from Chaozation23 Website
worked as an electrical engineer in Budapest, Hungary, and subsequently in
France and Germany. In 1888 his
discovery that a magnetic field could be made to rotate if two coils at
right angles are supplied with AC current 90Á out of phase made possible
the invention of the AC induction motor. The major advantage of this motor
being its brush less operation, which many at the time believed
also did notable research on high-voltage electricity and wireless
communication; at one point creating an earthquake which shook the ground
for several miles around his New York laboratory. He also devised a system
which anticipated worldwide wireless communications, fax machines, radar,
radio-guided missiles and aircraft.
This autobiography is released to remedy this situation.
Speaking for myself, I have already had more than my full measure
of this exquisite enjoyment; so much, that for many years my life was
little short of continuous rapture. I am credited with being one of the
hardest workers and perhaps I am, if thought is the equivalent of labour,
for I have devoted to it almost all of my waking hours. But if work is
interpreted to be a definite performance in a specified time according to
a rigid rule, then I may be the worst of idlers.
These daily lessons were intended to strengthen memory and reason,
and especially to develop the critical sense, and were undoubtedly very
beneficial. My mother descended from one of the oldest families in the
country and a line of inventors. Both her father and grandfather
originated numerous implements for household, agricultural and other uses.
She was a truly great woman, of rare skill, courage and fortitude, who had
braved the storms of life and passed through many a trying experience.
When she was sixteen, a virulent pestilence swept the country. Her father
was called away to administer the last sacraments to the dying and during
his absence she went alone to the assistance of a neighboring family who
were stricken by the dread disease. She bathed, clothed and laid out the
bodies, decorating them with flowers according to the custom of the
country and when her father returned he found everything ready for a
They were pictures of things and scenes which i had really seen, never of those imagined. When a word was spoken to me the image of the object it designated would present itself vividly to my vision and sometimes I was quite unable to distinguish weather what I saw was tangible or not. This caused me great discomfort and anxiety. None of the students of psychology or physiology whom i have consulted, could ever explain satisfactorily these phenomenon. They seem to have been unique although I was probably predisposed as I know that my brother experienced a similar trouble. The theory I have formulated is that the images were the result of a reflex action from the brain on the retina under great excitation.
certainly were not hallucinations such as are produced in diseased and
anguished minds, for in other respects I was normal and composed. To give
an idea of my distress, suppose that I had witnessed a funeral or some
such nerve-wracking spectacle. The, inevitably, in the stillness of night,
a vivid picture of the scene would thrust itself before my eyes and
persist despite all my efforts to banish it. If my explanation is correct,
it should be possible to project on a screen the image of any object one
conceives and make it visible. Such an advance would revolutionize all
human relations. I am convinced that this wonder can and will be
accomplished in time to come. I may add that I have devoted much thought
to the solution of the problem.
These were at first very blurred and indistinct, and would flit away when I tried to concentrate my attention upon them. They gained in strength and distinctness and finally assumed the concreteness of real things. I soon discovered that my best comfort was attained if I simply went on in my vision further and further, getting new impressions all the time, and so I began to travel; of course, in my mind. Every night, (and sometimes during the day), when alone, I would start on my journeys -- see new places, cities and countries; live there, meet people and make friendships and acquaintances and, however unbelievable, it is a fact that they were just as dear to me as those in actual life, and not a bit less intense in their manifestations. This I did constantly until I was about seventeen, when my thoughts turned seriously to invention.
I observed to my delight that i could visualize with the greatest
facility. I needed no models, drawings or experiments. I could picture
them all as real in my mind. Thus I have been led unconsciously to evolve
what I consider a new method of materializing inventive concepts and
ideas, which is radially opposite to the purely experimental and is in my
opinion ever so much more expeditious and efficient.
