Things You May Not Know About Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Tesla was known for discovering amazing things and then forgetting to write them down.
Image: The Oatmeal

Nikola Tesla is one of the most recognizable scientists in history; unfortunately the majority of his life was dominated by poverty, isolation, and intense emotional relationships with pigeons. Even with all of this, Telsa’s story is both inspiring, and often times even funny. Here are a few things you may not have known about Tesla.

He once made $2/day digging ditches
After graduating from university, Tesla had big dreams of revolutionizing discovery and development in electricity. He began that journey by working at Edison’s electric company in Paris, but traveled to the United States in hopes of working directly with Edison. Of course, upon seeing his potential, Edison offered him a job. However, Edison never paid Tesla the promised amount of $50,000 for the design of an improved direct current generator. With this, Tesla left Edison’s lab and dug ditches to make ends meet until he found enough backers to start his own lab.

Telsa paid an overdue bill with a “death beam”
Most people know that Tesla had quite the eccentric personality, but his later years in life really demonstrated this. Tesla picked pigeons over people and jumped from one hotel to another living a life of isolation. In an attempt to pay his overdue bill at the Governor Clinton hotel, he offered the establishment a wooden case containing a “death beam.” Tesla stated that it held a potentially war-ending weapon, but that the hotel must never open it. They listened… for a while. Once Tesla died the hotel opened the box to unveil nothing but old electrical components.

He was really funny
When hearing stories about Tesla, most focus on the scientist’s turmoil. However, Telsa had a great sense of humor. After dining with poet and writer Rudyard Kipling, he wrote this to a friend:

My dear Mrs. Johnson,

What is the matter with inkspiller Kipling? He actually dared to invite me to dine in an obscure hotel where I would be sure to get hair and cockroaches in the soup.

Yours truly,
N. Tesla

He really, really loved pigeons
New York City claimed the corner of 40th and Sixth Avenue as the Nikola Tesla Corner in 1994. Strange that among all of Tesla’s great innovations, he’d be immortalized for his love of pigeons. This corner is where Tesla reportedly spent a lot of time, and fell in love with, pigeons. He wrote this later in his life: “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

He claimed to be a mystic
One of the most defining moments for Tesla was witnessing his brother Dane’s death in a riding accident. From that moment on, Tesla claimed to be a mystic – seeing visions of the air around him “filled with tongues of living flame.” While he was able to control the visions for the majority of his life, they returned in the final years of his life.

Tesla dabbled in clean energy
Tesla created the first hydroelectric power plant in Niagara Falls, NY. After three years, the power generated from the plant powered nearby homes in Buffalo, NY on November 16, 1896. He commented on the plant by stating that it was “running on the wheelwork of nature.”

[Sources: History, PBS, & Atlas Obscura]


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