Nikola Tesla -- The Man of the Future - An Engineer's Aspect


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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Nikola Tesla -- The Man of the Future

This newspaper article from 1899 includes some anecdotes about Nikola Tesla I hadn't read before and also includes a detailed physical description of the famous scientist. Imagine what the world would be like now if it had embraced wireless technology in 1899!

Sunday News, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Sunday, March 19, 1899, Page 9.

A bird's-eye view of the wonderful wireless telegraphy which Nikola Tesla is almost ready to operate across the earth.

Tesla and the Wireless Telegraphy Which He Originated.

There is a small country in Europe called Lika; and in Lika there is a little village called Smiljan. You may never have heard of either, but you have certainly heard of a baby who was born there some forty-three years ago, and who now in his present stage of development is one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever known.

Lika is part of Servia, and Servia ceased a long time ago to be of any importance in the world's history. Therefore, when the little Servian baby opened its eyes upon the world, people saw no great future in store for it, for they little dreamed that some time, out of Servia, would come the world-famed inventor, Nikola Tesla.

Tesla was born poor, as all Servian babes are, and life was a problem to him from the beginning. It was also a problem to his mother, who made things when she wanted them. When she needed clothes for herself and family she looked upon the plants in the fields and wondered why they could not be woven into cloth. Never having seen a loom, she invented one, and she raised in her fields the plants from which she extracted the fiber, prepared it, dyed it variously, and made therefrom the clothes of her family.

She produced a wide range of apparel and house-furnishings from a common doormat to the most delicate embroideries, beautiful in texture, dye and design.


The boy Nikola's grandfather, who was a priest of the Greek Church, also had a mania for making things, and he constantly fashioned with his hands all sorts of articles which he designed for the house. He had a sort of poetic passion for making. Thus mothered and thus grandsired, young Tesla came honestly by the craft of creation.

Tesla spent a pleasant boyhood, for his parents allowed him to do just about as he pleased, provided he went to school and did the chores, so as a boy he was always making things to see what they would do. The first thing he ever made was a flying machine. He was then a little fellow, but he did all the work himself, and nobody else knew anything about it, until he had tried to fly with it.

He used an old umbrella in making the machine, and it was undoubtedly on the same principle that Mr. Maxim, the best known flying machine man, uses to-day in his aeroplane. That the lad had faith in his machine was shown by his serious attempt to fly with it. Like Darius Green and his flying machine, he jumped from a height, and fell and injured himself.

He was only 12 when he built the flying machine. When he was 13 he had spent four years in the public school at Gospic and three years in the Real School, so he was sent to live with an aunt at Cartstatt, Croatia, to finish his studies. On the way to Cartstatt from Gospic, which would be called a "wayback" town in America, he saw a steam engine for the first time, and was overwhelmed with delight.

At Cartstatt he studied so hard that he was able to finish the four-year course in three years, and was graduated in 1873, though only 16 years of age.

His first experiments in electricity were made during this two years' rest from study, and his devotion and talents in that direction were so apparent that his father, who wanted him to become a clergyman, consented to his son's abandonment of the divinity career.

As soon as Father Tesla agreed to this, the boy, who was now 18, was sent to Gratz, in Austria, to prepare for work as a professor of mathematics and physics. At Gratz he saw and operated a Gramme machine for the first time, and from his introduction to this contrivance dates his determination to devote his life to electrical invention.

Once out in the great world he got a chance to work, which is what a Servian craves. He began to be an electrician, and he worked at it night and day. He never wanted to go home, and in the morning he was always at his post. In spite of his faithfulness he was not a great favorite with his employers, for he wasted so much material in experimenting that they were constantly obliged to "call him down," as the Edison superintendent remarked fifteen years later.

At Budapest he was a telegraph operator in the government engineering department, and it was there that he began to be noticed. One day he received an invitation to a fete. His comrades pressed him to go, and he rather craved the relaxation, but to spare the money from his private experiments, machines, etc., for a new suit of clothes was not to his liking.

A brilliant idea visited him. Why not invent a new suit out of an old one?

Seized by this inspiration, he turned his clothes inside out, ripped them apart, and sat up all the night before, playing tailor to himself.

If a lawyer who argues his own case has a fool for a client, what shall be said of a poetic inventor who tries to be tailor? He only succeeds, as did young Tesla, in becoming a tailor's goose. Tesla missed the fete, and stayed in several days, experimenting in patience, before he got another vestment with which to appear in public.

He had always longed for America. It seemed to call him with a mysterious voice, just as Paris calls American artists, or London calls American men of letters who are not fully valued here.

Tesla drifted to Paris, with a longing eye toward Columbia. At Paris he secured employment in electric lighting, and soon came under the notice of a clever associate of Edison, the immortal.

An offer was made to him to come to America and work in the Edison shops. This he eagerly accepted, and came over to attack his work with an ardor which won the admiration of his chief. Tesla worked there a long time, but finally the two separated by mutual agreement, and Tesla set up an electrical shop for himself.

Soon he began turning out the electrical wonders which have astonished the world. His scheme for bringing the power of Niagara to New York; his artifical daylight; his almost complete communication with Mars, and finally, his perfectly successful wireless telegraphy have made him talked about the world over. He has scorned the smaller electrical inventions, preferring to devote his energies to the solving of great problems that have baffled the world.


Two years ago, when he had nearly completed his signals to Mars, his laboratory on Fifth avenue, was entirely burned, and Tesla was prostrated. It was feared at the time that he would lose his reason, but he rallied, and now has a magnificent workshop on Houston street, equipped with marvels of electricity.

Your correspondent had the pleasure a few days ago of riding down town in a Broadway cable car with Tesla. He is a remarkable looking man, surely the tallest, thinnest and most serious man in New York. When thinking his lips move, and when the writer addressed him it took him a moment to get back from the region of artificial light in which he lives to that of plain old earth. He would not say upon what electrical problem he was working that muggy March morning, but he admitted that it had to do with the completion of the wireless telegraphy, which is now attracting so much attention.

A mountaineer he seems, an intrepid, rapid treader by the edge of precipices-- a child of the heights, not a denizen of cities.

Lean, tall, sinewy, with light blue, aquiline eyes, that look tired as though with eternal vigilance; a long, sharp nose, in the straightness of which comes an aquiline suggestion whenever he smiles with his lips; hair of glossy jet, a voice rather high in pitch, but agreeable in quality; a boyish manner streaked with intensity, hands rather small for his height, which talk, when he talks, with a languid sort of grace; that race inheritance which no change of environment or weariness can obliterate-- this is Tesla roughly sketched.

And Tesla is what he looks, a true descendant of those shepherd warriors, who, for centuries, have more or less held their own against the overflow of Asiatic barbarism.