from "The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla - Biography of a Genius"

by Marc J.Seifer

from NikolaTesla Website

recovered through WayBackMachine Website




1. Please explain Tesla's "Death Ray" machine he spoke about in the 1930's. Was it a laser or a particle beam accelerator?

Tesla's work on particle beam weapons can be traced all the way back to 1893 with his invention of a button lamp, and again to 1896 when he replicated the work of William Roentgen, discoverer of X-rays. At that time, Tesla was "shooting" X-rays over considerable distances, creating photographs of skeletons sometimes as far away as 40 feet from the source of the gun. Tesla was also involved in experiments with shooting cathode rays at targets. This and similar work from one of Tesla's British colleagues, J.J. Thompson, led to the discovery, by Thompson, of the electron. During that period in the mid-1890's, Tesla conversed often with Thompson, particularly in the electrical journals.

At about the year 1918, Tesla apparently had a laser-like apparatus that he shot at the moon. From studying his great 1893 work THE INVENTIONS, RESEARCHES AND WRITINGS OF NIKOLA TESLA, it is apparent that the button lamp discussed above had all of the components necessary to create a laser beam.

This lamp was so constructed so as to place a piece of matter such as carbon, or a diamond or a ruby, in the center, and bombard this "button" with electrical energy that would bounce off the button onto the inside of the globe and bounce back onto the button. If this were a ruby, and Tesla specifically worked with rubies, then is exactly how a ruby laser is created. Tesla refers in INVENTIONS to a "pencil-thin" line of light that was created with this device. It is my belief that Tesla not only invented the ruby laser in 1893, but he also demonstrated it and published it's results. The problem with the device was that it was set up so as to "vaporize," or destroy, the button, so that the laser effects were probably short-lived.

However, if we jump ahead to the 1918 story, which was told to me by Coleman Czito's grandson's wife, it is very possible that Tesla used the same or similar kind of apparatus to send laser pulses to the moon.

Now, to get to the particle beam weapon, this is an entirely separate invention and evolved from, all things, a pop gun that he used as a boy. The pop gun works by pumping air into the barrel and causing the cork to come barreling out. This gun could be used to shoot targets and small animals, and Tesla discusses this gun in his autobiography.

What Tesla realized was that a "ray" would not have the energy requirement to be destructive. Also, even if he had a laser, or laser-like ray, it would still disperse somewhat, over long distances. So Tesla came to the conclusion that instead of shooting a ray of light, he would shoot microscopic pellets. The stream could not disperse because, theoretically, it would be one pellet thick.

After studying the Van de Graaff electrostatic generator, which used a cardboard belt to generate the high voltages, Tesla came to utilize the same essential set-up to generate tremendous charges, but he replaced the belt with an ionized stream of air and then used this electrified stream to "repel" the small pellets which were made out of tungsten. These pellets were shot out of an open-ended vacuum tube which was shaped in the form of a cannon.


It is my belief that this device, which was presented to the International Tesla Society by the late Dr. Andrija Puharich at the 1984 Tesla Centennial Symposium (and published in that proceedings as, essentially, Tesla's 1937 top secret patent application), was designed to be as large as the tower at Wardenclyffe. The shaft, which could have been as tall as 100 feet, would contain the "belt" of ionized stream of air.


The round bulbous part of the tower would continue to circulate the ionized stream and hold the charge, and out the top of the tower there would be the long barrel of the gun. Such a machine, which Tesla tried to sell during World War II to the United States, England, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, would be able to shoot down incoming planes at distances of about 300 miles.


Proof that this device was given to the Soviets has been established by such individuals as Colonel Tom Bearden, who points out that the May 2, 1977 issue of AVIATION WEEK, displays a picture of a Soviet particle beam weapon, (along with the accompanying 7000 word article) that is almost a carbon copy of the picture in Tesla's 1937 patent application, which, as stated above has been published in the ITS 1984 proceedings.

