Nikola Tesla: History’s Most Productive VirginNovember 4th, 2012 by WTM.org Community
I had always thought of woman as possessing those delicate qualities of mind and soul that made her in thee respects far superior to man. I had put her on a lofty pedestal, figuratively speaking, and ranked her in certain important attributes considerably higher than man, I worshiped at the feet of the creature I had raised to this height, and, like every true worshiper, and I felt myself unworthy of the object of my worship.
You’ve probably heard of Nikola Tesla before. If not, here’s the short version: He was an unparalleled genius who invented the modern world, then died in obscurity.
Many excellent documentaries, infographics, and websites have focused on Tesla’s inventions and legacy. We’re going to focus on the man behind the legend, because in addition to being a supergenius, Tesla was also a lifelong virgin. Although he was a bit more extreme in his abstinence than most of us intend to be, there’s still much inspiration to be gleamed from his story.
Five of Tesla’s Most Incredible Inventions
It’s kind of an inside joke for those who wait: Somebody asks you “So what do you do with all that sexual frustration?” and then you show them your 4.0 GPA, your obsessive volunteering, and your room full of meticulously detailed sketches & artwork. Well, Tesla puts us all to shame in the “productive use of sexual frustration” department. Here are five of his creative babies:
- Sustainable Electric Power – Look down at the outlet that your computer is plugged into. Tesla invented that (really).
- Radio – Turn on the radio in your car. Tesla invented that.
- Radar – When your airplane flight makes it to its destination without crashing into another plane, thank Tesla.
- An Earthquake Machine – Tesla is credited as saying, creepily “If I had enough power, I could rip the world in half.”
- Free, Wireless Power – As his last act of invention, Tesla was working to give the whole world free, wireless power. But he never got the funding to finish.
Why Did Tesla Stay a Virgin?
Some people speculate that Tesla was asexual, meaning that he simply didn’t have the urge towards sex, but I don’t think that’s the case. Take a look at the following quote:
I put [women] on a lofty pedestal… I worshiped at the feet of the creature I had raised to this height, and, like every true worshiper, and I felt myself unworthy of the object of my worship.
That doesn’t sound like someone who’s uninterested in the opposite sex. Those sound like the words of a deeply shy man with a severe perfectionist streak. He was too introverted, his standards were too high (somewhat understandably…who could relate to him?), and he was consumed by his own projects. At least, that’s my theory.
What Can You Learn from Tesla’s Life?
There is more to life than sex and dating. Tesla is a wonderful example of what humans can achieve in a single lifetime when they are completely focused on forging their passions into reality at the expense of everything else that society says matters (money, relationships, sex, etc.).
Tesla was a true, uncompromising idealist. He had the chance to become a wealthy, famous industrialist, but he spurned that path without hesitation, spending his time instead trying to make every one of his ideas a reality.
Born on July 10, 1856 in Croatia (think Austria) to father Milutin Tesla, a Serbian Orthodox Priest and mother Djuka Mandic, an inventor of household appliances.
Age 5: Attends primary school to study German, arithmetic, and religion.
Age 6: Father moves family to work as a pastor in Austria. Nikola completes primary.
Age 14: Capable of performing integral calculus in his head, leading his teachers to think that he was cheating. Meets his favorite math teacher, Martin Sekulic, who would profoundly influence him.
Age 17: Finishes a four-year school term in three years and returns to his hometown, Smiljan, Croatia.
Tesla contracts cholera shortly after arriving from Karlovac. This sickness would make him bedridden for nine months and bring him to the brink of death multiple times. Nikola’s father, in a moment of despair, agreed to send him to the best engineering school if he recovered from the illness. (His father originally wanted him to enter the priesthood).
Age 18: Tesla evades a draft by escaping to Tomingaj, near Gracac and explores the mountains in hunter’s garb. Tesla would claim that this contact with nature made him stronger, both physically and mentally. He would read many books while in Tomingaj and would later claim that Mark Twain’s works helped him to miraculously recover from the illness
Age 19-20: Enrolls at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz, Austria on a Military Border scholarship. During his first year Tesla never missed a lecture, earned the highest grades possible, passed nine exams (nearly twice as many required[), started a Serbian culture club, and even received a letter of commendation from the dean of the technical faculty to his father, which stated, “Your son is a star of first rank.” Tesla claimed that he worked from 3 A.M. to 11 P.M., no Sundays or holidays excepted.
Comes into conflict with Professor Poeschl over the Gramme dynamo after suggesting that commutators weren’t necessary. At the end of his second year, Tesla lost his scholarship and became addicted to gambling.
