Nikola Tesla Lesson for Kids: Biography & Inventions

Instructor: Susan Mendes

Susan has taught students in Kindergarten through eighth grade and has a master's degree in educational leadership.

This lesson will familiarize you with Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor and engineer. Learn about his early life, his various inventions, and how he continues to impact the world today.

Who Is Nikola Tesla?

What's invisible, comes in waves, and is distributed worldwide? Electricity! The inventor Nikola Tesla was obsessed with the idea of distributing electricity and creating a system of supplying electricity wirelessly. He became one of the most successful inventors to have ever existed!

Tesla in 1885

Early Life

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan, Croatia. His mother was an inventor and his father was a priest and writer. As a child, Nikola Tesla was pushed toward becoming a priest, but he had instead a passion for science. He pursued his interest in science at the University of Prague and eventually worked for the Central Telephone Exchange in Budapest. At the age of 28, Tesla decided to leave Europe for America to work on his desire to create new inventions.

Inventions and Engineering

Upon moving to the United States, Tesla began to work with another famous American inventor, Thomas Edison. Together, Edison and Tesla tried to improve upon Edison's inventions. However, Tesla eventually left Edison and created his own company called the Tesla Electric Light Company.

Tesla began to work on an AC electrical system, which sends electrical currents in different directions. This AC electrical system caught the attention of another American inventor, George Westinghouse. Westinghouse and Tesla began to work together to generate electricity for the nation using long-distance power. Edison and Tesla were now in direct competition for supplying the United States with energy and power. In 1893, Tesla's AC electrical system was chosen over Edison's at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

AC Electrical System by Tesla
AC electric machine

In 1895, Tesla created the world's first hydroelectric power plant, which brought power to the city of Buffalo, New York. This meant that Tesla's invention was able to produce electricity using energy from moving water. This invention brought Tesla worldwide fame and recognition! Hydroelectric power continues to be used to supply power around the world.

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