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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 22/29, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(24):3086. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.3086-b

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.

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