• Fraser du Toit

Nikola Tesla – Lord of Lightning

Electricity is great. You are using several incredible electrical devices simultaneously in order to read this article. Our bodies and brains all run on electricity, just like every other living creature. I'ts all very Frankenstein.

Modern textbooks often credit Thomas Edison with the creation of our modern electrical world. He was a pioneer of practical electricity, but his achievements pale in comparison with those of another genius.

Nikola Tesla was deeply connected to electricity. Born during a massive thunderstorm and plagued by flashes of lightning inside his mind. Tesla was a uniquely gifted individual. He was capable of great acts of invention thanks to the inspiration he drew from the “Universal Core”. His life was marked with tragedy and betrayal. People would use him, abuse him, and ultimately discard him.

Heralded by Thunder

Nikola Tesla was born in the Austrian Empire on 10 July 1856. In the small village of Smiljan in what is now known as Croatia, a woman went into labor. Outside the sky cracked and thunder rattled the building. The midwife cried out that it was a bad omen, but the woman on the bed countered:

“He will be a child of light!”

Tesla's cries soon joined the roars of thunder coming from the sky. With that, the greatest inventor of the late 19th to early 20th century was born.

Early Life

Young Nikola Tesla was the youngest of 5 children. His father was an Eastern-Orthodox priest, Milutin Tesla. The man had not an inventive bone in his body. It was from Tesla's mother that he got his creative spark.

Georgina Đuka Tesla had a formidable mind. She couldn't read, but much like Socrates, she had an immense power to memorize long texts. Georgina's mind was a blade that she kept keen by memorizing Serbian epic-poetry and inventing things to help her around the house. She often played memory games with young Nikola. He idolized his mother, and as a result of this he had some issues understanding women.

During his early life, Tesla was already displaying his formidable intellect. He wrote poetry and even designed his first water wheel at the tender age of 6.

Nikola Tesla was very nearly a bit of a Feminist, but he also put women on a pedestal. He believed that women were the intellectual equals, if not superiors, of men. Unfortunately he also expected women to conform to the traditional role of a well-mannered, quiet, and dolled up figure. Either way, he was a forward thinker in this regard:

“This struggle of the human female toward sex equality will end in a new sex order, with the female as superior. The modern woman, who anticipates in merely superficial phenomena the advancement of her sex, is but a surface symptom of something deeper and more potent fermenting in the bosom of the race. It is not in the shallow physical imitation of men that women will assert first their equality and later their superiority, but in the awakening of the intellect of women. But the female mind has demonstrated a capacity for all the mental acquirements and achievements of men, and as generations ensue that capacity will be expanded; the average woman will be as well educated as the average man, and then better educated, for the dormant faculties of her brain will be stimulated to an activity that will be all the more intense and powerful because of centuries of repose. Women will ignore precedent and startle civilization with their progress.”

When Nikola was very young, he not only witnessed, but caused his brother's death. According to some people, Nikola spooked the horse that Daniel was riding. The horse bucked off the 12-year-old boy and trampled him to death underfoot.

The guilt would hang like a noose around Tesla's neck for the rest of his life. His father would often remark about what Daniel would have achieved had he not died because of Nikola.

Nikola Tesla loved school. He would dedicate himself to the study of electricity after a demonstration by a physics professor. Tesla called electricity a “mysterious phenomena” and felt compelled to “know more of this wonderful force”.

Nikola was able to perform difficult math in his mind. His teachers regularly accused him of cheating because of this ability. Tesla would finish his four-year course in three years. His academic achievements were partly due to his incredible work ethic and his Eidetic memory (photographic recall).

Cholera and OCD

While it is impossible to truly diagnose someone from the past, modern experts agree that Nikola Tesla likely suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. His symptoms manifested after his return to Smiljan. He contracted Cholera in 1873 and would spend the next nine months bedridden.

Death nearly claimed Nikola several times. His father had wanted Nikola to enter the priesthood, but in a moment of great fear he promised that should his son survive the illness, he could attend any engineering school he wished.

The youngest Tesla pulled through just in time to be eligible for drafting into the military. He knew that the military wasn't where he belonged, so he fled to Croatia where the military couldn't get him. Living in Tomingaj, Tesla wandered the woods and spent his days reading Mark Twain and physics textbooks. The time he spent in nature bolstered both his body and mind.

