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Prodigal Genius: Biography of Nikola Tesla

280 Pages · 2001 · 632 KB · English

  • Prodigal Genius: Biography of Nikola Tesla

    Prodigal Genius


    BIOGRAPHY OF NIKOLA TESLA


    1994 Brotherhood of Life, Inc.,


    110 Dartmouth, SE, Albuquerque,


    New Mexico 87106 USA




    "SPECTACULAR" is a mild word for describing the strange


    experiment with life that comprises the story of Nikola


    Tesla, and "amazing" fails to do adequate justice to the


    results that burst from his experiences like an exploding


    rocket. It is the story of the dazzling scintillations of a


    superman who created a new world; it is a story that


    condemns woman as an anchor of the flesh which retards the


    development of man and limits his accomplishment--and,


    paradoxically, proves that even the most successful life,


    if it does not include a woman, is a dismal failure.



    Even the gods of old, in the wildest imaginings of their


    worshipers, never undertook such gigantic tasks of world-


    wide dimension as those which Tesla attempted and


    accomplished. On the basis of his hopes, his dreams, and


    his achievements he rated the status of the Olympian gods,


    and the Greeks would have so enshrined him. Little is the


    wonder that so-called practical men, with their noses stuck


    in profit-and-loss statements, did not understand him and


    thought him strange.



    The light of human progress is not a dim glow that


    gradually becomes more luminous with time. The panorama of


    human evolution is illumined by sudden bursts of dazzling


    brilliance in intellectual accomplishments that throw their


    beams far ahead to give us a glimpse of the distant future,


    that we may more correctly guide our wavering steps today.


    Tesla, by virtue of the amazing discoveries and inventions


    which he showered on the world, becomes one of the most


    resplendent flashes that has ever brightened the scroll of


    human advancement.



    Tesla created the modern era; he was unquestionably one of


    the world's greatest geniuses, but he leaves no offspring,


    no legatees of his brilliant mind, who might aid in


    administering that world; he created fortunes for


    multitudes of others but himself died penniless, spurning


    wealth that might be gained from his discoveries. Even as


    he walked among the teeming millions of New York he became


    a fabled individual who seemed to belong to the far-distant future or to have come to us from the mystical realm of the


    gods, for he seemed to be an admixture of a Jupiter or a


    Thor who hurled the shafts of lightning; an Ajax who defied


    the Jovian bolts; a Prometheus who transmuted energy into


    electricity to spread over the earth; an Aurora who would


    light the skies as a terrestrial electric lamp; a Mazda who


    created a sun in a tube; a Hercules who shook the earth


    with his mechanical vibrators; a Mercury who bridged the


    ambient realms of space with his wireless waves--and a


    Hermes who gave birth to an electrical soul in the earth


    that set it pulsating from pole to pole.



    This spark of intellectual incandescence, in the form of a


    rare creative genius, shot like a meteor into the midst of


    human society in the latter decades of the past century;


    and he lived almost until today. His name became synonymous


    with magic in the intellectual, scientific, engineering and


    social worlds, and he was recognized as an inventor and


    discoverer of unrivaled greatness. He made the electric


    current his slave. At a time when electricity was


    considered almost an occult force, and was looked upon with


    terror-stricken awe and respect, Tesla penetrated deeply


    into its mysteries and performed so many marvelous feats


    with it that, to the world, he became a master magician


    with an unlimited repertoire of scientific legerdemain so


    spectacular that it made the accomplishments of most of the


    inventors of his day seem like the work of toy-tinkers.



    Tesla was an inventor, but he was much more than a producer


    of new devices: he was a discoverer of new principles,


    opening many new empires of knowledge which even today have


    been only partly explored. In a single mighty burst of


    invention he created the world of power of today; he


    brought into being our electrical power era, the rock-


    bottom foundation on which the industrial system of the


    entire world is builded; he gave us our mass-production


    system, for without his motors and currents it could not


    exist; he created the race of robots, the electrical


    mechanical men that are replacing human labor; he gave us


    every essential of modern radio; he invented the radar


    forty years before its use in World War II; he gave us our


    modern neon and other forms of gaseous-tube lighting; he


    gave us our fluorescent lighting; he gave us the high-


    frequency currents which are performing their electronic


    wonders throughout the industrial and medical worlds; he


    gave us remote control by wireless; he helped give us World


    War II, much against his will--for the misuse of his


    2 superpower system and his robot controls in industry made


    it possible for politicians to have available a tremendous


    surplus of power, production facilities, labor and


    materials, with which to indulge in the most frightful


    devastating war that the maniacal mind could conceive. And


    these discoveries are merely the inventions made by the


    master mind of Tesla which have thus far been utilized--


    scores of others remain still unused.



