On July 10, 1856, Nikola Tesla was born in Smiljan (now Croatia). He would later become an engineer, inventor, and physicist, famous for his breakthroughs in the production, transmission, and application of electrical power. Most famously, he helped to design the modern A/C electrical system.
As people living in the modern world, we have a lot to thank Nikola Tesla for! But history is more than just names and dates. There are also incredible stories and facts, so let’s learn more about this amazing scientist through some fun facts!
1. Tesla’s birth and death were both unique.
Tesla was born during a particularly violent lightning storm. The midwife thought that meant that Tesla would be a child of darkness, but Tesla’s mother countered with the idea that he would be a child of light.
Tesla lived in many hotels in New York throughout his life and actually died in a hotel room—Room 3327—of the New Yorker Hotel on January 7, 1943.
2. Tesla had a very particular sense of style and aesthetics.
Tesla had a unique abhorrence of round objects, jewelry, and touching hair. He particularly detested pearls, even sending his secretary back for the day when she wore them to the office.
Tesla was also very obsessed with things that he liked, such as the number 3. He would even use 18 napkins—18 is a number divisible by 3—in order to clean his dining room before he ate his evening meals. (He also was a bit of a germaphobe!)
3. Tesla’s parents had different ideas for his career.
Tesla’s father was a priest, and he wanted Tesla to join the church and become a priest too. Unfortunately, Tesla was interested in science. This actually made have stemmed from his mother, Djuka Mandic, who invented a small electrical appliance while she was raising Tesla and his siblings.
4. Tesla was phenomenally smart and gifted.
Tesla obtained 278 patents in 26 different countries, and that doesn’t even include the fact that some of Tesla’s patents are not accounted for. The majority were in the United States, Britain, and Canada, but plenty of other countries gave him patents too.
Tesla had an eidetic memory, meaning that he had the power to memorize entire books and pictures in great detail and could recall them at any point. He could even visualize in 3D, which permitted him to see all the dimensions of an invention before he created it.
Tesla even thought that he needed to boost his brain power, so he would squish his toes—each one 100 times every night—in order to stimulate his brain cells!
5. Tesla thought of WiFi in 1901!
While developing transatlantic radio, Tesla described a system of collecting information and a new means of instant communication to his funder and business partner, J.P. Morgan.
He would gather stock quotes and telegram messages, funnel them to his laboratory, encode them, give them a new frequency, and broadcast that information to a hand-held device. In other words, Tesla had imagined smartphones and WiFi!
Tesla also imagined—but never developed—a wide variety of other systems like technology for radio astronomy, a particle beam “death ray,” and radar and X-rays.
6. Tesla and Edison were not bitter enemies.
Some sources like to imagine Tesla and Edison as archnemeses, but in fact they collaborated quite a bit in designing direct current generators. A better description of their relationship might be “business rivals.”