After recovering from Cholera, Tesla started behaving differently. He was deathly afraid of germs. Numbers started taking profound influence over his thoughts. Nikola was famously obsessed with the numbers 3, 6, and 9, believing them to hold the key to the Universe. Later in life he would only stay in hotel rooms where the room number was divisible by 3.

Tesla would circle the block a set number of times before entering a building. He became painfully neat and would follow a strict routine that he could not break. Sleep was one of the many things in life that he took full control of.

Nikola Tesla was a Polyphasic sleeper, meaning that he would go to sleep more than 3 times a day. Leonardo da Vinci is said to have followed a similar sleep schedule.

Tesla would never sleep more than 2 hours at a time. He followed a schedule of six 20-minute naps distributed throughout the day. This routine helped him be the human dynamo that he was, but it also contributed to his early mental breakdown at 25.

Nikola couldn't bring himself to touch another person's hair. He hated pearls. Before eating, he would calculate the volume of his food and if he didn't do so, he would refuse to eat.

School, Burnout, and Engineering

After his time in the mountainous woods of Croatia, Tesla went to the Imperial-Royal Technical College in Graz. During his first year, he applied himself furiously to his studies. Nikola would pass twice as many exams as were necessary. His hunger for education seemed insatiable.

The Dean wrote a letter of commendation to Nikola's father, praising his son's work ethic and achievements. He also expressed concerns about the young Tesla's abnormal sleep schedule and tendency to overwork.

Nikola Tesla wasn't a model student forever. His will faltered during his third year and his grades tumbled. Failing at school, he applied his mind to a new hobby, gambling.

His scholarship money, as well as the funds his parents had afforded him disappeared into the bottomless pit of gambling-addiction. Tesla dropped out of school at Graz without finishing his degree.

Disgraced and embarrassed, Tesla fled Graz without telling anyone. His classmates thought that he had drowned himself in the river. That is until one of them found Nikola working as a draftsman in Slovenia. He reported his discovery to Tesla's parents.

Milutin Tesla tried and failed to convince his son to move to Prague to continue his studies. Finally, Tesla was deported from Slovenia and returned home where he took up teaching. One month later, Milutin would die of a mystery illness.

Nikola's uncles took it upon themselves to keep their brother's promise and get his eccentric son educated. They raised funds to send Nikola to Prague to attend the Charles-Ferdinand University.

He accepted their generosity and left for Prague. Unfortunately he arrived too late to enroll. Tesla also lacked the required linguistic skills to study in Prague. Both Greek and Czech were required, and he could speak neither. He still attended philosophy lectures, but wasn't graded.

One year later, Nikola Tesla moved to Budapest in Hungary. He got a job working at the Budapest Telephone Exchange as a chief electrical engineer. During his time at the company he would make many improvements to their equipment.

The Call of Destiny – To Paris, To America!

Tesla worked for a man called Tivadar Puskás, who was himself a noted inventor. Tivadar got Tesla a job in Paris after working with him for one year. The job was at the Continental Edison Company.

He worked at the Continental Edison Company for three years. During this time he became a priceless asset to his manager, Charles Batchelor. So impressed was Batchelor with the young Serb, that he took him with him to America when Batchelor was called back.

Tesla began working at the Edison Machine Works in Manhattan after emigrating in 1884. He applied himself in typical Tesla-fashion and soon proved himself. Batchelor and Thomas Edison were quite close, and the two ran into Tesla one morning after hearing that Nikola had spent all night out. Edison made a remark about Tesla's partying. Nikola denied being out partying, instead he had spent all night repairing broken dynamos on the SS Oregon.

Edison was impressed, saying:

“this is a damned good man”

Tesla only worked for Edison for 6 months. He quit after being denied a $50,000 bonus for inventing 24 standard machines. Upon completion of the challenge, Edison denied Tesla the money, saying:

“Tesla, you don't understand our American humor”

Nikola Tesla started his own company after leaving Edison. Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing Company was started with the help of Edison's own patent attorney who introduced Nikola to two financial backers.

Over the course of the next year Tesla worked hard to perfect his patents for an advanced new Direct Current (D/C) generator as well as a new arc lighting system. His backers were less enthusiastic about Tesla's ideas concerning Alternating Current (A/C) systems.

Today's electronics use A/C instead of D/C. Back in Tesla's day, D/C was king. This was because Thomas Edison had invested himself fully in D/C, and everything electrical fell under Edison's purview.

