MY MEETING WITH TESLA
Sava Sremac, expert of the IBM, NASA, Pentagon
"I was the first in Yugoslavia to open the trunks with the archive of Nikola Tesla, which came on the boat “Serbia” from the USA in 1951. I was very excited, as if I have discovered all the secrets of the world…."
I was the first in Yugoslavia to open the trunks with the archive of Nikola Tesla, which came on the boat “Serbia” from the USA in 1951. I was very excited, as if I have discovered all the secrets of the world….
I had the honor to be the first in Yugoslavia to open and read the archive of Nikola Tesla. It happened in 1951when the documentation of the Serbian genius came from the USA to Belgrade and ended totally misplaced and forgotten.
By reading the writings of Tesla and his unique ideas, I felt as if Tesla and I had known each other all our lives, as two most sincere friends. Apart from his talent, Tesla also had the social spirit and the gift for his kind of jokes. All through his writings, the spirit of strength and security can be found, thus I myself, as a young researcher in my twenties started feeling also full of strength and self confidence. Although Tesla stopped breathing, he still lives and shall remain eternally with us through his works of genius.
Tesla left us a rich archive of personal observations and contemplation about the creation of the inventions that inspire admiration all over the world. He lived in the New York hotel the New Yorker and his only property were his notes and his works of genius. Tesla worked himself on his popularity. He demanded the services of the photographic shops. For example, he engaged the studios “Howard Chocks”, Brown Brothers and the photograph Dickson Elea. He photographed his inventions, the laboratory, but he also liked his picture taken with the friends and the celebrities. Nikola Tesla paid attention how he performed in public, which photographs should be published by reputable magazines and which should be sent to friends. He was aware that such shots will be left to future generations, and all this points to the fact that he personally took care of his contact with the public and personal marketing. The oldest photograph is the portrait from 1879, when Tesla was 23 years old. That photograph was published by Tesla along with his research article in New York in 1919. The last photograph of Nikola Tesla dates from 1942 when he met King Peter the Second of Karađorđević dynasty in New York.
He was a man well organized and very systematic as a scientist, who kept all the notes and documentation. He hired one hangar in New York and kept his scientific treasure there. When Tesla died a natural death, he left behind him seven trunks of literature, notes, sketches and final projects. In the trunks we could also find the texts about Tesla cut out from the American and world press. That was the first press clipping ever arranged by a Serb. His distant cousin, the diplomat Savo Kosanovic officially inherited the legacy of Tesla. But the USA Police, in particular the FBI went through the archive of Tesla for two years, and only then let it be taken by Sava Kosanovic in 1945. He decided to get it to Yugoslavia by boat. That was realized in 1951 when the boat “Serbia” brought the entire archive of Nikola Tesla.
It took me two years to go through all the notes and papers. I was excited as If I have discovered the greatest scientific secrets of the world. I entered the magic world of science of the Serbian and world genius who was, as we speak today, the creator of our future. I immediately noticed that in the manuscript of Nikola Tesla, three to four pages are missing. The genius was robbed. I suppose that what was of essential interest for FBI and America itself was confiscated and the other documents were sent to Belgrade. However, far from the eyes of the public, as soon as the news broke out that Tesla died, the feverish competition and fight for his legacy started. It was well known that many of his ideas were never protected by patents, in particular the secret weapons mistakenly called the “death rays”. The race was also entered by the American government, in particular as there was a fear that the plans made by Tesla could fall into the hands of the enemies, primarily the Axis Forces, but also the communist Soviet Union.
All Tesla’s property was packed, sealed and temporarily transferred into a warehouse hired from the Office for the property of foreigners (although Tesla was for almost half a century a naturalized American citizen). Thanks to that procedure, the inheritance of Tesla was preserved to a great extent and later transferred to Belgrade. The trunks that came on the boat “Serbia” to Yugoslavia in 1951 with the inheritance of Tesla were taken to the municipality of Zvezdara. In the town hall of the municipality of Zvezdara, the entire cargo was placed in one little empty room and completely forgotten about it.
When the urn with the ashes of Tesla came on the boat “Triglav” in 1957, in those days, in the fifties of the last century, I worked in the Institute Nikola Tesla in the laboratory of the engineer Miodrag Maširević, who was also the Director of the Institute. We quickly made friends and found the common language in the work on the new experiments of analogue technology.
