Born on July 10, 1856, Nikola Tesla has long been an enigmatic figure. He is perpetually included in the list of the world’s most influential inventors ever. His discoveries and experiments in the field of electricity were nothing short of brilliant and were way ahead of his time. His influence and teachings are continuously used to this day.
But despite his accomplishments when he was alive, Tesla died without accolades and credits. He was also penniless. He eventually earned much-deserved recognition, but only over a century after his death.
Here are a few highlights of Tesla’s fascinating life.
Nikola Tesla had the talent to visualize inventions and other strange visions.
Tesla had a tremendous gift for visualizing things down to their minutest details. He had the knack of imagining designs all in his head. As such, his work process was a bit different from other inventors. He rarely drew or sketched plans. Instead, he relied on his powerful imagination to develop and refine the details.
Since he was a child, Tesla would experience “flashes of light.” The visions were then followed by inspirations for his next project, or solutions to his problems. Although most would say that the visions were more of a spiritual experience, Tesla, being a man of science, discounted such interpretations. But he often used his visions for their scientific benefits.
Nikola Tesla pioneered various modern inventions.
Although Tesla is widely recognized for his electrical work, he had initiated and established many other significant inventions. For many years, he was a prominent figure in the “War of the Currents.”
Other leading inventors on this war are Thomas Edison – his previous employer, and later rival – and George Westinghouse – his ally. Edison pushed for the direct current (DC) while Tesla and Westinghouse championed the alternating current (AC). Eventually, AC prevailed over DC.
Tesla’s other significant industrial contributions include his pioneering work in wireless communications, electric light, and radar. He also worked on inventing the radio, the remote control, and the X-Ray. He tinkered on robotics, and ultimately created the Tesla coil, his famous transformer.
Most of this initial works were not properly recognized. Other investors received credit for the inventions he started. But over his lifetime, Tesla received 300 patents.
Nikola Tesla followed a tight schedule and is thought to have OCD.
Tesla had formidable work ethics. He kept a regimented schedule and almost always worked ‘round the clock. Some historians claim that he only slept two hours every day. He had his “own” table at Delmonico’s in NY, and later at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he routinely had dinner.
Tesla was a germaphobe. He needed a stack of 18 napkins so he’d able to eat his meal. He was also obsessed with the number three, and had the tendency to carry out compulsive actions relating to the number.
Nikola Tesla blew out power stations.
In 1899, Tesla moved his operations to Colorado to benefit from the vast space available to do his experiments. The El Paso Power Company also offered him free supply of AC power. His lab near the Colorado Springs utilized an 80-foot tower and a 142-foot metal mast. His gigantic Tesla coil was also a prominent tool in his lair.
At one point when he used all three tools, massive bolts of artificial lighting occurred. It caused wayward sparks and apparent thunder-like sounds 15 miles away. The event surprised the locals and frightened the animals, particularly horses.
The butterflies near his lab were experiment casualties. The bolts also overpowered the motors of a local power company and resulted in a blackout.
Nikola Tesla was a handsome man.
By all accounts, Tesla was physically attractive. He was tall (6” 2) and slender (140 pounds). He also had deep-set eyes and had an impeccable fashion sense. He was often described as a snappy dresser.
While he was always working and quite reclusive when he was in the zone, when he took breaks, he socialized a lot. He was friends with other famous people, notably Mark Twain. He also often drew the attention of the ladies. Historians even unearthed proof of love confessions from different women.
Despite this, Tesla never got married.
Nikola Tesla and his Wardenclyffe Tower will eventually be the Wardenclyffe Museum.
Wardenclyffe was the name of the supposed wireless transmission station on Long Island, if only Tesla beat Guglielmo Marconi in transmitting the first wireless message across the Atlantic Ocean.
But when Marconi successfully transmitted ‘s’ across the Atlantic first – and with only the use of a modest equipment – J.P. Morgan, who funded Tesla’s efforts, pulled his financial backing. This, along with other factors, resulted in the closing of the Wardenclyffe.
Much of the tower was destroyed in 1917, although the main building remained. It is mostly abandoned, but is sometimes used for industrial work. In 2012, The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, a nonprofit group, successfully organized a crowdfunding campaign to buy the property.
The deal was closed in 2013. The plan is to turn the property into a Tesla museum and an education center (mainly for Science). The site is yet to be opened to the public, but some parts are already being used for special events, like Tesla’s birthday.
Nikola Tesla’s brilliance translated into words.
Just have a look at this collection of Tesla’s famous quotes: