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A Life Electric: the Tragic and Amazing Story of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a visionary that changed the history of humanity with his inventions. No wonder then if there is a large community that considers the brilliant scientist a kind of divinity. 

A photo of Nikola Tesla

one of the outstanding intellectuals of the world who paved the way for many of the technological developments of modern times.

Tesla is the true father of an impressive amount of fundamental inventions like the transistor, the radio, the radar, the X-ray as well as the alternating current. He is credited with more than 700 patents worldwide, with one of his earliest inventions, the Tesla induction motor, “widely accepted as one of the 10 most important discoveries of all time,” according to a documentary on his life.


But how was the life of such a genius engineer? What dramas did he go through? And what can we learn from him?

Early Education

Nikola Tesla was from a family of Serbian origin. His father was an Orthodox priest; his mother was unschooled but highly intelligent. Little Niko began his education at home and later attended gymnasium in Carlstadt, Croatia excelling in his studies along the way. An early sign of his genius, he was able to perform integral calculus in his mind, prompting his teachers to think he was cheating. Also during this period, young Tesla saw a steel engraving of Niagara Falls. In his autobiography, he writes about this interests as a child:

“I was fascinated by a description of Niagara Falls I had perused, and pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by the Falls. I told my uncle that I would go to America and carry out this scheme. Thirty years later I saw my ideas carried out at Niagara and marveled at the unfathomable mystery of the mind"

Passionate about mathematics and sciences, Tesla had his heart set on becoming an engineer but was constantly oppressed by his father’s insistence that he enter the priesthood. At age seventeen, Tesla contracted cholera and craftily exacted an important concession from his father: the older Tesla promised his son that if he survived, he would be allowed to attend the renowned Austrian Polytechnic School at Graz to study engineering. Tesla’s wish became a reality.

The Statue of Nikola Tesla near Niagra Falls, Canada

Pursuit of Higher Education

Training for an engineering career, he attended the Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague.


At Graz he first saw the Gramme dynamo, which operated as a generator and, when reversed, became an electric motor, and he conceived a way to use alternating current to advantage. Later, at Budapest, he visualized the principle of the rotating magnetic field and developed plans for an induction motor that would become his first step toward the successful utilization of alternating current.

Nikola Tesla’s AC Induction Motor demonstrated in 1887

An Inventor at Fullest Capacity

After university, Tesla got a job with duties that included work as a telephone line repairman. Of course, he also fiddled with the equipment and “fashioned an amplifier, which repeated and boosted transmission signals,” notes Seifer. “Tesla had invented a precursor of the loudspeaker. He never bothered to obtain a patent on it.” This lack of attention to business detail would roil Tesla on and off throughout his life.


After working in Paris, Tesla immigrated to America in 1884. For less than a year, Tesla worked at Thomas Edison’s laboratory, often interacting closely with the world famous American inventor. While he improved and designed many new machines for Edison, Nikola left underpaid and unable to achieve his larger ambitions.


Not long after leaving the job with Edison, Tesla shopped his design for a motor and found a willing investment partner in George Westinghouse. While Edison had championed DC power, Tesla, with Westinghouse’s backing, had a different idea.

“Edison developed direct current – current that runs continually in a single direction, like in a battery or a fuel cell,” explains a U.S. Department of Energy history. “During the early years of electricity, direct current (shorthanded as DC) was the standard in the U.S. But there was one problem. Direct current is not easily converted to higher or lower voltages. Tesla believed that alternating current (or AC) was the solution to this problem. Alternating current reverses direction a certain number of times per second – 60 in the U.S. – and can be converted to different voltages relatively easily using a transformer.”


In the public relations battle between AC and DC, Tesla, with his investments and a strong will to benefit the society, successfully promoted AC that ultimately brought electricity into everyday life and every household. 

Utmost Failure with Patents

hands, he never bothered about patent rights. This ultimately led to his bankruptcy in his later years – when it was all too late to claim the patents for his inventions and he no longer had any financial support even for basic living.


One of his most regretted patent rights was probably about Guglielmo Marconi being credited with inventing the radio. Tesla believed Marconi used Tesla’s public lectures and innovations to develop the radio technology that Marconi marketed.


Tesla filed radio patents in 1897, which were granted in 1900. But Marconi attempted to overcome Tesla’s patents between 1900 and 1903. Unfortunately for Tesla, the U.S. Patent Office changed course and granted Marconi a patent in 1904. Even before then, Marconi had attracted investment and transmitted signals successfully across the Atlantic. IOnly in the year 1943 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Tesla’s radio patent – but the decision came after Tesla’s death.

The Nikola Tesla inventions that should have made the inventor famous | CNN

The Power of Visualization

Perhaps what you might not have known about Tesla is that he truly possesses power that is rarely found among other people. When Nikola Tesla was a young boy, his parents gave him daily lessons to train his memory, reasoning, and critical thinking. In his book, My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla, he describes these lessons:

It comprised all sorts of exercises — as guessing one another’s thoughts, discovering the defects of some form or expression, repeating long sentences or performing mental calculations.

This training cultivated Tesla’s photographic memory; combined with a vivid imagination, Tesla developed the first manifestations of his power of visualization.


Initially, his mind’s eye wildly created images indistinguishable from reality. Later, he developed strategies to gain control of his visions, using his visualization power to explore imagined places and objects in his mind.


His power of visualization was a key component in his prolific career as an inventor. Tesla imagined and designed his inventions in his mind’s eye before building them in reality.


The initial idea for his AC induction motor came to him during a meditation walk in a park in 1882. He tinkered and updated the design in his mind for years; in 1888, he actualized his vision and filed a patent.

Some Last Thoughts

What is the full potential of the human mind?

In what ways can we manifest our imagination?

To what extent can we understand the universe?


The mind of Nikola Tesla helps us answer these questions. He demonstrated the power of training his mind’s eye and his intuition, empowering him to create the vivid world of his imagination.


His unique combination of cognitive intelligence and hard-nosed determination enabled his prolific career as an inventor and engineer.


Tesla’s ideas illuminate the inner workings of the universe. The insight of his philosophies continue to be applicable today.

If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration.

On this website you will find 10 of the thousands of inventions of Nikola Tesla, even if many of these are not attributed to him yet. Write in the comments at the bottom which one is your favorite.

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