Nikola Tesla!

Nikola Tesla

The Serbian-American Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is one of the last non-graduates who has made major scientific discoveries and who has invented hundreds of things. His inventions include rotating magnetic fields, radios, tesla coils, alternating-current, the first hydroelectric power plant, radio-controlled boats, an ‘earthquake-machine’ and much, much more. Tesla had over 700 patents. And beside his great inventions he also made designs for things like death-rays that could be used in the Second World War, wireless transmission of energy and ‘electro-therapy’. Sadly many of his later ideas did not work or were not made.

Nikola Tesla is not a household name when it comes to famous scientists and he is not given as much credit as he should be. His pioneering research even includes one of the first X-ray photographs ever taken, even eight years before Rontgen’s research on the subject. Soon after accidentally capturing one of the first X-ray images his laboratory burned down, destroying all the research and equipment.

Tesla could be regarded as one of the first mad scientists, many of his experiments could destroy buildings, electrocute at a distance or have unforeseen consequences.

In 1960  in honor of Tesla, the General Conference on Weights and Measures for the International System of Units dedicated the term “tesla” to the SI unit measure for magnetic field strength.

Twain with lightbulb, and Tesla in the background.

Twain with lightbulb, and Tesla in the background.

Strange Experiments

For example one of his great experiments includes making artificial lightning. Thunder produced from this artificial lightning was heard 15 miles away. People walking along the streets saw sparks between the ground and their feet. Within 100 feet of his laboratory light bulbs would glow even if they were turned off. Horses in stables bolted from the shocks they received through their metal horseshoes. Even small insects and butterflies were electrified with St. Elmo’s fire around their wings.

The earthquake machine he built relied on the fact that everything has a frequency. His earthquake machine was basically a box with an oscillator and a weight that could be swung about. With every swing of the weight, the swing of the building would increase and would eventually destroy the building. It has been said that after Tesla realized the destructive potential that this device had, he took a hammer to the oscillator to disable it and he instructed his employees to claim ignorance to the cause of the tremors if asked.

Besides having this great mind Tesla was also the typical ‘mad scientist’ with many obsessions and phobias. For example he had obsessive compulsive-disorder.  All his actions he performed three times, like walking around a building three times before entering. When alone in the company of a woman he could not eat. He was afraid of round objects, jewellery and earrings. He could not bear to touch hair and was a germophobe. He also had forms of synesthesia, which is a neural condition that causes you to see numbers, sounds and letters or even words in colour.

Mark Twain and Tesla

Here’s an excerpt from the book; “Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla” By James J O’Neill

..“Samuel Clemens, better known to the public as “Mark Twain,” and Tesla were close friends. Clemens was a frequent visitor to Tesla’s laboratory. Tesla had been playing with his vibratory mechanism for some time, and had learned a good deal about the results that followed from varying doses of vibration, when one evening Clemens dropped in.

Clemens, on learning about the new mechanism, wanted to experience its vitalizing vibrations. He stood on the platform while the oscillator set it in operation. He was thrilled by the new experience. He was full of adjectives. “This gives you vigor and vitality,” he exclaimed. After he had been on the platform for a while Tesla advised him: “You have had enough, Mr. Clemens. You had better come down now.”

“Not by a jugful,” replied Clemens. “I am enjoying myself.”

“But you had better come down, Mr. Clemens. It is best that you do so,” insisted Tesla.

“You couldn’t get me off this with a derrick,” laughed Clemens.

“Remember, I am advising you, Mr. Clemens.”

“I’m having the time of my life. I’m going to stay right up here and enjoy myself. Look here, Tesla, you don’t appreciate what a wonderful device you have here to give a lift to tired humanity….” Clemens continued along this line for several minutes. Suddenly he stopped talking, bit his lower lip, straightened his body and stalked stiffly but suddenly from the platform.

“Quick, Tesla! Where is it?!” snapped Clemens, half begging, half demanding.

“Right over here, through that little door in the corner,” said Tesla. “And remember, Mr. Clemens, I advised you to come down some time ago,” he called after the rapidly moving figure.

The laxative effect of the vibrator was an old story to the members of the laboratory staff.”..

With all these experiments, weird customs and a great mind, we should certainly remember this great man. For all he has given us with his findings he deserves to be a household name and a man to be admired.

Tesla's Urn

Tesla’s Urn with his ashes, located inside the Nikola Tesla Museum, Belgrade


Childress, Nikola Tesla & David H. (1993). The fantastic inventions of Nikola Tesla. Stelle, Ill.: Adventures Unlimited. ISBN 0932813194.

N. Tesla, “High Frequency Oscillators for Electro-Therapeutic and Other Purposes”, in Proceedings of the American Electro-Therapeutic Association, American Electro-Therapeutic Association. Page 25.

Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla” By James J O’Neill



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