    Yet Tesla lived and labored to bring peace to the world. He


    dedicated his life to lifting the burdens from the


    shoulders of mankind; to bringing a new era of peace,


    plenty and happiness to the human race. Seeing the coming


    of World War II, implemented and powered by his


    discoveries, he sought to prevent it; offered the world a


    device which he maintained would make any country, no


    matter how small, safe within its borders--and his offer


    was rejected.



    More important by far, however, than all his stupendously


    significant electrical discoveries is that supreme


    invention--Nikola Tesla the Superman--the human instrument


    which shoved the world forward with an accelerating lunge


    like an airplane cast into the sky from a catapult. Tesla,


    the scientist and inventor, was himself an invention, just


    as much as was his alternating-current system that put the


    world on a superpower basis.



    Tesla was a superman, a self-made superman, invented and


    designed specifically to perform wonders; and he achieved


    them in a volume far beyond the capacity of the world to


    absorb. His life he designed on engineering principles to


    enable him to serve as an automaton, with utmost


    efficiency, for the discovery and application of the forces


    of Nature to human welfare. To this end he sacrificed love


    and pleasure, seeking satisfaction only in his


    accomplishments, and limiting his body solely to serving as


    a tool of his technically creative mind.



    With our modern craze for division of labor and


    specialization of effort to gain efficiency of production


    in our industrial machine, one hesitates to think of a


    future in which Tesla's invention of the superman might be


    applied to the entire human race, with specialization


    designed for every individual from birth.



    3 The superman that Tesla designed was a scientific saint.


    The inventions that this scientific martyr produced were


    designed for the peace, happiness and security of the human


    race, but they have been applied to create scarcity,


    depressions and devastating war. Suppose the superman


    invention were also developed and prostituted to the


    purposes of war-mongering politicians? Tesla glimpsed the


    possibilities and suggested the community life of the bee


    as a threat to our social structure unless the elements of


    individual and community lives are properly directed and


    personal freedom protected.



    Tesla's superman was a marvelously successful invention--


    for Tesla--which seemed, as far as the world could observe,


    to function satisfactorily. He eliminated love from his


    life; eliminated women even from his thoughts. He went


    beyond Plato, who conceived of a spiritual companionship


    between man and woman free from sexual desires; he


    eliminated even the spiritual companionship. He designed


    the isolated life into which no woman and no man could


    enter; the self-suficient individuality from which all sex


    considerations were completely eliminated; the genius who


    would live entirely as a thinking and a working machine.



    Tesla's superman invention was a producer of marvels, and


    he thought that he had, by scientific methods, succeeded in


    eliminating love from his life. That abnormal life makes a


    fascinating experiment for the consideration of the


    philosopher and psychologist, for he did not succeed in


    eliminating love. It manifested itself despite his


    conscientious efforts at suppression; and when it did so it


    came in the most fantastic form, providing a romance the


    like of which is not recorded in the annals of human


    history.



    Tesla's whole life seems unreal, as if he were a fabled


    creature of some Olympian world. A reporter, after writing


    a story of his discoveries and inventions, concluded, "His


    accomplishments seem like the dream of an intoxicated god."


    It was Tesla's invention of the polyphase alternating-


    current system that was directly responsible for harnessing


    Niagara Falls and opened the modern electrical superpower


    era in which electricity is transported for hundred of


    miles, to operate the tens of thousands of mass-production


    factories of industrial systems. Every one of the tall


    Martian-like towers of the electrical transmission lines


    that stalk across the earth, and whose wires carry


    4 electricity to distant cities, is a monument to Tesla;


    every powerhouse, every dynamo and every motor that drives


    every machine in the country is a monument to him.



    Superseding himself, he discovered the secret of


    transmitting electrical power to the utmost ends of the


    earth without wires, and demonstrated his system by which


    useful amounts of power could be drawn from the earth


    anywhere merely by making a connection to the ground; he


    set the entire earth in electrical vibration with a


    generator which spouted lightning that rivaled the fiery


    artillery of the heavens. It was as a minor portion of this


    discovery that he created the modern radio system; he


    planned our broadcasting methods of today, forty years ago


    when others saw in wireless only the dot-dash messages that


    might save ships in distress.



    He produced lamps of greater brilliance and economy than


    those in common use today; he invented the tube,


    fluorescent and wireless lamps which we now consider such


    up-to-the-minute developments; and he essayed to set the


    entire atmosphere of the earth aglow with his electric


    currents, to change our world into a single terrestrial


    lamp and to make the skies at night shine as does the sun


    by day.



    If other first-magnitude inventors and discoverers may be


    considered torches of progress, Tesla was a conflagration.