I have gone so far as to embody in the invention every possible
improvement I can think of and see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete
form this final product of my brain. Invariably my device works as I
conceived that it should, and the experiment comes out exactly as I
planned it. In twenty years there has not been a single exception. Why
should it be otherwise? Engineering, electrical and mechanical, is
positive in results. There is scarcely a subject that cannot be examined
beforehand, from the available theoretical and practical data. The
carrying out into practice of a crude idea as is being generally done, is,
I hold, nothing but a waste of energy, money, and time.
practical result of this was the art of tele automatics which has been so
far carried out only in an imperfect manner. Its latent possibilities
will, however be eventually shown. I have been years planning
self-controlled automata and believe that mechanisms can be produced which
will act as if possessed of reason, to a limited degree, and will create a
revolution in many commercial and industrial departments. I was about
twelve years of age when I first succeeded in banishing an image from my
vision by willful effort, but I never had any control over the flashes of
light to which I have referred. They were, perhaps, my strangest and
[most] inexplicable experience. They usually occurred when I found myself
in a dangerous or distressing situations or when i was greatly
exhilarated. In some instances i have seen all the air around me filled
with tongues of living flame. Their intensity, instead of diminishing,
increased with time and seemingly attained a maximum when I was about
twenty-five years old.
there appears, to the right, a beautiful pattern of two systems of
parallel and closely spaced lines, at right angles to one another, in all
sorts of colors with yellow, green, and gold predominating. Immediately
thereafter, the lines grow brighter and the whole is thickly sprinkled
with dots of twinkling light. This picture moves slowly across the field
of vision and in about ten seconds vanishes on the left, leaving behind a
ground of rather unpleasant and inert grey until the second phase is
reached. Every time, before falling asleep, images of persons or objects
flit before my view. When I see them I know I am about to lose
consciousness. If they are absent and refuse to come, it means a sleepless
night. To what an extent imagination played in my early life, I may
illustrate by another odd experience.
I had a violent aversion against the earring of women, but other ornaments, as bracelets, pleased me more or less according to design. The sight of a pearl would almost give me a fit, but I was fascinated with the glitter of crystals or objects with sharp edges and plane surfaces. I would not touch the hair of other people except, perhaps at the point of a revolver. I would get a fever by looking at a peach and if a piece of camphor was anywhere in the house it caused me the keenest discomfort. Even now I am not insensible to some of these upsetting impulses. When I drop little squares of paper in a dish filled with liquid, I always sense a peculiar and awful taste in my mouth. I counted the steps in my walks and calculated the cubical contents of soup plates, coffee cups and pieces of food, otherwise my meal was unenjoyable.
repeated acts or operations I performed had to be divisible by three and
if I missed I felt impelled to do it all over again, even if it took
hours. Up to the age of eight years, my character was weak and
vacillating. I had neither courage or strength to form a firm resolve. My
feelings came in waves and surges and variated unceasingly between
extremes. My wishes were of consuming force and like the heads of the
hydra, they multiplied. I was oppressed by thoughts of pain in life and
death and religious fear. I was swayed by superstitious belief and lived
in constant dread of the spirit of evil, of ghosts and ogres and other
unholy monsters of the dark. Then all at once, there came a tremendous
change which altered the course of my whole existence.
On frequent occasions he gave vent to his anger and contempt, but my mother was different. She understood the character of men and knew that one's salvation could only be brought about through his own efforts. One afternoon, I remember, when I had lost all my money and was craving for a game, she came to me with a roll of bills and said, 'Go and enjoy yourself. The sooner you lose all we possess, the better it will be. I know that you will get over it.' She was right. I conquered my passion then and there and only regretted that it had not been a hundred times as strong. I not only vanquished but tore it from my heart so as not to leave even a trace of desire.
Ever since that time I have been as indifferent to any form of gambling as to picking teeth. During another period I smoked excessively, threatening to ruin my health. Then my will asserted itself and I not only stopped but destroyed all inclination. Long ago I suffered from heart trouble until I discovered that it was due to the innocent cup of coffee I consumed every morning. I discontinued at once, though I confess it was not an easy task. In this way I checked and bridled other habits and passions, and have not only preserved my life but derived an immense amount of satisfaction from what most men would consider privation and sacrifice.