His investor's would abandon Tesla soon enough. They felt that the market for the manufacture of electrical devices was too competitive to be profitable. Instead, they would simply run an electrical utility company. Once again Nikola Tesla was left high and dry by those that had promised money for his work.

To add insult to injury, Tesla could only find work as a ditch digger for the Edison company. In his autobiography, Tesla wrote this comment about 1886, a comment which sounds like a Millennial wrote it today:

"My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery"

The Tesla Electric Company

Late in 1886, after diggin many ditches for $2 a day, Tesla met two men who could back him financially. These men were committed to Tesla and were experienced at promoting startups. Together the three men founded the Tesla Electric Company. This time for real.

Nikola Tesla got to focus on invention again and he sson had a patent for a working A/C induction motor. With one invention, Tesla had set humanity on course for the 21st century and beyond. This is the equivalent of Tony Stark inventing the Arc Reactor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everything starts here.

Tesla's business partners marketed the motor as the next big thing in electricity. Nikola wrote a paper on his invention that was published in a journal. His work was displayed at the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on May 16 1888. Engineers working for George Westinghouse reported back to their boss that Nikola Tesla had a working A/C motor.

George Westinghouse bought the rights to the Tesla Motor for $60,000 cash. He also hired Nikola to work as a consultant at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Things were looking up for Tesla.

That is until the bank controlling the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company's debt collapsed. Debt was sold off and Westinghouse's new financial masters forced him to default on his contract with Tesla. Once again Nikola Tesla was undone before he could really get going.

George Westinghouse was not a cruel man. He arranged to pay Tesla a lump sum of $216,000 for his motor patent. This money would make Nikola a wealthy man, and would enable him to fund his own experiments.

Nikola Tesla's Golden Years - The New York Laboratory

Tesla settled into a series of laboratories in Manhattan. He would invent his most famous creations over the course of the next 12 years. Stunning his friends and enemies alike with the brilliance of his mind.

Nikola invented the Tesla Coil around the same time that he was granted U.S. citizenship in 1891. This is probably one of his most iconic inventions. Tall pylons with circular structures at the top which shoot out arcs of lightning. Tesla Coils are a type of electrical resonant transformer that produces high-voltage low-current A/C electricity. The Tesla Coil is used, in a modified version, in modern radio technology.

Nikola Tesla designed the first hydro-electric dam in the U.S. which was built at Niagara Falls. Westinghouse and Tesla got the contract after using A/C power to light the 1893 World's Columbian Fair.

One of Tesla's ideas, which has inspired countless conspiracy theorists, is the wireless transmission of electricity. During 1890 Tesla began working on using his Tesla Coils to power lightbulbs from a distance. It may seem hard to believe, but he actually achieved proof of concept, implementing it at the Columbian World's Fair in Chicago. An observer wrote this about the demonstration:

Within the room were suspended two hard-rubber plates covered with tin foil. These were about fifteen feet apart and served as terminals of the wires leading from the transformers. When the current was turned on, the lamps or tubes, which had no wires connected to them, but lay on a table between the suspended plates, or which might be held in the hand in almost any part of the room, were made luminous. These were the same experiments and the same apparatus shown by Tesla in London about two years previous, "where they produced so much wonder and astonishment"

Tesla theorized that using the Earth's resonant frequency, humans could transmit messages and even electrical power wirelessly. He was spot on with predicting radio technology. Nikola would just miss out on inventing the radio a few years later. Beaten to the punch by Guglielmo Marconi.

While enjoying all of the fame and success that his genius had won him, Tesla made some famous friends. He became friends with his favorite author, Mark Twain. The two of them would spend a lot of time together. Twain would often participate in Tesla's experiments.

The weirdest anecdote about this time is about Tesla and Twain. Mark had been having trouble with constipation. He approached Nikola for a solution, probably because doctors at the time were pumping people full of mercury and arsenic. Either way, Nikola Tesla knew how to overcome Mark Twain's constipation. Tesla had Twain stand on a disc which was rigged up to vibrate powerfully. The machine shook the author and after a time, Tesla told Twain to get off. Mark Twain refused to get off of the machine. The experiment worked so well that it ended with Mark Twain soiling himself in the lab.

These experiments with Twain brought Tesla right up to the edge of discovering X-Rays. He took photos of Twain holding Geissler Tubes, and the photo showed nothing more than the screw in the camera's lens.