A question remains as to whether or not Tesla actually constructed a particle beam weapon. I believe that when looks at this question from a historical standpoint, we see that he had been working on this and similar devices for over 30 years. Thus, it is my opinion that Tesla did, indeed, construct a working model. At the age of 81, at a luncheon in his honor, concerning the Death Ray, Tesla stated,

"But it is not an experiment.... I have built, demonstrated and used it. Only a little time will pass before I can give it to the world."



2. Was Tesla actually killed, or did he die of natural causes? How can we know either way for sure?

Tesla was always a very thin man, and even as far back as the 1890's, he drove himself to exhaustion on many occasions. In 1893, speaking at the Chicago World's Fair, the dignitaries attending were so concerned about him that he said the following:

"A number of scientific men asked a group of electricians to deliver a lecture. A great many promised that they would come [but] when the program was sifted down, I was the only healthy man left, and so I have managed to take some of my apparatus and give you a brief outline of some of my work."

Katharine Johnson also, on many occasions, worried about Tesla's health and refusal to eat a substantial meal.

Through the years, Tesla began to give up meat, and eventually some time in the 1930's, he just about gave up solid foods altogether. He drank bowls of warm milk and a combination potion made from the hearts of numerous vegetables such as artichokes and celery. He also ate honey.

By the time he was in his 80's he was cadaverously thin. The last published photo of him when he was 86 is clear that he was close to death. It is such a scary picture that I have refused to display it at any of the lectures. He is much thinner in this picture than the famous one taken just a few months before when he met with his nephew, Sava Kosanovic, ambassador from Yugoslavia, and the exiled King Peter, of Serbia. It is my belief that Tesla simply died of old age. He was 86. But I also think that he hastened his death through his anorexic eating style.



3. Did Nikola Tesla cause the explosion in Tunguska, Siberia in 1908?

According to Tesla's recollection in the Leland Anderson edition of Tesla's testimony to his lawyer in 1916 (Nikola Tesla and His Work in Alternating Currents), the tower was used in some fashion until 1907.


However, its larger functions actually became disoperational in 1903 when the Westinghouse company came in to remove vital equipment. Therefore Tesla did not have the equipment to create such an explosion five years later. Further, according to Dr. James Corum, in a recent phone interview, (June 5, 1997), the tower had the capability of producing only about 300 kilowatts (six times what many radio stations produce) and delivering 10 kilowatts of power to the opposite side of the earth.


This would be approximately enough energy to light a light bulb.


A tremendous feat in its own right, however, nowhere near the amount of power required to create the Tunguska explosion. Corum stated that the problem in transmitting the kind of tremendous power required is that the air around the transmitter breaks down thereby rendering the machine inoperable.


Recent estimates in the book The Day The Sky Split Apart by Roy Gallant, (1995, Simon & Schuster), state that the Tunguska explosion created devastation in an area which approximated the size of Rhode Island, and released energy 2,000 times greater than the atom bomb that was dropped at Hiroshima. (watch video about Tunguska´s Explosion, "click" HERE).


According to Corum, it would be essentially impossible to transmit energy to achieve this result.


However, Corum went on, if Tesla had the capability to release merely 1% of the earth's magnetic charge, that could create the amount of energy to achieve a Tunguska-like explosion. He did not think that Tesla did this, however.


Photos taken from the site of the Siberian explosion reveal numerous trees flattened, much like the trees looked after the volcanic eruption of Mt. St. Helens, which occurred recently in Washington. I do not believe that Tesla had the technology or the inclination to use Wardenclyffe to deliver the kind of energy necessary to create such a disaster.


Tesla certainly discussed the idea of using a Wardenclyffe like tower to shoot down incoming aircraft, via a particle beam weapon, and as a completely separate concept, he also discussed the idea of creating earthquakes, which could be engendered in a variety of ways, e.g., by bringing buildings down by placing oscillators on their main support beams, or by setting off gigantic dynamite charges timed to a resonant earth frequency.


