Born in 1856 the son of an Orthodox priest in Smiljan, Croatia, Nikola Tesla had an early exposure to inventing. His mother, although unschooled, was a very intelligent woman who often created appliances that helped with home and farm responsibilities, such as a mechanical eggbeater.
Young Nikola was schooled at home during his early years and later attended a school in Carlstadt, Croatia. He soon developed advanced skills such as doing calculus integrals in his head. He very deeply wanted to attend college and become an engineer, but his father wanted him to join the priesthood. When Nikola was seventeen, he caught cholera and made his father to promise that if he survived the illness that he would be allowed to go to college. Obviously, Nikola lived.
At the Austrian Polytechnic School at Graz Tesla studied mechanical and electrical engineering. One day, one of his professors showed him a Gramme Dynamo that could be used as a motor and generator. Tesla looked at it and asked if the Dynamo could do away with its sparking communicators. The professor replied that it would be similar to building a perpetual motion machine.
The idea of such a machine tantalized Tesla for years until one day at the age of 24 when he was living in Budapest working for the Central Telephone Exchange he had an epiphany and began making sketches that would soon develop into the world's first induction motor.
After several unsuccessful jobs with German and French electrical power companies where he tried to improve their DC generators, 29-year-old Tesla came to New York City with four cents in his pocket.
Nikola went to Thomas Edison with a letter of recommendation from a business associate of Edison's that read, "My Dear Edison: I know two great men and you are one of them. The other is this young man!"
Tesla tried to describe his plans for an alternating current generator but Edison did not care to hear of it because it seemed to be only competition for his already famous and widely-used DC generator. Edison hired Tesla anyway.
Tesla claimed later that Edison had promised him $50,000 if he was able to improve the DC plants in New York. Months later, Tesla was finished. However, Edison explained that the proposed $50,000 had been made in jest and said "When you become a full-fledged American you will appreciate an American joke." Tesla resigned.
During this time word had begun to travel that "a foreigner of unusual talent was digging ditches to stay alive"(www.pbs.org). Investors began to contact Tesla offering him money to improve the current method of arc lightning. This was enough for the European to form the Tesla Electric Light Company.
Tesla was able to make the improvements he promised, but all the money made went to the investors and all he got were stock certificates.
Later, Mr. A.K. Brown of the Western Union Company invested in Tesla's AC motor idea. A little ways down the street from Thomas Edison's office, Tesla...