    He was the vehicle through which the blazing suns of a


    brighter tomorrow focused their incandescent beams on a


    world that was not prepared to receive their light. Nor is


    it remarkable that this radiant personality should have led


    a strange and isolated life. The value of his contributions


    to society cannot be overrated. we can now analyze, to some


    extent, the personality that produced them. He stands as a


    synthetic genius, a self-made superman, the greatest


    invention of the greatest inventor of all times. But when


    we consider Tesla as a human being, apart from his charming


    and captivating social manners, it is hard to imagine a


    worse nightmare than a world inhabited entirely by


    geniuses.



    When Nature makes an experiment and achieves an improvement


    it is necessary that it be accomplished in such a way that


    the progress will not be lost with the individual but will


    be passed on to future generations. In man, this requires a


    utilization of the social values of the race, cooperation


    5 of the individual with his kind, that the improved status


    may be propagated and become a legacy of all. Tesla


    intentionally engineered love and women out of his life,


    and while he achieved gigantic intellectual stature, he


    failed to achieve its perpetuation either through his own


    progeny or through disciples. The superman he constructed


    was not great enough to embrace a wife and continue to


    exist as such. The love he sought to suppress in his life,


    and which he thought was associated only with women, is a


    force which, in its various aspects, links together all


    members of the human race.



    In seeking to suppress this force entirely Tesla severed


    the bonds which might have brought to him the disciples who


    would, through other channels, have perpetuated the force


    of his prodigal genius. As a result, he succeeded in


    imparting to the world only the smallest fraction of the


    creative products of his synthetic superman.



    The creation of a superman as demonstrated by Tesla was a


    grand experiment in human evolution, well worthy of the


    giant intellect that grew out of it, but it did not come up


    to Nature's standards; and the experiment will have to be


    made many times more before we learn how to create a super


    race with the minds of Teslas that can tap the hidden


    treasury of Nature's store of knowledge, yet endowed too


    with the vital power of love that will unlock forces, more


    powerful than any which we now glimpse, for advancing the


    status of the human race.



    There was no evidence whatever that a superman was being


    born



    when the stroke of midnight between July 9 and 10, in the


    year 1856, brought a son, Nikola, to the home of the Rev.


    Milutin Tesla and Djouka, his wife, in the hamlet of


    Smiljan, in the Austro-Hungarian border province of Lika,


    now a part of Yugoslavia. The father of the new arrival,


    pastor of the village church, was a former student in an


    oficers' training school who had rebelled against the


    restrictions of Army life and turned to the ministry as the


    field in which he could more satisfactorily express


    himself. The mother, although totally unable to read or


    write, was nevertheless an intellectually brilliant woman,


    who without the help of literal aids became really well


    educated.



    6 Both father and mother contributed to the child a valuable


    heritage of culture developed and passed on by ancestral


    families that had been community leaders for many


    generations. The father came from a family that contributed


    sons in equal numbers to the Church and to the Army. The


    mother was a member of the Mandich family whose sons, for


    generations without number, had, with very few exceptions,


    become ministers of the Serbian Orthodox Church, and whose


    daughters were chosen as wives by ministers.



    Djouka, the mother of Nikola Tesla (her given name in


    English translation would be Georgina), was the eldest


    daughter in a family of seven children. Her father, like


    her husband, was a minister of the Serbian Orthodox Church,


    Her mother, after a period of failing eyesight, had become


    blind shortly after the seventh child was born; so Djouka,


    the eldest daughter, at a tender age was compelled to take


    over the major share of her mother's duties. This not alone


    prevented her from attending school: her work at home so


    completely consumed her time that she was unable to acquire


    even the rudiments of reading and writing through home


    study. This was a strange situation in the cultured family


    of which she was a member. Tesla, however, always credited


    his unlettered mother rather than his erudite father with


    being the source from which he inherited his inventive


    ability. She devised many household labor-saving


    instruments. She was, in addition, a very practical


    individual, and her well-educated husband wisely left in


    her hands all business matters involving both the church


    and his household.



    An unusually retentive memory served this remarkable woman


    as a good substitute for literacy. As the family moved in


    cultured circles she absorbed by ear much of the cultural


    riches of the community. She could repeat, without error or


    omission, thousands of verses of the national poetry of her


    country--the sagas of the Serbs--and could recite long


    passages from the Bible. She could narrate from memory the


    entire poetical- philosophical work Gorski ffenac (Mountain


    fireath), written by Bishop Petrovich Njegosh. She also


    possessed artistic talent and a versatile dexterity in her


    fingers for expressing it. She earned wide fame throughout


    the countryside for her beautiful needlework. According to


    Tesla, so great were her dexterity and her patience that


    she could, when over sixty, using only her fingers, tie


    three knots in an eyelash.



