6/30/17 (almost midnight in the land of plenty)
Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is one of the most enigmatic – and arguably one of the most important – figures of the 20th Century.
A Serbian by birth, Mr Tesla immigrated to the USA in 1884 after having been spotted as a unique talent by one of Thomas Edison’s managers.
The book I”m reviewing was written by Margaret Cheney in 2001 and I added it to my collection in the fall of 2009. The format features thirty “mini chapters” to recount events and scenes from Mr Tesla’s life and the author delivers this unique story in a way that the Sunday Times of London described as “uncommonly colorful” and “absorbing”.
I like the brisk pace of the book and the author strikes a good balance in detailing Tesla’s early childhood and family with his “prime” years as one of the most innovative thinkers to ever immigrate to the U.S.
Tesla is somehow oddly under reported from a historical sense – and I’ve never quite understood that.
If you are not familiar with him and are looking for something new to add to your reading list, you should consider picking up a copy. Amazon currently lists both the paperback and Kindle formats for under $10 Amazon Link for Convenience
As you read through the recollection of events and people that moved in and out of orbit with Tesla it’s easy to slip into a sort of charmed awe at his intellect, knack for innovation and altruistic spirit.
In addition to these noteworthy traits you’ll also learn about his quirks (there were several – and they seemed to get stranger as he aged) as well as his reported ability to thoroughly visualize whatever device he was planning to construct or test.
The book describes how he was able to maintain highly detailed visual images in his head so that by the time he actually started work on a new invention – he had already made improvements to the design and was working from a 2nd or 3rd revision of the original image.
Other events and milestones you’ll read about include:
- His rivalry with Edison any how Edison tried to destroy Tesla’s credibility and reputation
- The wild experiments with lightning in Colorado Springs and an earthquake inducing device in downtown Manhattan.
- The ambitious “Wardenclyffe Tower” that, regrettably, was never utilized due to a lack of funding (some believe his efforts were purposely sabotaged) – Tesla Society Link for More Reading on this sub-topic
- The increasingly grandiose claims that Tesla made in regards to his ability to: a) create force fields around cities so as to make war obsolete, b) manipulate the weather, c) provide free and efficient electricity to everyone by tapping directly into the atmosphere and/or the Earth, d) invent a disintegration ray
There’s a clear arc from triumph to tragedy in this man’s life as we learn that he went from being on the “who’s who” list of New Yorkers to spending his final days alone in a run-down apartment talking to pigeons.
Near the end of the book there’s a really interesting incident that happened shortly after Tesla’s death. The United States government raided his apartment and “commandeered” most of his papers and notebooks.
When pressed to return the valuable materials to Tesla’s country of origin (which was now a part of the newly formed Yugoslavia) – we learn that the US Government “lost” a few of the papers and never returned them.
There’s a lot more in the book but hopefully those excerpts pique your interest enough that you consider getting a copy – it’s well worth your time to soak up the legends surrounding this amazing man.
Have a happy tomorrow!