10 Things You Didn't Know About Nikola Tesla

Pictured here at age 34. Wikimedia Commons.
Elise Andrew 10/07/2015, 21:00

Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla!

Born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan (now Croatia), Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, engineer, and physicist. Tesla is most famously known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity system.

Though he died poor in 1943, his reputation and inventions have caused a recent popular culture resurgence, where he's now being depicted in movies, graphic novels, music and video games.

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

Here are 10 facts about Nikola that you may not have known:

1. Tesla was an environmentalist

The inventor was concerned about people quickly consuming the Earth’s resources and was an advocate of renewable fuel. He researched methods of using natural energy from the ground and the sky to minimize the human impact of fossil fuel consumption. In fact, Tesla created artificial lightning in his own lab.

2. Tesla was born during a lightning storm

Quite fortuitously, Tesla was born during a particularly violent lightning storm. Reading this as a bad omen, the midwife asserted that this meant Tesla would be a “child of darkness.” Tesla’s mom, probably affronted by this woman’s assertion, immediately replied: “No. He will be a child of light.” Go, Tesla’s mom!

3. Tesla was a humanist

As a humanist, Tesla believed in improving the quality of human life but not for financial gains. And this is why, despite his many inventions and contributions to society, he died poor.

4. Tesla thought of wireless internet… in 1901

Tesla had an excellent imagination but didn’t put all of his ideas into practice. While developing transatlantic radio, he envisioned a system of collecting information, encoding it and broadcasting that information to a hand-held device – what we now have as mobile Internet on our phones. Tesla also imagined, but never created, the technology for radio astronomy, a particle beam "death ray," radar and X-rays.

5. Tesla had a strong capacity for memory

Tesla’s memory was eidetic, which means he could recall entire books and images in great detail. He allegedly used his potent imagination to temper the vivid nightmares he had as a child.

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