In honor of inventor Nikola Tesla’s 157th birthday, 8 New Things About Nikola Tesla.
1. HE WAS BORN DURING A LIGHTNING STORM
Nikola Tesla was born around midnight, July 10, 1856 during a fierce lightning storm.
2. HE WAS REALLY FUNNY
Most people don’t know that Tesla had a terrific sense of humor.
3. HE AND EDISON WERE RIVALS, BUT NOT SWORN ENEMIES
Many have characterized Tesla and inventor Thomas Edison as enemies this relationship has been misrepresented. Early in his career, Tesla worked for Edison, designing direct current generators, but famously quit to pursue his own project: the alternating current induction motor. Sure, they were on different sides of the so-called “Current Wars,” with Edison pushing for direct current and Tesla for alternating current.
The two had a love/hate relationship. At first Edison dismissed Tesla, but came to eventually respect him.
When there were fires at Tesla’s laboratory, Edison provided him a lab, so clearly there was some mutual respect.
4. HE DEVELOPED THE IDEA FOR SMARTPHONE TECHNOLOGY IN 1901
Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not as good at reducing his ideas to practice.
In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla described to his funder and business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new means of instant communication that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet, adding that of all of his ideas, that was the one that stopped him in his tracks.
He was the first to be thinking about the information revolution in the sense of delivering information for each individual user.”
He also conceived of, but never developed technology for radar, X-rays, a particle beam “death ray” and radio astronomy.
5. ‘HE SHOOK THE POOP OUT OF MARK TWAIN’
One famous legend surrounding the eccentric Tesla was that he had an earthquake machine in his Manhattan laboratory that shook his building and nearly brought down the neighborhood during experiments.
Tesla’s device wasn’t actually an earthquake machine, but a high frequency oscillator. A piston set underneath a platform in the laboratory shook violently as it moved, another experiment in more efficient electricity.
6. HE HAD FAMOUS FRIENDS
People aren’t aware that he was close friends with conservationist John Muir, one of the founders of the Sierra Club, loved that Tesla’s hydroelectric power system was a clean energy system. It runs on waterfalls, which Tesla referred to as “running on the wheelwork of nature.” Also among his friends: financiers Henry Clay Frick and Thomas Fortune Ryan. Tesla lived in the Waldorf Astoria, at the height of the gilded age.
7. PEARLS DROVE HIM CRAZY
Tesla could not stand the sight of pearls, to the extent that he refused to speak to women wearing them. When his secretary wore pearl jewelry, he sent her home for the day. No one knows why he had such an aversion, but Tesla had a very particular sense of style and aesthetics, and believed that in order to be successful, one needed to look successful. He wore white gloves to dinner every night and prided himself on being a “dapper dresser.”
Every photograph of Tesla, he said, is very carefully constructed to capture his “good side.”
8. HE HAD A PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY AND A FEAR OF GERMS
Tesla had what’s known as a photographic memory. He was known to memorize books and images and stockpile visions for inventions in his head. He also had a powerful imagination and the ability to visualize in three dimensions, which he used to control the terrifying vivid nightmares he suffered from as a child. It’s in part what makes him such a mystical and eccentric character in popular culture. He was also known for having excessive hygiene habits, born out of a near-fatal bout of cholera as a teenager.