So where did the idea that Tesla caused the explosion in Tunguska originate? (His name is not mentioned in the highly credible Gallant book.)


The answer is probably threefold:

  1. through Tesla's own writings whereby he says on May 3, 1907, in the New York World, just one year before the Tunguska explosion, that his "magnifying transmitter" has already produced 25 million horse power, and that "a similar and much improved machine now under construction, will make it possible to attain maximum explosive rates of over 800 million horse power." Tesla also states in this article and in an article the following year in Wireless Telegraphy & Telephone, 1908, pp. 67-71, that he will be able to direct electrical energy "with great precision" to any point of the globe


  2. through Col. Tom Bearden's writings and through the speculations of Bearden's associate


  3. through the statements of the late Dr. Andrija Puharich. It is Bearden's contention that a so called "Tesla wave" disturbs the very fabric of space-time. Therefore, it could, potentially, create an instantaneous disaster at some distant point. Bearden has also suggested that the Russians during the cold war, experimented along these lines. Realistically, I would think that it would still be highly unlikely for such a weapon to presently exist. Rather, a large Wardenclyffe type tower might be able to disrupt the electrical grid at some prescribed target causing a blackout, or some similar phenomena. And even that technology is probably still decades or generations away

Bearden, however, is not alone in these kind of speculations. A September 14, 1973 article in Nature by A.A. Jackson and M.P. Ryan speculates that the Tunguska event might have been due the earth's interaction with a mini black hole.

Influenced by Bearden's writings and similar theories, and also influenced by Tesla's own assertion that a Wardenclyffe like tower could be used as a death ray, apparently Puharich was the first to suggest that Tesla caused the Tunguska explosion. At least, that is the contention of Tad Wise, author of the recent novelized Tesla biography.


Wise told me last year, that he was greatly intrigued by Puharich's suggestion and therefore placed it in his Tesla book. As Wise's book is part fiction, this was completely acceptable. However, it was taken as fact, particularly when Wise had the same story aired on FOX TV on a show on Tesla. See also, Oliver Nichelson quoted in The Fantastic Inventions of Nikola Tesla by D.H. Childress, pp. 255-257.

It is my belief that the explosion at Tunguska was probably caused by a meteor or small comet. This view takes into account the eye-witness reports by local tribesmen of a fiery object with a long tail hitting or passing by the area in June of 1908. In 1986, Louis Frank from the University of Iowa, theorized that the oceans that make up the planet were caused by comets that bombard the earth over tens of millions of years. Comets are mostly ice, and they would melt when entering the earth's atmosphere. Although the theory was initially laughed at, according to the June 9, 1997 issue of US News & World Report, NASA has been able to photograph "between five and 30 comets [some as large as a house] hitting the upper atmosphere every minute." They then break up and eventually reach the earth as rain.

Nickolai Vasiliev, in his introduction to the Gallant book, hypothesizes that the Tunguska comet, actually skipped along the atmosphere like a rock on a lake, which created an explosion two or three miles above ground, and that the object never actually hit the earth. He notes that in 1989, an asteroid traveling at 40,000 mph, missed the earth by a mere four hundred thousand miles.


The moon is 240,000 miles from the earth. As no meteor or comet fragment has been found at the Tunguska site, Vasiliev's theory holds merit, although it may have been an asteroid instead of a comet.



4.  I have heard that Tesla was working on the Philadelphia Experiment. To what extent did he participate?

As you probably know, there is a lot of controversy about the Philadelphia Experiment, and what really occurred. There is one theory that an entire ship was made to disappear and then reappear someplace else.


One explanation is that this was done by dematerializing and then rematerializing the ship. A more likely scenario is that the ship disappeared on the radar screen and then reappeared later. This can be done in a variety of ways, by either creating a special electrical field that is hard to detect, or by making the skin of the ship out of some material, such as Kevlar, which is a polyurethane fiber that absorbs the electromagnetic energy thereby preventing the radar beams from bouncing off the hull, and thus giving the position of the ship away. The stealth bomber has a skin made up of a compound that absorbs radar beams.

