Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Invention and Appetite -- An anecdote about young Nikola Tesla

While searching the newspaper archives, I found this entertaining anecdote about Nikola Tesla working in Edison's laboratory in Paris. Mr. Tesla's ability to hyper-focus on his work and its effect on his appetite is illustrated.

The Moulton Tribune, Moulton, Iowa, September 20, 1900, Page 7.

Great Thinkers Are Sometimes Great 

Sometimes the ability to meet a prolonged and highly productive mental strain is curiously linked with the ability to digest a hearty meal; which is another way of saying that great thinkers are sometimes great eaters. This may be especially the case where great thinkers have really had very little to eat. This story is told by a Chicago paper, evidently on the authority of Mr. Tesla himself, of a somewhat amusing experience which Nikola Tesla once had when in Mr. Edison's employ. Mr. Edison had a laboratory in Paris, and to this establishment, when a student, Nikola Tesla went to ask for work. The laboratory was in charge of a foreman named Fulton, who told Tesla that he would employ him, but only on the condition that he "would work." Tesla said he would, and he did, to such purpose that for two days and nights he did not close his eyes. At the end of the first fortnight he had not had forty-eight hours of sleep. The foreman here intervened and ordered the young man to rest. "We have both been under a strain," he said. "Let us go and get a good meal."

Tesla, aged 37, 1893, photo by Napoleon Sarony
He took Tesla to a restaurant, and ordered one of the biggest and thickest steaks that could be bought anywhere.  It was enormous.  With it there were various garnishings, which made for the two men a hearty meal.  But when they had finished it, something in the young student's look led Mr. Fulton to say:  "Is there anything else you would like?  You are out with me, you know, and I wish you would order anything you want."  Tesla looked around vaguely for a moment, as if making up his mind, and then said:  "Mr. Fulton, if you don't mind, I would like another steak!"

--Youths Companion.

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