History is distorted and tarnished to suit a particular agenda. Just as skewed is American history, the popularity of Thomas Edison over Nikola Tesla is greatly unjustified. However, it could be reasonably assumed that Nikola Tesla is greatly misconstrued through the sands of time. We aspire to cut through tampered history and present clear-cut history to the best of our ability.
Certain legends associated with Nikola Tesla are of apocryphal nature, painting him a-la biblical prophet. However, these are just hyped-up and half-baked facts as we move on to:
- The Supposed Eidetic Memory
Admittedly, these click-bait articles doing the rounds over the internet claim Nikola Tesla having eidetic memory. It was asserted that he never needed to write/ take notes while working on his inventions. I assume that legends have been associated to this otherwise, mortal man.
- Truth be told, the existence of eidetic memory has been refuted. The visual memory isn’t any otherworldly than the normal human memory.
- Secondly, Tesla made meticulous notes for recording his ideas and inventions alike. Many of these notes have survived the test of time.
- However, these notes discovered by scientists were just speculative in nature, same as Leonardo Da Vinci (having no substantive value).
- Spoilt Brat, eh?
Cutting through the myths attached with Nikola Tesla, it is widely renowned that Tesla died in poverty, seemingly never enjoying life to its fullest. Sigh, here we go again:
- Nikola Tesla never learnt to capitalize on his inventions/ patents as Thomas Edison did. It is true that Edison took advantage of Tesla, no questioning that.
- Tesla was a poor businessman by all accounts (should have hired a manager). However, the accumulated earnings he received, he blew it on his lavish lifestyle.
- With having no regard for future, he burned his earnings living in expensive hotels, as well as investing his money into overambitious projects which never saw the light of day either (reckless?).
- He was evicted from hotels after debt accumulation and borrowed money from acquaintances. His rather speculative notebooks were left as collateral. He moved from hotel to hotel, reserving his notebooks as debt recovery since their demand was sky-high.
- Commenting on his self-induced poverty, he states that he owed debt to numerous people but he was dirt poor. More so, he spent years living on Waldorf on credit (another fedora in his cap). Truth be told, he was a hedonist.
- Receiving millions of dollars from Westinghouse, he embarked on hedonistic pleasures of life. He did prove a point, that he could expend as much money as he was showered with.
- His friends would donate him $25,000-$50,000 during his periodic poverty, whereupon he embarked on another streak of lavish living.
- Strange Habits
- Nikola Tesla can be termed as a little eccentric. He claimed to sleep just 2-hours each night, he did nap sporadically.
- He disliked jewelry and would never touch hair. He hated the sight of pearls, refusing to speak to women wearing them. Once he sent her secretary home since she was wearing pearls.
- He suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- He had an obsession with number 3.
- He used to shake hands with people 3-times
- He needed 18 napkins on his dining table
- Unsubstantiated Claims
Tesla made wild claims, which were simply unsubstantiated by evidence. Among the public, he was a natural hero, but the scientific community needs more than just hot air. Admitted, his scientific insight was alarmingly astounding; the same can’t be said about his inventions.
- He claimed to be working secretly on a death beam capable of knocking down 10,000 airplanes. During the climax of World War II, he laid claim about perfecting a death beam. The FBI was massively interested in his doings. By the time of his death, his personal belongings were confiscated much to the disappointment of his nephew, Sava Kosanovic. Upon examination, it was concluded that his notes/ documents were purely of philosophical nature at best, having no merit in design and implementation. Due to this reason, separate government-sanctioned projects were initiated by US government, ending in dismal failure. One includes project initiated by DARPA, in which 10 years and $27-million were invested to no result.
- Nikola Tesla built a laboratory for his wireless experience, among ambitious experiments. The project was sanctioned by J.P. Morgan having some faith in the inventor. However, the tower was 185-foot high, attached with a 65-foot transmitter at the top. Supposedly, he aspired to transmit wireless signals and electricity freely. However, the pillars of faith were replaced by skepticism and J.P. Morgan decided to pull the plug from the project entirely (seeing no visible completion).
- He leveled claims that wireless signals had huge potential and one day could be used to transmit visual signals just as well.
- Another claim he leveled was that of building a torpedo which could be recalled after firing.
- He went on to propose development of a robot man, granted a patent for it, too. He failed to conceive his idea into realization.
- He even asserted having invented an earthquake machine which could split the earth a la an apple. However, variations of the apocryphal story exist to this day. When Discovery duo, Myth-busters experimented on their show, it became clear that powerful vibrations could be created, but no artificial earthquake could be invoked by such a machine. The quake-box is just a mythical legend today.
- Dishonesty and Hallucinations
Nikola Tesla was full of himself. From bragging about his visionary inventions to talking to creatures from Mars, he seems a little delusional (little is an understatement!).
- He alleges that one day he was walking with his friend in park in 1881, exhausted due to lack of sleep. He had a strange vision of his AC motor and began sketching it immediately. Seems he was just cooking up a lie since he was hard on the project for 6-years by that time.
- He once recalled of a hallucination involving his pigeons. He allegedly saw a white pigeon once that he loved dearly. Then he was blinded by two beams of lights which told him he had completed his mission.
- He said to have designed his AC motors just as he had imagined them in his vision. He made no effort to improve upon them.
- German Spies Connection
Fearing the exploitation of the Tesla Tower, the American government destroyed the Tesla Tower in 1917, thinking that German spies were employing it for achieving their ends during World War I.
The Tesla Tower was intended to work a la Skype and modern day face-to-face communications for citizens all over the world. J.P. Morgan sanctioned $150,000 for the project.
However, Marconi won the radio race with investors throwing weight behind him, when he sent a radio signal from England to Newfoundland in 1901. Tesla argued that Marconi simply used his 17-patents to his own advantage.
- Influential and Well-connected
Nikola Tesla may have been considered poor, his friends sure were luminaries in their respective fields. He was friends with Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain and French actress, Sarah Bernhardth for that matter. However, his successful contemporaries, Thomas Edison and Westinghouse overshadowed him, being astute businessmen.
- Vision for Skype
In an article for Pearson’s Magazine in 1899, he envisioned a visual telegraphy. According to his idea, “One person merely has to look at the receiver of the telephone in one city, he will be able to see the face of the person thousands of miles away. He can even criticize the suit he is wearing very clearly.”
In an issue of New York Times magazine in 1915, he envisioned mankind connected all over the world using telephone systems which would connect users by voice and sight.
In essence, the idea of internet and portable devices can be attributed to him, not their invention.
- Lack of Sleep
His otherworldly experiences can be reasonably explained by his lack of rest and sleep. The pigeon visions were a by-product of that. Being a workaholic, he would work long hours which resulted into his breakdown. He would wake up at 5 a.m. and work till 11 p.m. He alleged that he required just 2-hours of sleep.
However, the hotel staff found Tesla asleep on number of occasions, when he was seemingly awake but unaware of the hotel employees. So oblivious was Tesla of his surroundings that the hotel staff would clean the entire room as per their routine, leaving Tesla sleeping after the unaware.
- Contemporary Popularity
While modern history paints Nikola Tesla as a nameless scientist during his time, losing miserably to Thomas Edison. However, he was quite the showman to popular masses in his heyday, revealing his invention in front of huge crowds, such as Tesla coil.
He received generous donations from J.P. Morgan and Westinghouse during his celebrity days. He garnered enough popularity with his envisioned technological utopia with his interviews in magazines/ periodicals.