Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a scientist and engineer who invented alternating-current (AC) electricity. He discovered, designed, and developed a number of other inventions, including electrical generators, the induction motor, and the Tesla coil. He was a forerunner in fields such as radar technology, X-ray technology, radio control, and the rotating magnetic field.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about Nikola Tesla.
Nikola Tesla facts
1. His mother was an inventor too.
Nikola Tesla was born to a family of Serbian origin, in what is now called Croatia. His father was an Eastern Orthodox priest and wanted Nikola to join the priesthood, an interesting fact about Nikola Tesla. His mother, although not formally educated, was highly intelligent and had a phenomenal memory for Serbian poetry. She was also very creative and invented home tools and appliances in her spare time.
2. He emigrated to America and worked for Thomas Edison.
Thomas Edison’s engineering factory and his vision of rolling out electric lighting and power to consumers, drew Tesla to emigrate to New York in 1884. He was employed as an engineer at Edison Machine Works and quickly made an impression on Edison with his ingenuity and diligence. But the two men were very different characters. Edison was commercially focused, whereas Tesla was ideological and disinterested in the business side of things. Less than a year later, Tesla quit to form his own electrical company and worked as a laborer while he gathered backers for his venture.
3. His Alternating Current (AC) power system is still the electrical standard today.
The Tesla Electric Company began operations in April 1887, and Tesla was given free rein to experiment. It was here that he worked on his alternating-current (AC) electrical system, and several AC-based inventions, which he patented. In 1888, businessman George Westinghouse purchased his patents for $60,000 and stock in the Westinghouse Corporation. A race began between them and Edison with his direct-current (DC) system. In 1893, Westinghouse Corporation was selected to supply the lighting at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. And in 1895, an AC hydroelectric power plant was commissioned at Niagara Falls, which was used to power Buffalo, New York. Edison had lost the race, and AC power is still the dominant electrical system across the world.
4. Nikola Tesla was the real inventor of the radio.
Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi is widely accredited with inventing the radio, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately revoked some of Marconi’s patents in 1943 in recognition that Tesla had pre-empted him. At an exhibition in New York in 1898, Tesla demonstrated the first-ever radio-controlled boat and went on to improve on his invention. Marconi’s famous transatlantic radio transmission was based on Tesla’s science, an interesting Nikola Tesla fact.
5. Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla were friends.
Author Mark Twain was fascinated by technology. The two met in 1890 and became such close friends that Tesla even attended his daughter’s wedding. Twain lived in Europe at the time but would visit Tesla’s lab when he was in New York. It was there that he became the subject of one of the first photographs to be taken with light from an electric bulb. Tesla is also said to have cured Twain’s infamous constipation by persuading him to sit on his “oscillating machine.”
6. Tesla never married.
Nikola Tesla never married, nor had any relationship that is known. An interesting Nikola Tesla fact is that he claimed that his chastity aided his work but, in later life, expressed regret, saying he may have sacrificed too much for his work. Although a spouse might have found him hard to live with though, as Tesla seldom slept more than two hours at a time and once worked in his laboratory for 84 hours straight. In his final years, he spent most of his time feeding pigeons in the park and claiming to communicate with them.
7. The death ray and other wild ideas were never built.
Many of Tesla’s ideas were quite outlandish. He proposed it would be possible to photograph one’s thoughts, and that power could be transmitted wirelessly. He even got the financier J.P. Morgan to fund the latter, but he lost faith in the project quite early on and refused to finance it further. He believed accelerating mercury isotopes would create a beam capable of destroying whole armies from afar. The Soviet Union experimented with this “Death Ray” idea, fortunately, without success. On Tesla’s death, the FBI ordered the seizure of his belongings. But after a 3-day investigation, concluded there was nothing that represented a security threat.
8. He had a photographic memory.
Like his mother, Tesla had an Eidetic (photographic memory). He could memorize whole books, and speak eight languages. He utilized a technique known as “picture-thinking” to work with extreme precision from memory, without making drawings.
9. Tesla was only properly accoladed after his death.
Nikola Tesla died penniless, of a heart attack on January 7, 1943, in New York. His body was found two days later in the hotel room he was living in. An interesting fact about Nikola Tesla is that he was posthumously honored by having the SI unit of magnetic flux density named a “Tesla.” A sign now identifies the site of his laboratory on the corner of 40th Street and 6th Avenue, New York. He also has a place in the National Inventors Hall of Fame, and a prestigious engineering award in his name.
10. Tesla Motors is named after him.
In 2003, entrepreneur and engineer, Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors to build the first fully-electric motorcar. He named his company after Nikola Tesla.
Nikola Tesla was a prolific inventor. The true extent of his inventions and patents will likely never be known. He was consumed by his passions, such that his personal life and wellbeing suffered. But the impact of his work touches us all daily, in a variety of areas.
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