The story of Nikola Tesla is one of faith, hope and belief. It is a story of what one individual can achieve and how a single person utterly dedicated to his cause can change the world for the better.
What caused Nikola Tesla’s 1895 lab fire?
In the early morning hours of March 13, 1895, the South Fifth Avenue building that housed Tesla’s lab caught fire. It started in the basement of the building and was so intense Tesla’s 4th floor lab burned and collapsed into the second floor. The fire not only set back Tesla’s ongoing projects, it destroyed a collection of early notes and research material, models, and demonstration pieces, including many that had been exhibited at the 1893 Worlds Colombian Exposition.
Tesla told The New York Times “I am in too much grief to talk. What can I say?” After the fire Tesla moved to 46 & 48 East Houston Street and rebuilt his lab on the 6th and 7th floor.
Another man too at the time had a dream, a dream to control and monopolize all the available assets, electricity, railroads, steel works and communications, to only allow the person who could afford to pay him for the use of these assets to ply by them, to maximize his gain at the expense of the common man. This man who had this dream, held major stake in all of Thomas Edison’s companies and was fuming at the loss that Tesla had caused him by winning the bid for the lighting of the World Columbian Exposition.
Tesla winning the contract for the Niagara Falls power plant had further added insult to injury of this man. The man was now livid with rage. The man was, John Pierpont Morgan or J. P. Morgan himself.
J.P. Morgan was an American financier, banker, and art collector who dominated corporate finance and industrial consolidation. At the height of Morgan’s career during the early 1900s, he and his partners had financial investments in many large corporations and had significant influence over the nation’s high finance and Congress members. Morgan’s total wealth was about $41.5 billion at that time. That is about $2.6 trillion as per today’s standards. This was the clout J.P. Morgan had and hence everyone feared him; everyone but Nikola Tesla.
J.P. Morgan wanted Tesla to sell all his patents to him and his businesses so that he could maximize his gains further.
He was willing to pay Tesla rich returns for the same. Tesla realized that consolidation of the patents in the hand of such a wealthy tycoon would mean that its benefits would never reach the common man and hence Nikola Tesla refused. Morgan was not a man to let go of an insult. With his refusal to sell his patents Tesla had now snubbed Morgan thrice.
Tesla was habituated to working late in his lab. Once immersed in work he used to forget time and even skipped his food. One night he was similarly busy working in his lab when an impulse made him leave the lab for dinner. As he dined, there came a knock on the door. A messenger had arrived with the news that there had been an explosion in the building housing Tesla’s laboratory and everything had been destroyed. Tesla ran through the street to where all his dreams, his visions, his work, his patents, his memories were housed but in vain.
The fire brigade was dousing the flames and nothing remained. The greatest monument to the technological advancement of mankind had been wiped off within no time. The totality of his technological achievements was burned into vapor. All that remained was Nikola Tesla himself.