Age 21: Gambles away his allowance and his tuition money, later gambling back his initial losses and returning the balance to his family. When exam time came, Tesla was unprepared and asked for an extension to study, but was denied. He never graduated from the university and did not receive grades for the last semester.
Age 22: Leaves Graz and severs all relations with his family. He didn’t want his parents to know that he had dropped out.
Tesla goes to Marburg (now in Slovenia) and works as a draftsman for 60 florins a month. Here, he would spend his spare time playing cards with the local man on the streets.
Age 23: Tesla was returns to Gospic under police guard for not having a residence permit. On 17 April 1879, Milutin Tesla died at the age of 60 after contracting an unspecified illness. During this year, Nikola taught a large class of students in his old school, Higher Real Gymnasium, in Gospic.
Tesla receives enough money from his uncles to help him flee to Prague. Unfortunately, Tesla could not attend Charles-Ferdinand University because he arrived too tardy to enroll; never took Greek, which was required; and was illiterate in Czech, which was also required. Tesla did, however, attend lectures at the university as an auditor but did not receive grades for the courses.
Age 24: Tesla moves to Budapest to work under Ferenc Puskas at a telegraph company, the Budapest Telephone Exchange. Upon arrival, Tesla realizes that the company, then under construction, was not functional, so he would work as a draftsman in the Central Telegraph Office, instead. Within a few months, the Budapest Telephone Exchange became functional and Tesla was allocated the chief electrician position. During his employment, Tesla made many improvements to the Central Station equipment and claimed to have perfected a telephone repeater or amplifier, which was never patented or publicly described.
Age 26: Tesla begins working the Continental Edison Company in France, designing and making improvements to electrical equipment.
Age 27: Tesla relocates to New York City. During his trip across the Atlantic, his ticket, money and some of his luggage were stolen and he was nearly thrown overboard after a mutiny broke out on the ship. He would arrive with only four cents in his pocket, a letter of recommendation, a few poems, and remnants of his belongings.
I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man.
— Charles Batchelor, recommending Nikola Tesla to Thomas Edison
The letter of recommendation was written by Tesla’s former employer Charles Batchelor to Thomas Edison. He wrote “I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man.” Edison hired Tesla to work for his Edison Machine Works. Tesla’s work for Edison began with simple electrical engineering and quickly progressed to solving some of the company’s most difficult problems. Tesla was even offered the task of completely redesigning the Edison Company’s direct current generators.
Age 29: Tesla claims that he could redesign Edison’s inefficient motor and generators, making an improvement in both service and economy. According to Tesla, Edison remarked, “There’s fifty thousand dollars in it for you—if you can do it” this has been noted as an odd statement from an Edison whose company was stingy with pay and who did not have that sort of cash on hand. After months of work, Tesla fulfilled the task and inquired about payment. Edison, claiming that he was only joking, replied, “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor.” Instead, Edison offered a US$10 a week raise over Tesla’s US$18 per week salary; Tesla refused the offer and immediately resigned.
Age 30: Tesla forms his own company, Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing. The company installed electrical arc light based illumination systems designed by Tesla and also had designs for dynamo electric machine commutators, the first patents issued to Tesla in the US.
Tesla proposes that the company should go on to develop his ideas for alternating current transmission systems and motors. The investors disagreed and eventually fired him, leaving him penniless; Tesla was forced to work as a ditch digger for US$2 per day. Tesla considered the winter of 1886/1887 as a time of “terrible headaches and bitter tears”. During this time, he questioned the value of his education.
Age 31: Starts a company, the Tesla Electric Company, with the backing of New York attorney Charles F. Peck and Alfred S. Brown, the director of Western Union. They would set up a laboratory for Tesla at 89 Liberty St. in Manhattan so he could work on his alternating current motor and other devices for power distribution, with an agreement that they share fifty-fifty with Tesla any profits generated from patents.
Constructs a brushless alternating current induction motor based on a rotating magnetic field principle which would later be patented by 1888. Develops the principles of the Tesla coil.
The editor of Electrical World magazine, Thomas Commerford Martin (a friend and publicist), arranges for Tesla to demonstrate his alternating current system, including his induction motor, at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers (now IEEE).
Engineers working for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company report to George Westinghouse that Tesla had a viable AC motor and power system—something that Westinghouse had been trying to secure.
Age 32: Brown and Peck negotiate a licensing deal with George Westinghouse for Tesla’s polyphase induction motor and transformer designs for $60,000 in cash and stock and a royalty of $2.50 per AC horsepower produced by each motor. Westinghouse would also hire Tesla for one year for the large fee of $2,000 a month to be a consultant at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company’s Pittsburgh labs.
