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Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) the father of Radio Technology and Wireless Communication since 1893
By Nenad N. Bach and Darko Žubrinić
Published on 07/21/2023

The principles of Radio Communication and Wireless Communication were layed down by Nikola Tesla, distinguished Croatian - American inventor, in 1893, during his spectacular public lecture in the St Louis concert hall, in front of 5000 people. The event was described in detail by Margaret Chaney in her monograph Tesla / Man Out of Time, in Chapter 6 entitled Radio. We provide an important testimony by William Gundry Broughton, son of Henry Primm Broughton (1865-1959) who served as Tesla's assistant during his lecture in St. Louis. Nikola Tesla is the precurusor of mobile-phone technology for more than hundred years.

Marking 130 years since the public lecture of Nikola Tesla in front of 5000 people in St. Louis in 1893

In 1941 Nikola Tesla invited to lunch with him in New York a famous Croatian-American boxer Fritzie Zivich,
known under the pseudonym The Croat Comet (as well as his brothers, who were also boxers),
after his successful defense of the world title in welter-weight category.
From left to right: Joe Zivic, Fritzie Zivic, Nikola Tesla, Jack Zivic, Pete Zivic and Eddie Zivic.
As we can see, contrary to widespread opinion, Nikola Tesla was a very social person.

The Croat Comet Fritzie Zivich (originally Živčić) and Nikola Tesla
Fritzie Zivic was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993.

During his 1893 lecture in St. Louis, Nikola Tesla showed for the first time in history the fundamentals of Radio Technology and of Wireless Communication. This is described in detail by Margareth Cheney in her monograph Tesla / Man Out of Time (published in 1981), in Chapter 6 entitled "Radio".

From that monograph, we learn that during his public lecture in St. Louis, Nikola Tesla had the assistant Henry Primm Broughton (1865-1959). Henry's son William Gundry Broughton (1902-1994), in his public lecture delivered in 1976, informed about experiments assisted by his father Henry, proving without any doubt that Tesla should be credited for the discovery of Radio Technology and Wireless communication. See Chapter 6 ("Radio") of the aforementioned monograph by Margaret Cheney.

Here, we quote the following short passage from her book:

On August 31, 1892, The Electrical Engineer reported the return to New York of Mr. Nikola Tesla, the distinguished electrician, on the steamship Augusta Victoria from Hamburg. After commenting on the death of Tesla's mother and his subsequent illness, the journal added: "His magnificent reception at the hands of European electricians has become, like his investigations and researches, part of electrical history; and the honors conferred on him were such as to make Americans very proud of one who has chosen this country as a home."

He moved scientific history forward again in the spring of 1893 when, addressing the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the National Electric Light Association at St. Louis, he described in detail the principles of radio broadcasting.

At St. Louis he made the first public demonstration ever of radio communication, although Marconi is generally credited with having achieved this feat in 1895. Tesla's twenty-eight-year-old assistant at the St. Louis lecture was H. P. Broughton, whose son, William G. Broughton, is licensee of the Schenectady Museum memorial amateur radio station W21R. At the station's dedication speech in 1976 William Broughton touched upon highlights of Tesla's historic demonstration at St. Louis - after a week's preparation - as personally told to him by his father.

"Eighty-three years ago, in St. Louis, the National Electric Light Association sponsored a public lecture on high-voltage high-frequency phenomena," said the younger Broughton. "On the auditorium stage a demonstration was set up by using two groups of equipment. "In the transmitter group on one side of the stage was a 5-kva high-voltage pole- type oil-filled distribution transformer connected to a condenser bank of Leyden jars, a spark gap, a coil, and a wire running up to the ceiling."

"In the receiver group at the other side of the stage was an identical wire hanging from the ceiling, a duplicate condenser bank of Leyden jars and coil - but instead of the spark gap, there was a Geissler tube that would light up like a modern fluorescent lamp bulb when voltage was applied. There were no interconnecting wires between transmitter and receiver. "The transformer in the transmitter group," Broughton continued, "was energized from a special electric power line through an exposed two-blade knife switch. When this switch was closed, the transformer grunted and groaned, the Leyden jars showed corona sizzling around their foil edges, the spark gap crackled with a noisy spark discharge, and an invisible electromagnetic field radiated energy into space from the transmitter antenna wire.

"Simultaneously, in the receiver group, the Geissler tube lighted up from radio- frequency excitation picked up by the receiver antenna wire. "Thus wireless was born. A wireless message had been transmitted by the 5- kilowatt spark transmitter, and instantly received by the Geissler-tube receiver thirty feet away.... "The world-famous genius who invented, conducted, and explained this lecture demonstration," he concluded, "was Nikola Tesla."

Although the St. Louis demonstration was no "message sent 'round the world" as Tesla would doubtless of course have preferred it to be, he had nevertheless demonstrated all the fundamental principles of modern radio:

  1. an antenna or aerial wire;
  2. a ground connection;
  3. an aerial-ground circuit containing inductance and capacity;
  4. adjustable inductance and capacity (for tuning);
  5. sending and receiving sets tuned to resonance with each other; and
  6. electronic tube detectors.