After finishing the studies at the Polytechnic Institute and
University, I had a complete nervous breakdown and while the malady lasted
I observed many phenomena, strange and
pressure of occupation and the incessant stream of impressions pouring
into our consciousness through all the gateways of knowledge make modern
existence hazardous in many ways. Most persons are so absorbed in the
contemplation of the outside world that they are wholly oblivious to what
is passing on within themselves. The premature death of millions is
primarily traceable to this cause. Even among those who exercise care, it
is a common mistake to avoid imaginary, and ignore the real dangers. And
what is true of an individual also applies, more or less, to a people as a
resumed my walk as though nothing had happened when the stranger caught up
with me. "How old are you?" he asked, surveying me critically. "Oh, about
fifty-nine," I replied, "What of it?" "Well," said he, "I have seen a cat
do this but never a man." About a month ago I wanted to order new
eyeglasses and went to an oculist who put me through the usual tests. He
looked at me incredulously as I read off with ease the smallest print at
considerable distance. But when I told him I was past sixty he gasped in
astonishment. Friends of mine often remark that my suits fit me like
gloves but they do not know that all my clothing is made to measurements
which were taken nearly fifteen years ago and never changed. During this
same period my weight has not varied one pound. In this connection I may
tell a funny story.
My friend, the Hon. Chauncey M. Dupew, tells of an Englishman on whom he sprung one of his original anecdotes and who listened with a puzzled expression, but a year later, laughed out loud. I will frankly confess it took me longer than that to appreciate Johnson's joke. Now, my well-being is simply the result of a careful and measured mode of living and perhaps the most astonishing thing is that three times in my youth I was rendered by illness a hopeless physical wreck and given up by physicians. MORE than this, through ignorance and lightheartedness, I got into all sorts of difficulties, dangers and scrapes from which I extricated myself as by enchantment. I was almost drowned, entombed, lost and frozen. I had hairbreadth escapes from mad dogs, hogs, and other wild animals. I passed through dreadful diseases and met with all kinds of odd mishaps and that I am whole and hearty today seems like a miracle.
But as I recall these incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether accidental, but was indeed the work of divine power. An inventor's endeavor is essentially life saving. Whether he harnesses forces, improves devices, or provides new comforts and conveniences, he is adding to the safety of our existence. He is also better qualified than the average individual to protect himself in peril, for he is observant and resourceful. If I had no other evidence that I was, in a measure, possessed of such qualities, I would find it in these personal experiences. The reader will be able to judge for himself if I mention one or two instances. On one occasion, when about fourteen years old, I wanted to scare some friends who were bathing with me. My plan was to dive under a long floating structure and slip out quietly at the other end.
Swimming and diving came to me as naturally as to a duck and I was confident that I could perform the feat. Accordingly I plunged into the water and, when out of view, turned around and proceeded rapidly towards the opposite side. Thinking that I was safely beyond the structure, I rose to the surface but to my dismay struck a beam. Of course, I quickly dived and forged ahead with rapid strokes until my breath was beginning to give out. Rising for the second time, my head came again in contact with a beam. Now I was becoming desperate. However, summoning all my energy, I made a third frantic attempt but the result was the same. The torture of suppressed breathing was getting unendurable, my brain was reeling and I felt myself sinking. At that moment, when my situation seemed absolutely hopeless, I experienced one of those flashes of light and the structure above me appeared before my vision.
either discerned or guessed that there was a little space between the
surface of the water and the boards resting on the beams and, with
consciousness nearly gone, I floated up, pressed my mouth close to the
planks and managed to inhale a little air, unfortunately mingled with a
spray of water which nearly choked me. Several times I repeated this
procedure as in a dream until my heart, which was racing at a terrible
rate, quieted down, and I gained composure. After that I made a number of
unsuccessful dives, having completely lost the sense of direction, but
finally succeeded in getting out of the trap when my friends had already
given me up and were fishing for my body. That bathing season was spoiled
for me through recklessness but I soon forgot the lesson and only two
years later I fell into a worse predicament.