Tesla's link to the
Philadelphia Experiment is often tied to his supposed association with Albert Einstein. I have completed an exhaustive study of Tesla's relationship to Albert Einstein and found out that there is no correspondence between them other than the famous letter Einstein sent to Tesla on Tesla's 75th birthday. There are no letters in either the Tesla Museum in Belgrade or the Einstein archives which are in Israel at the University of Jerusalem.

Tesla has been linked to Einstein because of a famous photo which was taken on April 23, 1921 in New Brunswick, New Jersey in celebration of a new RCA transatlantic broadcasting station that was being put in operation. Present at the event were scientists and corporate heads from RCA, GE and AT&T including Charles Steinmetz, Irving Langmuir, David Sarnoff and Albert Einstein. Standing in between Steinmetz and Einstein was a man who resembled Nikola Tesla. I, myself, thought it was Tesla, and wrote an article which included this assumption for the 1986 ITS Symposium. Margaret Cheney and also R.G. Williams in their respective biographies also did the same thing.

After conferring with Leland Anderson and searching back to original sources which included the an article in the New York Herald, and the original caption for the photo, it has been determined that the man standing between Einsten and Steinmetz was one John Carson, who was an engineer for AT&T. This photo has also been doctored to air-brush out all individuals except for Einstein and Steinmetz by the GE people who use it to imply a special relationship between Steinmetz and Einstein.

The real reason why Einstein wrote Tesla was because of Kenneth Swezey, who was helping care for Tesla in the 1920's, 30's and early 40's, and who was writing a series of articles on the great inventor. Swezey had befriended Einsten in the early 1920's after writing a treatise on relativity, and Einsten essentially wrote the letter as a favor to Swezey. Please also see my recent article Taking on Einstein in the Jan/Feb/March issue of Extraordinary Science.

So Tesla never really had a personal relationship with Einstein, nor is it likely that he worked on the Philadelphia Experiment. Tesla, however, did work on radar inventions about 1903 and later around the time of WWI, which were outcroppings from his work at Wardenclyffe.



5. Did Tesla ever marry or have a serious relationship which may have precluded marriage?

In the mid 1920's, Tesla told Dragislav Petkovich, a Serbian reporter for Politika (Beograd, April 27, 1927), that he had never touched a woman, but that he had also fallen in love once in his life while he was student. The girl's name was apparently Anna, and Tesla probably met her in Gospic on one of his trips back to his home town. Tesla kept in touch with Anna, and she eventually had a son who Tesla looked after when he came to New York City at the turn of the century. Unfortunately, this boy was interested in boxing, and died in his first boxing match.

Later, of course, Tesla was captivated by a number of women such as playwright and musical composer Marguerite Merrington (who never married) and also Robert Johnson's wife Katharine. Tesla essentially took a vow of celibacy because he had devoted himself to science and felt that he would not have the time to pursue his interests if he had a wife and family to care for. Tesla was also friendly with many other women, many of whom were married to wealthy financiers. These included Anne Morgan (who never married), daughter of J. Pierpont Morgan, Ava Astor, wife of John Jacob Astor, and Mrs. Corine Robinson, who was Teddy Roosevelt's sister.

Tesla's sexuality, however, has always remained a mystery. Margaret Cheney suggests in her biography that Tesla may have been a homosexual, and this is repeated in Paul Baker's book on Stanford White. I have discovered no evidence to support this theory. I believe, essentially, that Tesla was more interested in inventing than in complicated heterosexual liaisons. Later in life he showered his affection on the city pigeons, and clearly transferred some of his romantic inclinations onto one particular white pigeon with brown tipped wings, which he told John O'Neill that he loved like a man would love a women.

Tesla was also influenced by such Buddhists as Swami Vivekananda, and thus believed that if he could transform his sexual energy through celibacy, he would raise his brain output to a higher level. A strong proponent of self-denial, and, essentially a spiritual man, it is likely that much of his passion was simply redirected into his work.



