Happy (Belated) Birthday To The Greatest Wizard of All Times

Happy (Belated) Birthday To the Serbian Wizard

The genius who never received a Nobel but was given a place in eternity. 

Nikola Tesla remains the most exciting and essential man that the Balkans have ever birthed. Sure, Novak Đoković is making history in tennis (just not this year at Wimbledon, sorry, Nole). Ivo Andrić will always be remembered as the first and only Nobel Prize winner from this region. But what Tesla did not only for his people but for humankind is groundbreakingly extraordinary. 

That’s why today we write about him again, wishing him a happy belated 167th birthday. What better way to commemorate the greatest wizard that ever walked among us than by listing his most significant inventions and secrets. 

In case you didn’t know, here are seven interesting facts about Nikola Tesla. 

A Child of Thunder, a Man of Light

Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, during a storm. As if this already wasn’t symbolic enough, during childbirth, the midwife trembled from fear of the raging storm. She said that it didn’t look good: thunder during childbirth is a bad omen. When the lightning struck just above the house, the midwife told Tesla’s mother, Đuka, that the baby would most definitely be a child of darkness. 

His loving mother convinced that extraordinary cosmic forces blessed her son’s arrival, replied—No, he will be a child of light. 

This story about the storm during his birth has become somewhat legendary and is often referred to as a dramatic and symbolic event in his life. Throughout his life, Tesla had an insatiable interest in the field of electrical engineering, particularly in the study of electricity and electromagnetism. His experiments and inventions often involved the generation and control of electrical currents to produce effects reminiscent of lightning and thunder. 

One of his most outstanding achievements was the development of the alternating current system for power transmission. Through the use of high voltage and high-frequency electrical currents, Tesla created artificial lightning bolts, probably mimicking his earliest memories.

Tesla Had the First Idea For Smartphone Technology

Let me remind you, this was in 1901, a good century before the first actual smartphone was created. 

In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla came up with the idea of instant communication. In his mind, it involved collecting stock quotes and telegram messages, routing them to his laboratory, coding them, and assigning each a new frequency. This frequency would then be broadcast to a device that would fit in a person’s hand. 

What he envisioned was a forerunner to smartphones AND wireless internet. (Everyone, say thank you, Mr. Tesla.) The concept of wireless communication and the transmission of information was groundbreaking at the time. However, it still laid the groundwork for future technologies that would base the development of modern smartphones on it. Needless to say, his visions for wireless transmission and communication influenced the development of the telecommunications industry as we know it today. 

Right up there on the list of the things he envisioned, we could add the remote control, neon and fluorescent lights, computers, laser beams, x-rays, and robotics.

The Time of Tesla Frozen In Time

During his fruitful time in New York City, Tesla made significant contributions to the field of electrical engineering and conducted many of his famous experiments. To commemorate his presence and achievements, several locations in NYC still remain Tesla-esque. 

The corner of 40th Street and 6th Avenue in downtown Manhattan has been designated “Nikola Tesla Corner,” with its own street sign and everything. The corner was relatively close to his laboratory at 8 West 40th Street, where he was trying to build his (in)famous Tesla Tower—also known as the Wardenclyffe Tower—on Long Island. The tower was intended to be a wireless transmission station that would transmit electricity and communication signals across long distances entirely wirelessly.

In 1917, Tesla was awarded the Edison Medal by the prestigious Engineer’s Club, which highlighted Tesla’s exceptional contributions to the field of electrical engineering. There’s a plaque placed in his honor at Bryant Park, where Tesla used to feed pigeons. 

These physical landmarks and tributes in New York City serve as reminders of Tesla’s influence and his lasting impact on the world of science and technology. 

The Infamous Tesla Tower

In 1901, Tesla received financial backing from J.P. Morgan to build his Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham, Long Island. The facility included the “Tesla Tower,” a 185-foot high structure with a 65-foot copper dome transmitter on top. Tesla’s vision was to use the tower to transmit signals and free, unlimited wireless electricity all over the world. 

The Serbian wizard believed that by harnessing the Earth’s natural electrical properties and using his systems of wireless transmission, he could provide a limitless source of energy to the world. Imagine if he succeeded; we’d all have free access to the internet all over the globe. 

Sadly, Tesla was a better scientist and human being than he was a businessman. The financial disagreements with J.P. Morgan led to serious project setbacks, and the whole thing was soon abandoned. The property was sold, the tower structure dismantled, and Tesla’s dream broken. 

Fun fact: in 1917, it was the US government that actually demolished Tesla’s partially completed tower because they worried German spies would use it to intercept communications during World War I. 

Tesla’s New Device Like Bolts of Thor

We can’t quite decide whether death ray sounds like the scariest or coolest thing on earth. 

In 1915, the New York Times published a headline that said, “Tesla’s New Device Like Bolts of Thor.” This new device was referring to a machine Tesla gave a cute name to, “teleforce.” The press would later rename it the death ray machine, with a hidden agenda to scare people off. Instead of lightning, Tesla said his new weapon would harness a beam of metal ions hurtling along at 270,000 miles per hour. 

He never did explain how that beam was even possible to create. He vaguely cited laws of physics and talked even more vaguely about new laws of physics that were what “no one has ever dreamed about.” Talking about a man of mystery. He said his “all-penetrating” beam would pack 100 billion watts into just one one-hundred-millionth of a square centimeter, shooting airplanes from 250 miles away. Now, we don’t know much about physics here—we’re people made of words and literary devices—but that sounds extremely powerful even to us. 

Decades after teasing the public with his death ray, Tesla kept the science behind it to himself. Whether that machine was working or not, no one knew, but the hype about this weapon was real enough. Shooting airplanes from the sky with such precision and power started to sound too tempting to the Nazi forces assembling in the center of Europe—and to everyone else. Tesla’s people in war-stricken Yugoslavia begged him to return home and install his rays to protect his homeland from the Nazi menace. However, by the time World War II was in full swing, Tesla’s health had already deteriorated. 

But just in case, American officials decided to seize Tesla’s papers on the death ray so that the scariest and most powerful machine Tesla had ever envisioned would never fall into the wrong hands. 

Today, beam weapons may be a bust scientifically, but they have had great success in popular culture and inspired hundreds of novels and sci-fi films. Heck, it even inspired the popular Star Wars franchise and the great Death Star that could destroy entire planets with its superlaser. 

All Star Wars fans, say thank you to Mr. Tesla. 

In fact, the whole world should thank and revere this brilliant inventor and visionary. His groundbreaking work in the field of electrical engineering, his relentless pursuit of innovation, and his imaginative ideas have had a profound impact on the world we live in today. 

For a more personal insight into who Nikola Tesla was outside of his laboratory, we recommend our beloved Ana Atanasković and her book My Love Nikola Tesla

Happy birthday, Mr. Tesla. May thunder and lightning illuminate your way to eternity. 

Truly yours,