Mr. Maširević was the son of the priest from Sremski Karlovci, he also got his education in Vienna, which was obvious from his elegant manners. I was greatly impressed by that, because as a young man I could learn a lot from him. We worked together on the development of analogue technology. Using his well established foreign connections, the institute got the instruction, or commission to make the command table for the first Siemens analogue computer. Thus, our laboratory was the centre of events. We succeeded in completing the project in one year and we passed the exam, so the first computer in the Siemens factory started working successfully. Back then, in the fifties, I had the honor to travel to Germany for the first time. That was the period, when it was miraculous to even get the passport to travel abroad.
Engaged in working on research and development, I also travelled on business to Croatia, for the sake of recording data on the electromagnetic field, necessary for the making of the first electromagnetic map of Yugoslavia. It so happened that I also passed through Smiljane, the birth place of Nikola Tesla. When I arrived there, I was greatly disappointed. The birth place of Nikola Tesla and his house was decrepit, abandoned and in bad condition. I was very sorry to see that, so I firmly decided to pass my impressions, on returning to Belgrade to engineer Maširević who was a great Serbian patriot and a great fan of Tesla. We sent letters to Croatian and Serbian government about the condition of the birth place and house of Nikola Tesla. In several months we succeeded in convincing them, so the Croatian government promised to establish a fund for the repairs and maintaining of the old house of Nikola Tesla. They promised that together with the government of Serbia, they shall also secure some of the exhibits made by Tesla.
In contemplation about the genius works of Nikola Tesla, an idea came to existence to establish the Tesla Museum, although we had nothing except the idea and the will to put it into practice. We wrote an article about Nikola Tesla that was published in Politika. In the text we explained the idea, the reasons and the wish to create the Museum of Nikola Tesla, which had effect.
From the municipality of Zvezdara, we were informed that they had some trunks with the legacy of Tesla, and that they need the premises where the trunks had been placed, so we were invited to come and collect the trunks if we were interested. We were very happy and surprised so we immediately looked for our driver, named Jovan, who drove our trophy car, called “headquarters car”. With the ardent assistance from Jovan, we transferred all those trunks to our storage. We were happy like small children in front of the Christmas presents. We agreed to select first all the written material and put it on one side and put the expert literature on the other. During the first week I was lonely, and I then invited the colleagues Mr. Branko Bjelić and Mr. Mika Mihajlović. We worked very slowly. It was necessary to look very carefully at every single paper. Many interesting things were missing. Sometimes, we found just a title or some detail without the main part, the contents? It was obvious that someone before us was going through those documents. The majority of incomplete documents referred to the electric resonance, where the basis of it all was the Tesla transformer. All the original documents were preserved for the Tesla transformer, both the mechanical and technological and the electronic parts. There were all the negatives showing Tesla presence at many of them, where you could see the lightings flashing around him, as well as other details. I was overwhelmed by the Tesla transformer, so I suggested that it would be attractive for the Museum.I do not want to go into prolonged story about preparatory work, I just want to say that, as a scientist, I started the work to make the transformer. My task was to make the transformer in every aspect as well done as the original. Some material was very difficult to obtain, so we waited for a long time for some special orders. Nevertheless, in eighteen months “Tesla’s transformer” was ready for the audience. The other exhibits were still under preparation. But the new problem was how to get the building for the museum. A happy coincidence appeared at last. In Krunska Street, there was a big villa of the ex minister Đorđe Genčić, which stayed empty. Both the villa and the location was perfect for the museum. The only thing was that it had to be redecorated for the needs of the museum. We needed another year of work before we could move in the Museum of Nikola Tesla.
In the meantime, I completely dedicated myself to the computers, which started developing very fast. I went to Germany again for the specialization lasting for six months. After a short time after my return from Germany, I left the Institute and started working in the Industry of Machines and Tractors, where the first computer centre was established in Yugoslavia. For me, it was a period of great obligations. I felt like a lonely fighter in the new field of work, but I did not forget the Museum of Nikola Tesla.
On the fist occasion when I came back to Yugoslavia (before the disintegration of the country) as a retired person, I visited, with my wife Desanka, the Museum Nikola Tesla. I was very excited with tears in my eyes when I saw “the old friend” and I touched every little piece of it, as I tried to make it all perfect without fault, the way its father Tesla was perfect as a scientist and a man.
July 10, 2015 on Tesla’s Birthday