Considered eccentric by many, Tesla was a brilliant inventor, and was briefly employed by Thomas Edison as an electrical engineer. Tesla and Edison went their separate ways after a dispute over wages, but Tesla went on to invent a variety of things we still use, such as electric motors, neon signs, fluorescent bulbs, as well as the first speedometer for cars. He also designed the world’s first hydroelectric plant.
Tesla held nearly 300 patents for his inventions, many of which were for various electrical motors, transformers, and light sources. He also patented the remote control, after building and successfully testing the first remote control boat.
The notions of Tesla’s eccentricity partially stemmed from a few of his proposed theoretical inventions, such as the death ray, the force field, the ion-propelled aircraft, and the “thought camera”. The thought camera was a particularly odd notion, as it was intended to be a device that could photograph thoughts. In Tesla’s words: “I expect to photograph thoughts… In 1893, while engaged in certain investigations, I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought, must by reflex action, produce a corresponding image on the retina, which might be read by a suitable apparatus. This brought me to my system of television which I announced at that time…”
As you can see, Tesla was both a visionary and a curious character. This has led to more than one fictionalized portrayal of his life, such as in the film The Prestige. Singer David Bowie played Tesla in a supporting role, as a slightly mad scientist who gifts one of his inventions (the ultimate magic trick) to a famous magician, who discovers it to be both a blessing and a curse.
Want to learn more about Nikola Tesla? Check out The Mechanical Universe: Alternating Current on Discovery Education Streaming!