JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer
Reiling, Assistant Editor.
The future uses of electricity, as described by Nikola Tesla, are interesting
to contemplate from the standpoint of fiction, whether one is prepared to
accept the statements as plausible or not. In a recent article in the Electrical World and Engineer, Tesla announces that “many
thousands of simultaneous telegraph and telephonic messages, through one single
conducting channel, natural or artificial, and without serious mutual interference,
are certainly practicable, while millions are possible.” We should certainly
welcome this wholesale elimination of telegraph and telephone wires which
form such networks in our great cities and which are often a menace to life.
This elimination would certainly be a step in advance from the standpoint
of municipal art. Tesla further announces the possibility of collecting electrical
energy all over the globe in small amounts, and by it running clocks and all
the common machinery. Thus the physician will only have to tap the atmosphere,
so to speak, by having the proper sort of a gatherer of electricity, to which
he may attach his centrifuge, his bone drill, etc. But this is not enough.
Tesla declares that “this planet, with all its appalling immensity,
is to electric currents virtually no more than a small metal ball,”
and when “the first plant is inaugurated it will be shown that a telegraphic
message, almost as secret and non-interferable as a thought, can be transmitted
to any terrestrial distance.” Finally, “the sound of the human
voice, with all its intonations and inflections, can be faithfully and instantly
produced at any other point of the globe, or the energy of waterfall made
available for supplying light, heat or motive power, anywhere—on sea
or land.” “I am hopeful,” says he, “that these great
realizations are not far off, and I know that when this work is completed
they will follow with mathematical certitude.” For a vision from a visionary
mind, this is almost incomparable.
ELECTRIC POSSIBILITIES.. JAMA. 2004;292(24):3086. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.3086-b