Inventor Nikola Tesla invented the radio, experimented with wireless electricity, and designed a death ray. In science fiction, his work goes even further. We list Tesla's greatest fictional inventions and the facts behind the fiction.
Long-Range Wireless Energy Transfer: Tesla explored the wireless transmission of energy through his work with radio and microwaves and his creation of the Tesla coil and the magnifying transmitter. But he sought to create a system where energy could be broadcast across vast distances. To that end, he constructed Wardenclyffe Tower in Shoreham, Long Island, which was to function as a wireless telecommunications facility and broadcast electrical power. But JP Morgan, who financed the construction of the tower, eventually pulled Tesla's funding. Unable to find additional backers, Tesla was forced to abandon construction of the tower, and never fulfilled his dreams of creating a worldwide wireless electrical energy system.
The Witches of Chiswick by Robert Rankin: In an alternate timeline, Tesla teams up with mathematician Charles Babbage and create a highly advanced version of the 19th Century. Tesla's perfection of wireless energy transfer combined with Babbage's computer programming enable the pair to create autonomous robots, airships, and space-bound rocketships.
The Prestige by Christopher Priest: Tesla invents a device resembling the magnifying transmitter, but it succeeds in transmitting not just energy, but matter. The problem is that, while the machine transports matter to another location, it leaves the original matter behind, creating duplicates of objects, animals, and even human beings, with their memories intact.
Humanoid Robots: In 1898, Tesla demonstrated his radio-controlled boat, which he was able to control remotely. He presented it as the first of a future race of robots, which would be able to perform labor safely and effectively, and many credit the event as being the birth of robotics.
Five Fists of Science by Matt Fraction: Real-life friends Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain team up against Thomas Edison, JP Morgan , Guglielmo Marconi, and Andrew Carnegie to bring about world peace. Tesla's plan is to develop a series of super-powered robots operated through a virtual reality system and then gifting each country with such an automaton, ensuring that each nation has equivalent firing power.
Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener: Nikola Tesla creates Atomic Robo, a wisecracking robot, war hero, and paranormal investigator. Together with the Action Scientists of Tesladyne, Robo battles supernatural forces and Nazi scientist Baron Heinrich Von Helsingard.
Death Ray: In the 1930s, Tesla claimed to have invented a particle beam weapon, or, as some called it, a "peace ray." The device was, in theory, capable of generating an intense, targeted beam of energy and sending it across great distances to demolish warplanes, foreign armies, or anything else you'd rather didn't exist. Tesla shopped the plans around to various national militaries, but never found anyone to finance its construction. It isn't known if Tesla ever developed a working prototype, and the plans for his death ray were never found after his death.
JLA: Age of Wonder: After laboring for Thomas Edison, Tesla strikes up a partnership with the Superman Clark Kent to develop inventions for the betterment of mankind. But during World War I, he joins forces with former Edison bookkeeper Lex Luthor to create a death ray to battle the Germans.
Area 51 by Robert Doherty: Various theories have swirled around the Tunguska Event, a powerful and mysterious explosion that knocked down a swath of trees in Siberia in 1908. Some have suspected Tesla's experiments were responsible for the blast; others blame a UFO crash. Doherty's series explains that it was a little of both: Tesla deployed his death ray to knock down an alien spacecraft.
Callahan's Key by Spider Robinson: Robinson also holds Tesla accountable for the Tunguska event, but says he deliberately knocked down the Siberian trees as a test firing. The trouble starts when government forces get their hands on the technology and use it to threaten the Earth. Fortunately, by then Tesla has become an immortal time traveler and is still around to stop them.
The Tesla Legacy by Robert G. Barrett: Tesla may not have built his death ray, but he may have created an entirely different, though still powerful, weapon. The United States Government has long kept secret Tesla's most dangerous invention: a doomsday device that could disrupt all communication systems on Earth. And it has been sitting for decades in the Australian desert.
Improved Airships: Tesla envisioned applying his theories on wireless energy transfer to improve transportation. He claimed that electrically-powered airships would transport passengers from New York to London in three hours, traveling eight miles above the ground. He also imagined that airships might draw their power from the very atmosphere, never needing to stop for refueling. Unmanned airships might even be used to transport passengers to a preselected destination or for a remote aerial strike.
Barnum!: As an evil Tesla threatens the United States, he evades the forces of American spy PT Barnum in his marvelous airship, where he sometimes hides Charles Babbage's stolen thinking machine. He's also got an armory of technological achievements at his ingenious fingertips, including a gyrocopter and a wearable device that lets him electrocute victims with a handshake.
The Venture Bros.: Rusty Venture's ancestor, Colonel Lloyd Venture, protects a mysterious Orb with Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Aleister Crowley, all members of a Guild, aboard an airship. But Tesla and the Avon Ladies launch an aerial assault against the Guild. Incidentally, the Sovereign of the later Guild of Calamitous Intent is David Bowie, the same man who portrayed Tesla in the film adaptation of The Prestige.
Wonder of the Worlds by Sesh Heri: Tesla creates an airship that not only sails through the skies, but also travels into space. In fact, Tesla's inventions are so impressive that Martian agents steal from him a powerful crystal engine, compelling Tesla to travel to the Red Planet with Mark Twain and Harry Houdini.
Super Electrotherapy: Engineer Georges Lakhovsky believed that people could achieve good health by adjusting the oscillation of their cells. He tapped Tesla to assist him in building the Multiple Wave Oscillator. Lakhovsky claimed the machine would improve health, remove pathogens, and even cure cancer, but many regard it as medical quackery.
Sanctuary: In infusion of vampire blood triggers Tesla's latent vampiric genes, transforming him into an amoral bloodsucker. It also makes him long-lived enough to perfect his inventions. He even finds a way to recreate the vampire race using his own blood and a portable electrical device. Incidentally, the same device results in deep brain stimulation, and can heal psychosis-inducing brain damage.
Generation Tesla: This version of Tesla also manages to escape death, in this case by transferring his consciousness to another plane of existence. His superhuman creations have also similarly come back from the dead, transformed as he resurrects them to battle evil.