Margaret Cheney

... The Smithsonian Institution has never adequately credited Tesla for his invention of radio. They have tended to call Marconi the "father of radio," and they have tended to give Edison credit for Tesla's work in alternating current, although Edison didn't work in that area at all. ... Source (Excerpt from an interview).

Predecessors of the idea of radio prior to Nikola Tesla were Joseph Henry (1840, the unit of inductance was named after him), Samuel Morse (Morse telegraphy, 1844), James Clerk Maxwell (with his theoretical discovery of electromagnetic waves, 1864), Mahlon Loomis (1865), Alexander Graham Bell (the first practical telephone and headset, 1876), William Preece (1885), Heinrich Rudolph Hertz (experimental confirmation of existence of electromagnetic waves, 1887-1888), Edouard Branly (coherer, 1890).

After Nikola Tesla's spectacular 1893 lecture in St. Louis, we mention the following contributors to the history of radio technology: Aleksandar S. Popov (1895), Guiglielmo Marconi (1895, founder of Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company in 1897), Ferdinand Braun (cathode-ray tube, 1897, since 1920 used for electronic TV), John Ambrose Fleming (constructor of vacuum tube or diode in 1904), Lee de Forest (triode vacuum tube, 1906), etc. We have indicated only the years of the first contributions of the corresponding persons.

The first radio-amateur association was founded in 1914 the USA: ARRL (American Radio Relay League). The first such association in Croatia was founded in 1924: Radio klub Zagreb.

The first radio-amateur journal "QST" was issued by ARRL since 1919. The first Croatian radio-amateur journal appeared in 1924: "Radio Šport", published by Radio klub Zagreb.

Nikola Tesla was born in Croatia in 1856, where he lived until the age of 19 (i.e., until 1875). He spent the last two thirds of his life (that is, nearly 60 years) in the USA, where he died in 1943. He also lived in Austria, Hungary, France, Germany, Slovenia, during about eight years.

Henry Primm Broughton K2AE (1865-1959)
Electrical & Mechanical Engineer, BS Cornell Univ 1890

At the time of Mr. Broughton's death it was determined he was the oldest active hamoperator in the world.

Henry Primm Broughton, distinguished American radio-amater,
and Tesla's assistant in St. Louis during his lecture in 1893.

In 1997, The Schenectady ARA INC. (ARA = American Radio Association) established a scholarship intended to honor the memory of Henry P. Broughton, K2AE, whose early work with Nikola Tesla exemplified the pioneering efforts of early radio experimenters and who was a distinguished member of the club.

Tesla i Fritzie Zivich
Nikola Tesla in good spirits with three of the Zivic brothers (1941): Eddie, Pete and Fritzie. Source.

Navodimo zanimljiv primjer iz knjige "Nikola Tesla" ruskog auktora koji se zove Grant Konstantinovič Cverava, koji pri kraju str. br. 47 citira Františeka Žureka, Čeha koji se u Pragu upoznao s Teslom (s ruskog izvornika preveo DŽ):

Manje škrt opis, podgrijan osobnim susretima, možemo izvući iz "Uspomena o Nikoli Tesli" koje je napisao František Žurek, student Karolinuma [Karlovo sveučilište u Pragu; DŽ], i objavio u praškim novinama "Narodni politika" 1927. "S njim sam se upoznao 80tih godina prošlog stoljeća [19. st.; DŽ], - pisao je Žurek, - u tadašnjem kafeu "Nacional" u Vodničkovoj ulici. Kafe je bio omiljeno susretište studenata. Ovdje su se okupljali i poznati umjetnici, među njima i skladatelji Smetana i Dvoržak. Dvorana, čiji prozori su gledali na ulicu, bila je za biljar. Student Nikola Tesla je bio nenadmašnim mjastorom ove igre... Davao je partneru prednost od 48 bodova od 50 mogućih, i pobjeđivao.

... (na početku sljedeće str. br. 48) ...

Tesla je bio visok, vitak i mrašav mladić s preplanulim licem bez brkova i nemarno povezanom kravatom... Bio je plemenit, dobar i skroman čovjek bez velikih prohtjeva, koji je svojim sarkastičnim osmjehom davao utisak odraslog i razumnog muškarca. Iako je bio Hrvat, češki je govorio jako dobro. Tadašnje studente [u Pragu; DŽ] su iznenađivale njegove matematička znanja... Tijekom nekog vremena sreo sam se s njim u nekadašnjoj Kraljevskoj javnoj knjižnici u Klementinumu [sadašnja Nacionlna knjižnica u Pragu; DŽ]. Tih smo se godine svi zanimali za Byrona. Čitao sam njegove stihove u prijevodu na njemački, uspoređujući s engleskim izvornikom. Odjednom se kao priviđenje preda mnom pojavio Tesla i njegova košćata ruka se ispružila prema mojoj knjizi. On mi je predložio da počnem čitati početak bilo kojeg stiha, a on će nastaviti napamet recitirati kasniji tekst, ako želim i do kraja knjige. Nakon nekoliko pokusa uvjerio sam se da on doista zna napamet cijelog Byrona. To se može učiniti nevjerojatnim, ali je istina.24

Prilažemo izvornik na ruskom jeziku:
Tesla i Fritzie Zivich
Opis Nikole Tesle koji je napisao Čeh František Žurek, objavljen u knjizi "Nikola Tesla" (Grant K. Cverava, 1974.) pri kraju str. br. 47.