Not a soul was in sight and my voice was lost in the roar of the fall. Slowly and gradually I became exhausted and unable to withstand the strain longer. Just as I was about to let go, to be dashed against the rocks below, I saw in a flash of light a familiar diagram illustrating the hydraulic principle that the pressure of a fluid in motion is proportionate to the area exposed and automatically I turned on my left side. As if by magic, the pressure was reduced and I found it comparatively easy in that position to resist the force of the stream. But the danger still confronted me. I knew that sooner or later I would be carried down, as it was not possible for any help to reach me in time, even if I had attracted attention. I am ambidextrous now, but then I was left-handed and had comparatively little strength in my right arm.
this reason I did not dare to turn on the other side to rest and nothing
remained but to slowly push my body along the dam. I had to get away from
the mill towards which my face was turned, as the current there was much
swifter and deeper. It was a long and painful ordeal and I came near to
failing at its very end, for I was confronted with a depression in the
masonry. I managed to get over with the last ounce of my strength and fell
in a swoon when I reached the bank, where I was found. I had torn
virtually all the skin from my left side and it took several weeks before
the fever had subsided and I was well. These are only two of many
instanced, but they may be sufficient to show that had it not been for the
inventor's instinct, I would not have lived to tell the
Urged by necessity, I somehow got hold of a piece of soft iron
wire, hammered the end to a sharp point between two stones, bent it into
shape, and fastened it to a strong string. I then cut a rod, gathered some
bait, and went down to the brook where there were frogs in abundance. But
I could not catch any and was almost discouraged when it occurred to me
dangle the empty hook in front of a frog sitting on a stump. At first he
collapsed but by and by his eyes bulged out and became bloodshot, he
swelled to twice his normal size and made a vicious snap at the hook.
Immediately I pulled him up. I tried the same thing again and again and
the method proved infallible. When my comrades, who in spite of their fine
outfit had caught nothing, came to me, they were green with envy. For a
long time I kept my secret and enjoyed the monopoly but finally yielded to
the spirit of Christmas. Every boy could then do the same and the
following summer brought disaster to the frogs.
change of residence was like a calamity to me. It almost broke my heart to
part from our pigeons, chickens and sheep, and our magnificent flock of
geese which used to rise to the clouds in the morning and return from the
feeding grounds at sundown in battle formation, so perfect that it would
have put a squadron of the best aviators of the present day to shame. In
our new house I was but a prisoner, watching the strange people I saw
through my window blinds. My bashfulness was such that I would rather have
faced a roaring lion than one of the city dudes who strolled about. But my
hardest trial came on Sunday when I had to dress up and attend the
service. There I met with an accident, the mere thought of which made my
blood curdle like sour milk for years afterwards. It was my second
adventure in a church. Not long before, I was entombed for a night in an
old chapel on an inaccessible mountain which was visited only once a year.
It was an awful experience, but this one was worse.
After that, all I needed to do was to throw a piece of cardboard to
detract its attention, jump up and grab it before it could extricate
itself from the undergrowth. In this way I would capture as many as I
desired. But on one occasion something occurred which made me respect
them. I had caught a fine pair of birds and was returning home with a
friend. When we left the forest, thousands of crows had gathered making a
frightful racket. In a few minutes they rose in pursuit and soon enveloped
us. The fun lasted until all of a sudden I received a blow on the back of
my head which knocked me down. Then they attacked me viciously. I was
compelled to release the two birds and was glad to join my friend who had
taken refuge in a cave.
made all kinds of other contrivances and contraptions but among those, the
arbalests I produced were the best. My arrows, when short, disappeared
from sight and at close range traversed a plank of pine one inch thick.
Through the continuous tightening of the bows I developed a skin on my
stomach much like that of a crocodile and I am often wondering whether it
is due to this exercise that I am able even now to digest cobblestones!
Nor can I pass in silence my performances with the sling which would have
enabled me to give a stunning exhibit at the Hippodrome. And now I will
tell of one of my feats with this unique implement of war which will
strain to the utmost the credulity of the reader.
Other records, however great, will be eclipsed but I feel that I
could peacefully rest on my laurels for a thousand years.
to a certain degree of complexity it was absolutely the same to me whether
I wrote the symbols on the board or conjured them before my mental vision.
