Imagine a world without electricity, radio and telecommunications, without all the amenities that one can enjoy by using the energy of the world’s electric grid. Electrical machines at home, in offices, laboratories and factories – everything is dependent on electricity. A world without radio or electromagnetic waves – there would be no quick message transfer or data transmission. The global electrical system, radio, gas discharge (neon) lamps, remote control, and radar – it is almost inconceivable that all this can be attributed to one man: Nikola Tesla. How could it be that someone who made energy available everywhere, and thus made the Second Industrial Revolution possible, is almost completely forgotten? This book oscillates between these contradictions, the undeniable benefits of Tesla’s inventions on the one hand, and his obscurity on the other. Nikola Tesla’s life shifted between extremes, and his life can only be understood if you look closely at his personality. Because for all that Tesla invented and discovered, his sometimes strange behavior during his lifetime, as well as his perception after his death, the key to all of this lies in his personality. How did Nikola Tesla live? What was his motivation? How did he come up with his groundbreaking inventions?
In this book, we will follow Nikola Tesla’s life through a radically changing Western world; from the mid-19th century in the Balkans to our globalized, media-driven world of today. This more than 100-year-long development is heavily dependent on Nikola Tesla’s inventions and visions. The author takes us to the rural seclusion of Tesla’s childhood and youth in the Krajina, the Serbian border region of Imperial Austria. We follow the industrial transformation of Europe with Tesla, and after his immigration to the United States in 1884, we are impressed by the richness of the technological boom in the U.S. (Mark Twain coined this time the ‘gilded age’). A key factor of this period is the victory of the Tesla polyphase system in the ‘war of currents’ against Thomas Edison’s direct-current system. Tesla’s financial and social success did not last. A fire caused the total loss of his laboratory in 1895. This personal disaster was followed in 1902 by his financial ruin, caused by the failure of his wireless power transmission system. Later, Tesla’s vision of a death-ray machine and his quirky, sometimes strange character led to the solitude of old age. Tesla lived a secluded life, hiding himself in the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan. Tesla died on January 7, 1943. After his death, Tesla was ridiculed and forgotten, not only in the United States but all over the world.
“Tesla was a kind of mystic. He even encouraged this thinking about himself as a kind of a genius, a magician. Okay, if you want me to say it in one sentence: he promoted the mystic part of him – the genius who lit the world that was outside of time or ahead of his time. Tesla was and is a unique man in the entire history of mankind.”
Vladimir Jelenkovic, Director Nikola Tesla Museum Belgrade