6. How did Tesla handle adverse situations like losing his financing for the Wardenclyffe project.

As discussed in my article on Wardenclyffe in the last issue of Extraordinary Science, (April/May/June 1996), Tesla lost his financing for Wardenclyffe because he ran out of money, in part, because he decided to build a larger tower than was contracted for with J.Pierpont Morgan. Tesla's first major falling out with Morgan occurred in August of 1901, shortly after Morgan's return from Europe, and this was during the Wall Street Panic of 1901.


A few months later, Marconi sent the first ever recorded transatlantic message, and was thereby perceived as the new king of wireless. Tesla tried to interest such financiers as Thomas Fortune Ryan (corporate head), Jacob Schiff (stock broker), Henry Clay Frick (Andrew Carnegie's former partner) or Col. Oliver Payne (John D. Rockefeller's partner), in helping put in the additional funding, but Morgan blocked all efforts.


Essentially, Morgan feared that a new wireless system of power distribution might threaten such companies that he had control over as General Electric or AT & T.


After the last possible deal was squashed by Morgan in 1906, I have hypothesized that Tesla suffered an emotional collapse. For about 6 months, Tesla was incapacitated, but in 1907-08 he began to form a new plan to resurrect the ailing world telegraphy enterprise.


He would invent a highly efficient steam turbine to replace the gasoline engine in the automobile. Profits, if realized, would have been in the neighborhood of a hundred million dollars. Thus began Tesla's work on the bladeless turbine and also the reverse of this invention which was a bladeless pump.


As with any new invention, it takes many years of hard work to perfect it. For instance, Tesla invented his AC polyphase system in 1883, but it was not successfully demonstrated on any large scale until 1891 when C.E.L. Brown and Michael Dobrolowsky used it to transmit energy over 100 miles from Lauffen to Frankfurt Germany. Two years later it was displayed at the Chicago World's Fair, and two years after that it was put in at Niagara Falls.


So it took at least 10 years to get it to the point where it could truly be ready for market. (A modern example of a long delay would be the Concorde plane which flies at Mach II. This plane was designed in the mid-1950's but did not get off the ground for nearly a quarter of a century.)

Tesla worked on various forms of his bladeless turbine from about 1910-1913 with John Hayes Hammond Jr. at Thomas Edison's Warterside station in New York.


As World War I began, Tesla was sidetracked from this endeavor in part because of legal disputes with Marconi over the invention of the wireless, and in part because he was helping Telefunken, the German concern, perfect their wireless transmitters which were put in at Tuckertown New Jersey and Sayville, Long Island, New York. In 1917, after Wardenclyffe was destroyed, Tesla moved to Chicago to work for Pyle National to again work on the turbine, and then on to Milwaukee from 1919-1922 for Allis Chalmers, and finally to Philadelphia, from 1925-1926 where he worked for Budd National.

Thus, it is clear that Tesla put in 18 years of intense effort to perfect the bladeless turbine as he negotiated with Japan and Germany before WWI to place the turbines in torpedoes and tanks, and then later with ship building and airplane companies and also Ford and General Motors. The turbine, however, never reached the state of perfection that was required for them to scrap their existing engines and replace them with his. Thus, he never received large amounts of compensation for the engine, although he did recoup in the neighborhood of $50,000 from Pyle National, Allis Chalmers and Budd National for work completed.

Tesla's goal was initially to resurrect Wardenclyffe by paying off his debts, and then to build a new, and more efficient Wardenclyffe in the 1920's or 1930's, but he never received the great funds necessary.


Interestingly enough, Tesla did complete Wardenclyffe in fancy drawings and on paper through his many writings for Hugo Gernsback in his magazine Electrical Experimenter. Thus, one could say that Tesla coped with the loss of Wardenclyffe but continuing to produce new inventions and by devoting his life to realize the dream.


Unfortunately, he ultimately never succeeded in making operational any world telegraphy center.