But freehand drawing, to which many hours of the course were devoted, was
an annoyance I could not endure. This was rather remarkable as most of the
members of the family excelled in it. Perhaps my aversion was simply due
to the predilection I found in undisturbed thought. Had it not been for a
few exceptionally stupid boys, who could not do anything at all, my record
would have been the worst.
Finally, however, my endeavors crystallized in an invention which
was to enable me to achieve what no other mortal ever attempted. Imagine a
cylinder freely rotatable on two bearings and partly surrounded by a
rectangular trough which fits it perfectly. The open side of the trough is
enclosed by a partition so that the cylindrical segment within the
enclosure divides the latter into two compartments entirely separated from
each other by airtight sliding joints. One of these compartments being
sealed and once for all exhausted, the other remaining open, a perpetual
rotation of the cylinder would result. At least, so I thought.
that time on I made my daily aerial excursions in a vehicle of comfort and
luxury as might have befitted King Solomon. It took years before I
understood that the atmospheric pressure acted at right angles to the
surface of the cylinder and that the slight rotary effort I observed was
due to a leak! Though this knowledge came gradually it gave me a painful
shock. I had hardly completed my course at the Real Gymnasium when
I was prostrated with a dangerous illness or rather, a score of them, and
my condition became so desperate that I was given up by physicians. During
this period I was permitted to read constantly, obtaining books from the
Public Library which had been neglected and entrusted to me for
classification of the works and preparation of catalogues.
the meals were of the highest quality and deliciously prepared, but short
in quantity by a thousand percent. The slices of ham cut by my aunt were
like tissue paper. When the Colonel would put something substantial on my
plate she would snatch it away and say excitedly to him; "Be careful. Niko
is very delicate." I had a voracious appetite and suffered like Tantalus.
But I lived in an atmosphere of refinement and artistic taste quite
unusual for those times and conditions. The land was low and marshy and
malaria fever never left me while there despite the enormous amounts of
quinine I consumed. Occasionally the river would rise and drive an army of
rats into the buildings, devouring everything, even to the bundles of
fierce paprika. These pests were to me a welcome diversion. I thinned
their ranks by all sorts of means, which won me the unenviable distinction
of rat-catcher in the community. At last, however, my course was
completed, the misery ended, and I obtained the certificate of maturity
which brought me to the crossroads.
was a strange request as he had been always strenuously opposed to this
kind of sport. But a few days later I learned that the cholera was raging
in that district and, taking advantage of an opportunity, I returned to
Gospic in disregard to my parent's wishes. It is incredible how
absolutely ignorant people were as to the causes of this scourge which
visited the country in intervals of fifteen to twenty years. They thought
that the deadly agents were transmitted through the air and filled it with
pungent odors and smoke. In the meantime they drank infested water and
died in heaps. I contracted the dreadful disease on the very day of my
arrival and although surviving the crisis, I was confined to bed for nine
months with scarcely any ability to move. My energy was completely
exhausted and for the second time I found myself at Death's
heavy weight was lifted from my mind but the relief would have come too
late had it not been for a marvelous cure brought through a bitter
decoction of a peculiar bean. I came to life like Lazarus to the
utter amazement of everybody. My father insisted that I spend a year in
healthful physical outdoor exercise to which I reluctantly consented. For
most of this term I roamed in the mountains, loaded with a hunter's outfit
and a bundle of books, and this contact with nature made me stronger in
body as well as in mind. I thought and planned, and conceived many ideas
almost as a rule delusive. The vision was clear enough but the knowledge
of principles was very limited.
the termination of my vacation I was sent to the Poly-Technic School in
Gratz, Styria (Austria), which my father had chosen as one of the
oldest and best reputed institutions. That was the moment I had eagerly
awaited and I began my studies under good auspices and firmly resolved to
succeed. My previous training was above average, due to my father's
teaching and opportunities afforded. I had acquired the knowledge of a
number of languages and waded through the books of several libraries,
picking up information more or less useful. Then again, for the first
time, I could choose my subjects as I liked, and free-hand drawing was to
bother me no more.
