Physicist, electrical engineer, inventor and futurist Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856 in Smiljan (now Croatia). Apart from his famous invention of the alternating current, there are tons of different things about Tesla that will astound you. Do you know that, after almost 20 years of his death, the General Conference on Weights and Measures introduced “tesla” as a unit measurement of magnetic field strength? Today, as a tribute to the great innovator, we are presenting 15 astounding facts about Nikola Tesla.
16. Movies Based on the Life and Works of Nikola Tesla
Over the years, several notable movies have tried to portray the life of the genius Nikola Tesla. Some of them are;
- Nikola Tesla, The Genius Who Lit the World, a 1994 documentary
- The Secret of Nikola Tesla, a 1980 biographical film
- The Prestige, a 2006 fictional film about two magicians, with David Bowie portraying Tesla.
15. He Was Born During Lightning Storm
Maybe it was his destiny to achieve greatness around electricity. At the time of his birth, a rather violent lightning storm was underway. According to the legend, that night the midwife who was taking care of his mother interjected that the lighting was a bad omen and that this child would bring darkness and hatred into this world. But his mother replied “No. He will be a child of Light.”
14. He Sold Patents Throughout His Career
During his entire career, Tesla sold many of the invention’s patent rights to industrialists. One such example was his brushless AC induction motor which he sold to businessmen George Westinghouse. By owning Tesla’s patent not only Westinghouse made a hefty amount of profit, but he also gained the advantage over other AC systems.
He also made a series of changes and modifications in Tesla’s version of induction motor with the help of Benjamin Lamme. Soon after, George Westinghouse started naming his entire line of the polyphase AC system “Tesla Polyphase System.”
13. His Unusual Affection for Pigeons
While Tesla was a practitioner of celibacy, he once admitted that he loved a pigeon like a man loves a woman. Well, most of us feed pigeons and other birds at the corner of the street or in the park, but Tesla was quite different, he cared for ill pigeons, fed them daily and would bring them to his apartments.
There was one particular pigeon who he fell in love with and according to Tesla that pigeon also loved him back. In a letter he mentioned about the pigeon,
I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a women, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.
12. He Reportedly Helped Mark Twain with his Illness
Tesla along with Mark Twain in his Lab
Tesla and Mark Twain became friends after their first few meetings at the gentlemen’s club. He and Twain spent hours and hours in Tesla’s lab to test various new experiments. One day, Tesla invited Twain to volunteer for his new ‘earthquake machine’ which shook the entire building whenever he tested the equipment.
Upon further investigation, he found out that he had actually created a high power oscillator. Knowing that his friend has a bad stomach, he requested Twain to stand on that oscillator for quite some time. After 90 seconds or so, Twain got down the oscillator to empty his bowels.
11. Tesla had nearly 300 patents under his name
While many of his inventions were not under the patent protection, it’s generally accepted that he had around 300 patents under his name in 26 different countries including the United States, Canada and Britain. His first recorded patent was for a commutator which prevents sparking on Dynamo-Electric Machines.
10. Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein
While they never crossed each others’ paths, like many scientists, Telsa was also skeptical about Einstein’s theory of Relativity as he discarded his theory in every possible way. Moreover In 1931, on the occasion of Tesla’s 75th birthday celebrations, Tesla received a letter from Albert Einstein and from other scientists and engineers from all over the world.
9. Tesla May Have Been Suffering From Insomnia
It is widely known that Tesla needed only two-three hours of sleep a day. Now for a normal person that is outrageous but it did work out for Tesla. But it’s highly doubted that weather he couldn’t sleep or he didn’t want to. Insomnia may have led to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which could explain his obsession with the number 3 and why he always used 18 napkins to clear his table. He loathed round objects and jewelry.
8. He Reportedly Received Extraterrestrial Signals
Tesla sitting in his Colorado Springs laboratory
In 1899, Tesla set up an experimental station in Colorado Springs, Colorado to study the feasibility of high-voltage, high-frequency electricity in wireless power transmission. On one day while doing his experiments, his equipment picked up a strange signal from an unknown origin.
After investigation, Tesla arrived to the conclusion that the signal was coming from another planet. A few months later, he disclosed his finding in a letter to the Red Cross Society about possible discoveries in the next century. In that letter he wrote, we have a message from the other world that reads “1…,2..,3…”.
Initially, it was hypothesized that he might have intercepted signals sent by Marconi in July 1899 which was sent from England all the way to Canada. But researchers now believe that the signal was actually coming from either Mars or Jupiter, which originated when the moon Io was passing through Jupiter’s strong magnetic field.
7. Eidetic/ Photographic Memory
Not only that Tesla had a photographic memory, he also claimed that he had several episodes of hallucinations accompanied by random detailed flashbacks to his past. Having an eidetic memory has its good and bad sides. He could easily remember each and every line from an entire book and images in fine detail.
6. His Missing Inventions
After his death in 1943, the Office of Alien Property, an independent branch within the US government during the World War II, which functioned as a custodian of Enemy property seized all the valuable notes, diaries and papers that Tesla held under their protection. Years after some of those papers were returned to his family, while few of them were donated to the Tesla Museum.
5. Nervous Break Down and Death
Nikola Tesla went to a mental break down right after J.P Morgan left him, which resulted in the closure of his free power project. After some time, he resumed his work, but as a consultant. As the time passed by his mental state was getting worse, his ideas were getting impractical and outlandish.
At the later stages of his life, he started spending his entire time with pigeons in New York City streets and parks. On January 7, 1943 he died at the age of 86 at the very New York hotel where he lived for years.
4. Tesla Science Center
The future of Wardenclyffe fell into the complete darkness after Tesla’s dream of making free electricity collapsed. After his death, the property was intentionally left abandoned while multiple attempts to make it a site of national importance failed in 1967, 1976 and 1994. But in 2008, a non-profit group called the Tesla Science Center was formed with the intention of purchasing the property and turning it into a museum dedicated to the inventor’s work.
3. He Predicted wireless Mobile Phones in the Early 1900s
While working on his transatlantic radio, he came up with the idea of an instant wireless communication technology. He then went to J.P Morgan, his banker, to explain him about his vision.
The basic idea was to gather some data, including stock quotes and telegram in his laboratory, and encode the message and broadcast it to a new frequency using a different technique. Then the signal was supposed to be transmitted to a special handheld device.
So basically, he conceived the idea of mobile phones and internet nearly a century before it became mainstream.
2. Tesla was an Environmentalist and a Humanist
Nikola Tesla was always concerned with the fact that people are consuming natural resources on the Earth far too quickly. Due to this, he pressed on making renewable technology using non-fossil fuel and researched extensively on ways to produce electricity from renewable energy.
With the financial backing from legendary banker J.P Morgan, Tesla was able to create an artificial light bulb to support his cause, but J.P Morgan reportedly backed out and refused to support Tesla’s cause saying that he wasn’t interested in backing a technology that he couldn’t meter.
His great humanistic nature was judged by just one fact that even though he was one of the greatest inventor of his era, he died as a poor. Nikola Tesla always believed in improving others life rather than personal financial games.
1. Edison and Tesla were ‘Great Professional Rivals’
Professional rivalries and sworn enemies are two different things. While rivalries are a part of almost every profession, sworn enemies is someone you generally avoid. Almost everyone believes that Tesla and Edison were eternal enemies, but in reality, things were a lot different.
These two geniuses actually worked together on various new projects, including developing the DC generators before Tesla parted ways. He left Edison’s company to build his own current technology, which was later known as alternate current. This landed him as a direct competitor to Edison. When things get heated, both started using any means to prove their superiority of another, which led to the War of Currents.