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People: Milorad Dragovic and the Inventor

Milorad Dragovic in SSRL Hutch 9-1. (Photo by Julie Karceski.)

The Serbian inventor, Nikola Tesla, serves as an inspiration to SLAC technician Milorad Dragovic. As a prolific inventor, Tesla was skilled at starting with an abstract idea for a device and creating a concrete new tool—an inclination shared by Dragovic, who designs and builds mechanical hardware to help scientists see their experiments reach fruition.

"[Tesla] made his dreams into a functional and very useful apparatus," Dragovic said. "Reading his biography, his stories, touched me greatly." Tesla, who immigrated to the United States from Old Serbia in the 1880s and died in 1943, is responsible for many inventions in electronics and advancements in physics on which the world and SLAC science rely. Consider the impact of robotics, radar systems and computer science—all possible because of Tesla contributions.

Dragovic, too, has a notable presence at SLAC. He designs and builds parts for hutches and robots around the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. Scientists working on the SSRL beamline rely on the ingenuity of Dragovic and his fellow science and engineering technicians to make components for SSRL's experimental hutches.

Staff scientists bring Dragovic ideas for equipment parts they want, or ways to improve existing hardware. Then Dragovic goes to work on the design, prototyping and manufacturing. He also provides tools for the hutches and assists scientists when needed.

The common thread between Tesla and Dragovic, in addition to a Serbian heritage, is the ability to develop an idea from the early stages into a useful tool. Tesla saw ways to improve the use of electricity and the theories surrounding electromagnetism, coils, motors and more. Entering his sixth year at SLAC, Dragovic said he enjoys taking a concept from a drawing to a functional piece of equipment, testing it and proving that he has achieved a good design.

As a Serbian, he also feels a strong heritage tie to Tesla. Tesla immigrated to New York City in the late 1800s, and as someone who also came to the United States from Serbia, Yugoslavia and Montenegro, Dragovic can relate to some of the life and work struggles of moving to a new country.

"We had a rough time and work hard in this great nation," Dragovic said of adjustment to living in the United States.

Tesla garnered more than 700 patents, the most famous being the alternating current (also known as AC) electrical power system used today. He also came up with wireless radio communication, remote control and fluorescent lighting. But Tesla work was underappreciated during his lifetime. Dragovic would like to see that addressed.

"A lot of work that he had done was awarded to different parties: Edison, Westinghouse, Marconi, for example," Dragovic said. "But he was a genius and undisputed world leader in electronic inventions."

—Julie Karceski
SLAC Today, May 26, 2010