Na početku sljedeće str. br. 48 čitamo sljedeće:
Tesla i Fritzie Zivich
Nastavak Žurekovog opisa Nikole Tesle početku sljedeće str. br. 48.

Evo i bilježke br. 24 na dnu str. 48:

Tesla i Fritzie Zivich
Bilježka br. 24 u knjizi "Nikola Tesla" iz 1974., na dnu str. 48, u kojoj auktor knjige (Grant K. Cverava), zahvaljuje kolegi u Pragu (dr. Oldržih Ongalek) na pronađenom članku Františeka Žureka iz 1927., koji do tada nije bio primijećen.
Zahvaljujem g. Mariu Filipiju na informaciji o svjedočenju Františeka Žureka objavljenom u knjizi "Nikola Tesla" koju je napisao Grant Konstantinovič Cverava 1974.

Source: Nikola Tesla and Croatians

Radio Sport from 1924, official weekly of the Radio-Club Zagreb (founded that same year),
with a portrait of Nikola Tesla on its front page.
Source of the photo: Radio-Club Zagreb.

The earliest radio-amateur journl in Croatia "Radio Šport" appeared in 1924, just five years after
the first such journla in the USA ("QST", published by ARRL).
On the above photo, note the horizontal antenna on the Upper Town of the city of Zagreb,
connecting the Lotrščak Tower on the right with the building on the left.

The Lotrščak Tower in the Upper Town of the City of Zagreb in 2023.
On the top of it, a city cannon is placed announcing noon every day.
Awaiting the sound of the city cannon in front of the Lotrščak Tower in Zagreb, just a minute before noon.
This has become a great attraction for tourists visiting Croatian capital.
Another attraction is the Zagreb Cable-Car (ZET Uspinjača), connecting the Upper and the Lower City.
Here, ZET = The Zagreb Electric Tram.

The Zagreb City Assembly is near the church of St. Mark, on the right the building of Sabor - Croatian Deit,
not far from the Lotrščak Tower.
From Lotrščak Tower, there is just about 150 meters of walking to the place where Nikola Tesla delivered his
one-hour lecture in 1892 (24th May), upon the invitation of Dr. Milan Amruš, the then Mayor of the City.
Nikola Tesla said the following during his visit to the Mayor of the city of Zagreb:
Smatram svojom dužnošću da kao rođeni sin svoje zemlje
pomognem gradu Zagrebu u svakom pogledu savjetom i činom
(I consider it to be my duty, as a born son of my homeland,
to help the city of Zagreb in every respect by advice and action.)

Nikola Tesla visited Zagreb in May 22-26, 1892 (i.e., during five days) and slept in a hotel just 10 minutes of walking
from Lotrščak Tower, at Ilica 4 (where the contemporary NAMA store is placed).
Also, in about 12 minutes of walking from Lotrščak, one arrives to the Nikola Tesla street in Zagreb, and to the monument built in his honor,
carved by Ivan Meštrović, the greatest Croatian sculptor in history.

Spomenik Nikole Tesle koji je napravio Ivan Meštrović, najveći hrvatski kipar u povijesti.
Postavljen je u Zagrebu. (Izvor fotografije Flickr.)
Sasvim blizu tog spomenika nalazi se ulica Nikole Tesle u Zagrebu.

Ivan Meštrović, distinguished Croatian-American sculptor, about Nikola Tesla

Ivan Meštrović, distinguished Croatian sculptor, wrote the following about Tesla's idealism:
His ideal and all of his efforts were directed towards the advancement of Mankind. After that, he turned to mysticism and recounted to me, that he was since his youth praying to God before going to sleep, kneeling on bare knees. When I asked him, which prayers does he pray, he answered to me:

- Those, that I prayed since my childhood. But, yes, I prayed so until my fifties. Since then, I pray differently, but the essence is the same, and I pray to God every day.

Ivan Meštrović: Uspomene na političke ljude i dogadjaje (Reminiscences of Political People and Events), Buenos Aires, 1961., Knjižnica Hrvatske revije. (pp. 191-193); or Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 1969 (pp. 169-170)

Nikola Tesla's public lecture delivered on March 1, 1893 in St. Louis, in a concert hall in front of five thosand people!

Mario Filipi, Mario Essert, and Darko Žubrinić, at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing
of the University of Zagreb, in 2022.

Many thanks to Mario Filipi (Zagreb) for his kind information about Tesla's assistant Henry P. Broughton.
See his book Nikola Tesla Beneath the Cobwebs, Samobor 2023 (in particular, pp. 283-286).