Tesla works in Pittsburgh, helping to create an alternating current system to power the city’s streetcars. He would find the time there frustrating because of conflicts between him and the other Westinghouse engineers over how to best implement AC power. Between them, they came up with the modern standard three-phase, 60-cycle current AC current system, although they found that, since Tesla’s induction motor could only run at a constant speed, it would not work for street cars. They ended up using a DC traction motor instead.
Age 35: Tesla becomes a naturalized citizen of the United States. He told many of his companions that he valued the citizenship more than any scientific honors that he had acquired.
Establishes his South Fifth Avenue laboratory in New York and later, his Houston Street laboratory in New York at 46 E. Houston Street. He would light electric lamps wirelessly at both of the New York locations, providing evidence for the potential of wireless power transmission.
Age 36: Spend a few months in Europe visiting other scientists. He would later visit his hometown, arriving from Paris hours before his mother’s death. After the death of his mother, Nikola became ill and spent two to three weeks recovering in Gospic and Tomingaj.
Age 36-38: Tesla serves as the vice president of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, the forerunner (along with the Institute of Radio Engineers) of the modern-day IEEE.
Tesla investigates harvesting energy in space. He believed that it was merely a question of time until men would succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.
Age 37: Westinghouse wins the bid to electrify the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago with alternating current. This World’s Fair devoted a building to electrical exhibits. It was a key event in the history of AC power as Westinghouse and Tesla demonstrated the safety and reliability of alternating current to the American public. At the Columbian Exposition, Tesla demonstrated a series of electrical effects in a lecture he had performed throughout America and Europe.
While citing his financial difficulties, Westinghouse convinces Tesla to release his company from licensing agreement over Tesla’s AC patents in exchange for Westinghouse Electric purchasing the patents flat for $216,000; this provided Westinghouse a break from what, due to alternating current’s rapid gain in popularity, had turned out to be an overly generous $2.50 per AC horsepower royalty.
Age 38: Tesla begins investigating what he referred to as radiant energy of “invisible” kinds that he had noticed damaged film in his lab in previous experiments (later identified as “Roentgen rays” or “X-Rays”).
Tesla may have been the first person in North America to accidentally capture an X-ray image when he tried to photograph Mark Twain illuminated by an earlier type of gas discharge tube Geissler tube in 189 Soon after, much of Tesla’s early research was lost in the 5th Avenue laboratory fire of March 1895.
Age 39: After hearing of Wilhelm Röntgen’s discovery of X-ray and X-ray imaging (radiography), Tesla proceeds to do his own experiments in X-ray imaging, developing a high energy single terminal vacuum tube of his own design that had no target electrode and that worked from the output of the Tesla Coil (the modern term for the phenomenon produced by this device is bremsstrahlung (or braking radiation).
Age 40: Tesla’s radio wave experiments in 1896 were conducted in Gerlach Hotel (later renamed The Radio Wave building), where he resided.
Age 42: Tesla demonstrates a radio-controlled boat—which he dubbed a “teleautomaton”—to the public during an electrical exhibition at Madison Square Garden. The crowd who witnessed the demonstrated claimed the boat to be everything from magic and telepathy to being piloted by a trained monkey hidden inside.
Tesla tries to sell his idea to the U.S. military as a type of radio-controlled torpedo, but they showed little interest.
Tesla devises an “electric igniter” or spark plug for internal combustion gasoline engines. He was awarded U.S. Patent 609,250 , “Electrical Igniter for Gas Engines”, for this mechanical ignition system.
Tesla moves to Colorado Springs, where he would have room for his high-voltage, high-frequency experiments; his lab was located near Foote Ave. and Kiowa St. Tesla stops by a meeting of the Commercial Club in Chicago, Illinois for his “Teleautomatics” address/demonstration while on his way to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Tesla performs his first experiments at his Colorado Springs lab; he recorded his initial spark length at five inches long, but very thick and noisy.
Age 43: John Jacob Astor IV invests $100,000 for Tesla to further develop and produce a new lighting system. Instead, Tesla used the money to fund his Colorado Springs experiments. On 7 January 1900, Tesla left Colorado Springs. His lab was torn down and its contents were sold to satisfy a debt.
