Born: 10 July 1856
Died: 7 January 1943
Birthplace: Smiljan, Croatia
Best known as: The electrical genius who invented alternating current
Nikola Tesla was one of the great geniuses of the early electrical age. His invention of the alternating current motor set the stage for the power and lighting systems now used every day around the world. Educated in Austria, Nikola Tesla emigrated to New York in 1884, where he found work with Thomas Edison. Edison worked with direct current, but Tesla favored a system he called alternating current, and soon enough the two inventors clashed and became rivals. Tesla went to work for George Westinghouse, and alternating current ultimately became the most widely-used system of public power. Tesla patented over 700 inventions, making major contributions to the fields like radio, remote control, and public lighting. The Tesla Coil, a gadget which projects lightning-like bolts and sparks in spectacular fashion, remains a popular feature in science museums around the world. His well-known phobias and eccentricities (including an increasing fear of germs) were winked at without scorn, thanks to his successes. Always better at science than finance, Nikola Tesla spent his last years in seclusion at the New Yorker hotel in Manhattan, and is now regarded as an underappreciated genius.
His first name is sometimes spelled Nicola… According to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Nikola Tesla was born “at Smiljan, in the military border zone of Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Republic of Croatia.” Tesla’s mother and father were Serbian, and he is regarded with pride as a native son by many Serbians… Nikola Tesla has been played on film by rock star David Bowie (in The Prestige, 2006) and on TV by Stacy Keach (in the 2000 movie Tesla: Master of Lightning).
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