Nikola Tesla invented a remote-controlled boat and demonstrated it in front of an astonished crowd at Madison Square Garden. While radio controlled vehicles are commonplace today, his was entirely novel at the time. I'm sure there were some people swearing that he was either a witch or the devil himself.

Unfortunately for Tesla the golden years wouldn't last. His lab was destroyed in a fire which consumed all of his equipment and notes. The conflagration started in the basement and moved upwards to consume the inventor's whole lab.

The War of the Currents - Edison Froths at the Mouth

Thomas Edison was a brutally competitive man. He had no qualms about undermining the credibility of his opponents and would go to any lengths to win. His feud with Westinghouse and Tesla would lead him to increasingly absurd stunts of cruelty.

Edison's D/C power had some problems. The most obvious being that it could not be converted into higher or lower voltages with ease. He had to have known that A/C was superior in this regard as well as its ability to be transmitted across longer distances.

Thomas didn't own patents for A/C though, and if the world switched to A/C power he would lose out on all of those sweet royalty payments. So Thomas Edison did what came naturally to him, he tried to destroy George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla's credibility in the public eye. Marketing was one of his specialties and he would wield it like a sword.

Propoganda is a powerful thing. You can convince the masses of nearly anything if you know how to manipulate their perceptions. Thomas Edison did just that through one of the most psycopathic series of stunts in history.

Edison had his lackeys go out and steal dogs and cats. He would then place the stolen pets on a large metal platform and electrocute them to death in front of an audience. After the beloved pets' hearts were thoroughly cooked, he would loudly proclaim that he used A/C current to do it. Look how dangerous A/C can be everyone! It killed all of these people's pets!

To counter Edison's cruelty theater, Westinghouse and Tesla proved the safety and efficiancy of A/C through demonstrations and application. They would ultimately win the war of currents, but not before Edison killed again.

Thomas Edison killed an elephant using A/C, or so it is claimed. The video, because it was one of the first things to ever be filmed, is apparently available online. They held a mock trial to condemn the elephant to death before strapping her up to a generator and electrocuted her to death.

While Thomas Edison wasn't directly involved, or, at the very least not present, it was his engineers that handled the electrical machinery on the day. His company was also the one to film and distribute the video of the execution.

Topsy the elephant had in her past killed a man. She had been abused all her life by circus trainers and the man that she killed had burned her with a cigar right before she crushed him.

Edison also won a bid to electrocute a prisoner using A/C current. He botched it and the man survived the first ride on the electric chair. They had to zap him again before he finally died screaming.

Wardenclyffe - Powering the Conspiracy Theories

Tesla shifted focus after his lab burned down. He wanted to work on that wireless energy transmission idea. Money was a problem though, so he convinced J.P. Morgan that he was working on a wireless radio transmission station.

He set up a laboratory in Long Island, New York. This location was perfect for the construction of a huge tower that would theoretically be capable of transmitting radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean as well as charging the Earth into a giant electrical reservoir to power devices anywhere on the planet. Telsa's theory included lighting up the Ionosphere to provide free lighting at night. I'm gad he didn't do that last one.

In 1901Tesla wrote and article for Collier's Weekly in which he described his theory a bit more:

(using) the Earth itself as the medium for conducting the currents, thus dispensing with wires and all other artificial conductors ... a machine which, to explain its operation in plain language, resembled a pump in its action, drawing electricity from the Earth and driving it back into the same at an enormous rate, thus creating ripples or disturbances which, spreading through the Earth as through a wire, could be detected at great distances by carefully attuned receiving circuits. In this manner I was able to transmit to a distance, not only feeble effects for the purposes of signaling, but considerable amounts of energy, and later discoveries I made convinced me that I shall ultimately succeed in conveying power without wires, for industrial purposes, with high economy, and to any distance, however great.

Nikola Tesla had a great dream for Wardenclyffe. He would have a "Radio City" built around the tower. This city would be filled with factories manufacturing Tesla's inventions. In a practically modern move that would impress Jeff Bezos, Tesla wanted his workers to live on the island as well. Life becomes work, becomes life. Times may change, but people don't.

Work on the facility at Wardenclyffe started in 1901. The building contained a library, a generator room, several laboratories, and a host of manufacturing workshops for everything from glassblowing to electrical fabrication. Little is known about the tower's construction as Tesla kept the designs close to his chest.