Age 44: With US$150,000, Tesla begins planning the Wardenclyffe Tower facility.Tesla was granted patents for “system of transmitting electrical energy” and “an electrical transmitter”. When Guglielmo Marconi made his famous first ever transatlantic radio transmission in 1901, Tesla quipped that it was done with 17 Tesla patents. This was the beginning of years of patent battles over radio with Tesla’s patents being upheld in 1903, followed by a reverse decision in favor of Marconi in 1904.
Age 45: Marconi successfully transmits the letter S from England toNewfoundland, terminating Tesla’s relationship with Morgan. Tesla’s lab operations are moved to Wardenclyffe from Houston Street.
Age 45- 50: Tesla writes over 50 letters to Morgan, pleading for and demanding additional funding to complete the construction of Wardenclyffe. Tesla continues his project for another nine months. The tower was raised to its full 187 feet.
Age 50: Tesla demonstrates his 200 hp (150 kW) 16,000 rpm bladeless turbine.
Age 54-55: During 1910–1911 at the Waterside Power Stationin New York, several of his bladeless turbine engines were tested at 100–5,000 hp.
Age 58-62: Tesla looks overseas for investors to fund his research. When the war started, Tesla lost the funding he was receiving from his patents in European countries. Tesla made predictions about the relevant issues of a post-World War I environment in a printed article, “Science and Discovery are the great Forces which will lead to the Consummation of the War” (20 December 1914). Tesla believed that the League of Nations was not a remedy for the times and issues.
During this time, Tesla was staying at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, renting in an arrangement for deferred payments. Eventually, the Wardenclyffe deed was turned over to George Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf-Astoria, to pay a US$20,000 debt (about $400,000 today). In 1917, around the time that the Wardenclyffe Tower was demolished by Boldt to make the land a more viable real estate asset, Tesla received AIEE’s highest honor, the Edison Medal.
Age 59: A Reuters news agency reports that the Nobel Prize in Physics that year is being awarded to Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, but on November 15 Reuters released a story stating the prize would be awarded to Sir William Henry Bragg and William Lawrence Bragg “for their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays”. There are claims by Tesla biographers that neither Edison nor Tesla were given the award because of their animosity toward each other; that each sought to minimize the other’s achievements and right to win the award; that both refused ever to accept the award if the other received it first; and that both rejected any possibility of sharing it.
Age 61: Tesla first establishes the principles of frequency and power level for the first primitive radar units.
Age 72: Receives his last patent, U.S. Patent 1,655,114 , for a biplane capable of taking off vertically (VTOL aircraft).
Age 78: Moves to the Hotel New Yorker after reaching a settlement with the Westinghouse Corporation, in which Tesla was granted a consulting rate of US$125 per month along paid monthly renting expenses.
Age 79: Tesla announces a method of transmitting mechanical energy with minimal loss over any terrestrial distance, a related new means of communication, and a method of accurately determining the location of underground mineral deposits.
Age 80: Tesla replies to a birthday telegram from Vladko Macek, saying that he is “equally proud” of his “Serbian origin and Croatian homeland” and “Long live all Yugoslavs.”
Age 81: Tesla leaves the Hotel New Yorker to make his regular commute to the cathedral and the library to feed the pigeons. While crossing a street a couple of blocks from the hotel, Tesla was unable to dodge a moving taxicab and was thrown heavily to the ground. Tesla’s back was severely wrenched and three of his ribs were broken in the accident
Tesla didn’t raise any question as to who was at fault and refused medical aid, only asking be taken to his hotel via cab. Tesla was bedridden for some months and was unable to continue feeding pigeons from his window.
In the spring of 1938, Tesla was able to get up. He at once resumed the pigeons—feeding walks on a much more limited scale, but frequently had a messenger act for him.
Tesla writes a treatise, “The Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media”, concerning charged particle beam weapons. Tesla would publish the document in an attempt to expound on the technical description of a “superweapon that would put an end to all war.”
Age 86: Dies alone in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel. His corpse was later found by maid Alice Monaghan after she had entered Tesla’s room, ignoring the “do not disturb” sign that Tesla had had placed on his door two days prior to his death. Assistant medical examiner, H. W. Wembly, was called to the scene; after examining of the body, he ruled that the cause of death had been coronary thrombosis and that there had been no suspicious circumstances.
After his death After Tesla’s death the custodian of alien property impounded his trunks, which held his papers, his diplomas and other honours, his letters, and his laboratory notes. These were eventually inherited by Tesla’s nephew, Sava Kosanovich, and later housed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade.
Death: Hundreds filed into New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for his funeral services, and a flood of messages acknowledged the loss of a great genius. Three Nobel Prize recipients addressed their tribute to “one of the outstanding intellects of the world who paved the way for many of the technological developments of modern times.”