a fateful and costly mistake…

EPISODE 018 – The Greatest Show On Earth (1891)

Tesla the Showman knocks ’em dead at the AIEE with a lecture for the ages and a breathtaking demonstration of high-frequency AC. It was his ticket to fame and celebrity.

EPISODE 019 – Order of the Flaming Sword (1891-1892)

When his colleagues in the AC field start turning on him, Tesla uses an invitation to lecture in London to reassert his place as the inventor of the AC motor and to dazzle Victorian London with all-new discoveries.

EPISODE 020 – A Most Painful Ordeal (1892)

Tesla’s trip to the Continent would take an emotional and physical toll that he couldn’t have imagined. But he nevertheless returned from Europe with the big idea that would dominate the rest of his career.

EPISODE 021 – War of the Currents Part 5: The Second Front (1890 – 1892)

Edison and Westinghouse battle over lightbulbs and high finance as we return to the trenches of the War of the Currents, and see how the war whittled itself down from fifteen combatants to just two…

EPISODE 022 – War of the Currents Part 6: The Battle of Chicago (1892)

Westinghouse makes an 11th-hour bid to electrify the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 with Tesla’s AC system and GE will do anything to torpedo the deal. Welcome to Thunderdome: two bids enter, one bid leaves…

EPISODE 023 – Tesla in the White City

It was the Fair That Changed America. And it was the chance for Tesla and Westinghouse to show the world the power of their AC system. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition made Tesla a household name and changed his life forever.

EPISODE 024 – Good Vibrations (1893)

Just what was Tesla up to on the side while working with Westinghouse on both the World’s Fair and the bid to win the contract to electrify Niagara Falls?