As it turns out, J.P. Morgan was as stingy as he was rich. He failed to make the promised payments and started withholding money as early as September 1901. Tesla wrote many letters to Morgan, but he never got anywhere close to convincing him. Some people theorize that Morgan had found out about Tesla's plan to provide electricity to the world, and that would cut into J.P. Morgan's revenue stream.

By 1902 Nikola Tesla had finished his 187 foot (56,9 meters) tower and started moving from his latest New York laboratory and into the Wardenclyffe facility. He was beaten by Marconi's radio transmissions and would soon succumb to his lack of public relations skills.

Wall Street investors were less interested in Tesla's tower than Marconi's telegraph. The media started portraying Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower as a hoax or publicity stunt. Investors were terrified by the prospect of funding a hoax.

Tesla's greatest dream became his greatest defeat in 1906. According to a biographer, Mark J. Seifer, Nikola Tesla suffered a nervous breakdown because of it. Tesla would never truly recover.

Lonesome Latter Years - Death Rays and Pigeon Love

Nikola Tesla lived out his last decades in a hotel in New York City. He continued working on inventions, although he never achieved the heights of success that he had come so close to before.

Another blow came in 1917 when he was awarded the Edison Medal by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. It was the highest honor they could bestow, but it also bore the name of the man who had worked tirelessly to destroy Nikola Tesla.

One of his last inventions was a bladeless turbine which never saw practical application during his lifetime. Later it was used as a part of the speedometer of luxury cars.

One of the things he is known for is the claim that he had designed and built a Death Ray in his time at Colorado Springs in 1899. Tesla claimed that the Death Ray could fire a particle beam powerful enough to disintegrate a whole army at a distance. He, like many others before and after him, believed that if he could create a weapon of sufficient power, he could end the notion of war. Nuclear weapons would later be this ultimate weapon, and we all know that war is still very much a thing.

Tesla called the weapon the Teleforce. While it wouldn't fire actual rays, it would fire a tiny projectile with sufficient force to vaporise anything that it hit. He tried to get funding from several world governments, to no avail.

Nikola Tesla described many designs in his notebooks, all of which were seized by the FBI the moment he died. Everything was cleared out even before any local authorities or family could arrive on the scene. They released some of his notebooks years later, but many of his papers remain classified.

Feeding pigeons had long been one of Tesla's hobbies. As time dragged the inventor further into delusion and decline, he met the love of his life. Yes, Nikola Tesla was pigeon-sexual. He may never have acted physically on his love, but he did in fact fall in romantic love with a pigeon.

Oh, you don't believe me? Here's what Tesla said about his pigeon-girlfriend:

I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life

In 1922 the pigeon flew into Tesla's room to tell him that she was dying. He was devestated. Before her death, she reportedly emitted beams of bright white light from her eyes. This is according to Nikola, who had been seeing bright flashes throughout his life, usually followed by inspiration. Now the flash indicated the end of his career as an inventor.

He told friends that his life's work was over. Nikola Tesla lingered for 21 more years before following his pigeon into the great unknown that is death.


  • Tesla believed firmly that he was being contacted by intelligences outside of the Earth. He claimed that his inventions came to him from the Universal Core and were beamed down into his mind.

  • He saw flashes of bright light before coming up with his inventions.

  • Many of his inventions were designed wholly in his mind. He rarely wrote down his designs before building them.

  • Nikola Tesla built a massive Tesla Coil in Colorado Springs that shot bolts of lightning out 43 m. Causing thunder to be heard for miles around. The nearby town was ambiently electrified to the point where sparks were visible between people's shoes and the street. Electric fire shot out of faucets.

  • He claimed to have received radio signals from outer space using his receiver in Colorado Springs. He wrote the following in an article:

Even now, at times, I can vividly recall the incident, and see my apparatus as though it were actually before me. My first observations positively terrified me, as there was present in them something mysterious, not to say supernatural, and I was alone in my laboratory at night; but at that time the idea of these disturbances being intelligently controlled signals did not yet present itself to me. It was some time afterward when the thought flashed upon my mind that the disturbances I had observed might be due to an intelligent control. Although I could not decipher their meaning, it was impossible for me to think of them as having been entirely accidental. The feeling is constantly growing on me that I had been the first to hear the greeting of one planet to another

  • Conspiracy Theorists believe that Tesla was close to perfecting universal transfer of wireless power, and that he was sabotaged by the fossil fuel industry.

  • Tesla claimed to have invented a 'pocket-sized' oscillation device that could destroy skyscrapers. Basically an earthquake in a bottle.