Thereafter I devoted myself chiefly to physics, mechanics and
mathematical studies, spending the hours of leisure in the libraries. I
had a veritable mania for finishing whatever I began, which often got me
into difficulties. On one occasion I started to read the works of
Voltaire, when I learned, to my dismay that there were close to one
hundred large volumes in small print which that monster had written while
drinking seventy-two cups of black coffee per diem. It had to be done, but
when I laid aside that last book I was very glad, and said, "Never
He took a special interest in my progress and would frequently remain for an hour or two in the lecture room, giving me problems to solve, in which I delighted. To him I explained a flying machine I had conceived, not an illusory invention, but one based on sound, scientific principles, which has become realizable through my turbine and will soon be given to the world. Both Professors Rogner and Poeschl were curious men. The former had peculiar ways of expressing himself and whenever he did so, there was a riot, followed by a long embarrassing pause. Professor Poeschl was a methodical and thoroughly grounded German. He had enormous feet, and hands like the paws of a bear, but all of his experiments were skillfully performed with clock-like precision and without a miss. It was in the second year of my studies that we received a Gramoe Dyname from Paris, having the horseshoe form of a laminated field magnet, and a wire wound armature with a commutator. It was connected up and various effects of the currents were shown.
While Professor Poeschl was making demonstrations, running the
machine was a motor, the brushes gave trouble, sparking badly, and I
observed that it might be possible to operate a motor without these
appliances. But he declared that it could not be done and did me the honor
of delivering a lecture on the subject, at the conclusion he remarked, Mr.
Tesla may accomplish great things, but he certainly will never do this. It
would be equivalent to converting a steadily pulling force, like that of
gravity into a rotary effort. It is a perpetual motion scheme, an
impossible idea. But instinct is something which transcends knowledge. We
have, undoubtedly, certain finer fibbers that enable us to perceive truths
when logical deduction, or any other willful effort of the brain, is
my remaining term in Gratz was passed in intense but fruitless
efforts of this kind, and I almost came to the conclusion that the problem
was insolvable. In 1880 I went to Prague, Bohemia, carrying out my
father's wish to complete my education at the University there. It was in
that city that I made a decided advance, which consisted in detaching the
commutator from the machine and studying the phenomena in this new aspect,
but still without result. In the year following there was a sudden change
in my views of life.
Several times in my boyhood I saved the houses of our neighbors
from fire by hearing the faint crackling sounds which did not disturb
their sleep, and calling for help. In 1899, when I was past forty and
carrying on my experiments in Colorado, I could hear very distinctly
thunderclaps at a distance of 550 miles. My ear was thus over thirteen
times more sensitive, yet at that time I was, so to speak, stone deaf in
comparison with the acuteness of my hearing while under the nervous
sun rays, when periodically intercepted, would cause blows of such force
on my brain that they would stun me. I had to summon all my will power to
pass under a bridge or other structure, as I experienced the crushing
pressure on the skull. In the dark I had the sense of a bat, and could
detect the presence of an object at a distance of twelve feet by a
peculiar creepy sensation on the forehead. My pulse varied from a few to
two hundred and sixty beats and all the tissues of my body with twitchings
and tremors, which was perhaps hardest to bear. A renowned physician who
have me daily large doses of Bromide of Potassium, pronounced my
malady unique and incurable.
powerful desire to live and to continue the work and the assistance of a
devoted friend, an athlete, accomplished the wonder. My health returned
and with it the vigor of mind in attacking the problem again, I almost
regretted that the struggle was soon to end. I had so much energy to
spare. When I understood the task, it was not with a resolve such as men
often make. With me it was a sacred vow, a question of life and death. I
knew that I would perish if I failed. Now I felt that the battle was won.
Back in the deep recesses of the brain was the solution, but I could net
yet give it outward expression.
As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightening and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand, the diagram shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and my companion understood them perfectly. The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told him, "See my motor here; watch me reverse it."
I cannot begin to describe my emotions. Pygmalion seeing his statue come to life could not have been more deeply moved.
thousand secrets of nature which I might have stumbled upon accidentally,
I would have given for that one which I had wrested from her against all
odds and at the peril of my existence...