Tesla said, “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success…..Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
Here are 8 curious things you probably don’t know about Nikola Tesla:
Tesla had an addiction to gambling in his early years.
Tesla’s father was furious about his gambling obsession, while his mother understood its place in Tesla’s development as a human being. Tesla would frequently lose all of his money to card gambling and one time when Tesla was in a depressive pit, having lost all his money and unable to play cards, his mother gave him a roll of bills to use for gambling. She told him, “Go and enjoy yourself. The sooner you lose all we possess the better it will be. I know that you will get over it.” It worked. Tesla conquered his gambling compulsion at that moment and never had a single desire to gamble again. Tesla also smoked excessively for a short period, which he claims threatened to ruin his health. He quit this as well when he realized it had the potential to destroy him. His dedication to self-mastery is worthy of a deep investigation, in order to help other humans who are keen on destroying themselves.
Tesla attributes his inventive nature to his mother, Duka.
In his own words, “My mother was an inventor of the first order ……she invented and constructed all kinds of tools and devices and wove the finest designs from thread.” His mother descended from a long line of inventors. Tesla describes his mother working from sunrise until late at night, making an innumerable amount of things for their family. He spoke very highly of her and remarked that she possessed rare skill, courage and resilience.
Tesla used a highly developed and organic visualization method to formulate his inventions which started around the time he was 17 years old.
Tesla did not conceive of his inventions using any sort of logical system. Instead, he relied on his deeply imaginative and highly cultivated visualization powers which would sometimes emerge while he was doing an activity not related to problem solving. This type of activity was also experienced by Einstein and is called combinatory play.
In Tesla’s own words, “I needed no models, drawings or experiments. I could picture them all as real in my mind. Thus I have been led unconsciously to evolve what I consider a new method of materializing inventive concepts and ideas, which is radically opposite to the purely experimental…” Tesla regarded the mainstream scientific practice of instant experimentation as inferior to the way he created his inventions. He worked, re-worked, fine-tuned, and perfected inventions in his mind, thereby solving the engineering problems well before he ever turned these mental constructs into reality. He believed it was a total waste of time, money and energy to carry out and test a crude idea without first an intense visualization stage.
Tesla produced artificial lightning
In 1899 at his Colorado laboratory, Tesla produced artificial lightning crashes of many millions of volts and up to 135 feet long. No one has ever replicated this feat.
His high frequency oscillator caused Mark Twain to defecate.
Tesla had a high frequency steam-powered oscillator called an “earthquake machine” in his Manhattan laboratory. Steam was forced into the oscillator, pushing a piston up and down that was attached to an armature, which caused it to shake violently up and down at high speed, producing electricity.
Mark Twain was known for having digestive problems, so one evening, Tesla invited Twain over to his laboratory. Tesla instructed Twain to stand on the oscillator platform. After less than two minutes of standing on it, Twain abruptly jumped off the platform and ran for the bathroom, relieving his constipated bowels.
Nikola Tesla had a brother named Dane whom he claimed was more gifted than Tesla himself.
Tesla’s brother was injured one night by an Arabian horse which belonged to Tesla’s family. The horse had become frightened by a pack of wolves in the mountains and had thus inflicted injuries on both his brother and father. Tesla’s brother later died from these injuries. In Tesla’s autobiography, My Inventions, Tesla states, “I witnessed the tragic scene and although fifty-six years have elapsed since, my visual impression of it has lost none of its force.” Tesla was 7 years old when his 12 year-old brother died. After his brother died, Tesla admits feeling unworthy and ashamed of his own abilities. He felt that his brother possessed an intellect far superior to his own.
Tesla believed that women would eventually become intellectually superior to men.
He predicted that in the future, “The struggle of the human female towards sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior.” He went on to say that women will not shallowly imitate men, but will be awakened intellectually and in so doing, become the dominant force in the world. He believed that the suppression of women throughout history would thereby create a potent and fermented source of energy which will emerge in the future. He said, “for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Women will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”
Tesla’s obsessions and compulsions were numerous and odd.
He had a death-like aversion to human hair and could only touch it “at the point of a revolver.” Pearls were revolting to him while crystals were pleasing. If small squares of paper were dropped in a dish filled with liquid, a horrible taste would fill his mouth.
He had a peculiar love of the number 3 and all numbers that could be divided by 3. His maids would deliver him 18 towels and he chose to stay in hotel room 207, both of which can be divided by 3.
He couldn’t enjoy his meal unless he lifted each napkin and then placed them in a large pile on the table. His visual sensitivities included seeing a luminous trail after someone had walked on a patch of snow. When his mother died, a temporary white patch of hair appeared on his head.
Towards the end of his life he fell in love with pigeons. His favorite pigeon was a white one with little touches of gray on her wings. He describes his love for the white pigeon, “I loved her as a man loves a woman, and she loved me….As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
I highly recommend reading about Tesla through his autobiography. You can even listen to the audio version if you’re too lazy/taxed/distracted to read. Both of these options are extremely inexpensive.