    7 The remarkable abilities of this clever woman who had no


    formal education were transmitted to her five children. The


    elder son, Dane Tesla, born seven years before Nikola, was


    the family favorite because of the promise of an


    outstanding career which his youthful cleverness indicated


    was in store for him. He foreshadowed in his early years


    the strange manifestations which in his surviving brother


    were a prelude to greatness.



    Tesla's father started his career in the military service,


    a likely choice for the son of an oficer; but he apparently


    did not inherit his father's liking for Army life. So


    slight an incident as criticism for failure to keep his


    brass buttons brightly polished caused him to leave


    military school. He was probably more of a poet and


    philosopher than a soldier. He wrote poetry which was


    published in contemporary papers. He also wrote articles on


    current problems which he signed with a pseudonym, "Srbin


    Pravicich." This, in Serb, means "Man of Justice." He


    spoke, read and wrote Serbo-Croat, German and Italian. It


    was probably his interest in poetry and philosophy that


    caused him to be attracted to Djouka Mandich. She was


    twenty-five and Milutin was two years older. He married her


    in 1847. His attraction to the daughter of a pastor


    probably influenced his next choice of a career, for he


    then entered the ministry and was soon ordained a priest.



    He was made pastor of the church at Senj, an important


    seaport with facilities for a cultural life. He gave


    satisfaction, but apparently he achieved success among his


    parishioners on the basis of a pleasing personality and an


    understanding of problems rather than by using any great


    erudition in theological and ecclesiastical matters.



    A few years after he was placed in charge of this parish, a


    new archbishop, elevated to head of the diocese, wished to


    survey the capabilities of the priests in his charge and


    offered a prize for the best sermon preached on his oficial


    visit. The Rev. Milutin Tesla was bubbling over, at the


    time, with interest in labor as a major factor in social


    and economic problems. To preach a sermon on this topic


    was, from the viewpoint of expediency, a totally


    impractical thing to do. Nobody, however, had ever accused


    the Rev. Mr. Tesla of being practical, so doing the


    impractical thing was quite in harmony with his nature. He


    chose the subject which held his greatest interest; and


    8 when the archbishop arrived, he listened to a sermon on


    "Labor."



    Months later Senj was surprised by an unanticipated visit


    from the archbishop, who announced that the Rev. Mr. Tesla


    had preached the best sermon, and awarded him a red sash


    which he was privileged to wear on all occasions. Shortly


    afterward he was made pastor at Smiljan, where his parish


    then embraced forty homes. He was later placed in charge of


    the much larger parish in the nearby city of Gospic. His


    first three children, Milka, Dane and Angelina, were born


    at Senj. Nikola and his younger sister, Marica, were born


    at Smiljan.



    Tesla's early environment, then, was that of an


    agricultural community in a high plateau region near the


    eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea in the Velebit Mountains,


    a part of the Alps, a mountain chain stretching from


    Switzerland to Greece. He did not see his first steam


    locomotive until he was in his `teens, so his aptitude for


    mechanical matters did not grow out of his environment.



    Tesla's homeland is today called Yugoslavia, a country


    whose name means "Land of the Southern Slavs." It embraces


    several former separate countries, Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia,


    Montenegro, Dalmatia and also Slovenia. The Tesla and


    Mandich families originally came from the western part of


    Serbia near Montenegro. Smiljan, the village where Tesla


    was born, is in the province of Lika, and at the time of


    his birth this was a dependent province held by the Austro-


    Hungarian Empire as part of Croatia and Slovenia.



    Tesla's surname dates back more than two and a half


    centuries. Before that time the family name was Draganic


    (pronounced as if spelled Drag'-a-nitch). The name Tesla


    (pronounced as spelled, with equal emphasis on both


    syllables), in a purely literal sense, is a trade name like


    Smith, firight or Carpenter. As a common noun it describes


    a woodworking tool which, in English, is called an adz.


    This is an axe with a broad cutting blade at right angles


    to the handle, instead of parallel as in the more familiar


    form. It is used in cutting large tree trunks into squared


    timbers. In the Serbo-Croat language, the name of the tool


    is tesla. There is a tradition in the Draganic family that


    the members of one branch were given the nickname "Tesla"


    because of an inherited trait which caused practically all


    of them to have very large, broad and protruding front


    9 teeth which greatly resembled the triangular blade of the


    adz.



    The name Draganic and derivatives of it appear frequently


    in other branches of the Tesla family as a given name. When


    used as a given name it is frequently translated


    "Charlotte," but as a generic term it holds the meaning


    "dear" and as a surname is translated "Darling."



    The majority of Tesla's ancestors for whom age records are


    available lived well beyond the average span of life for


    their times, but no definite record has been found of the


    ancestor who, Tesla claimed, lived to be one hundred and


    forty years of age. (His father died at the age of fifty-


    nine, and his mother at seventy-one.)



    Although many of Tesla's ancestors were dark eyed, his eyes


    were a gray-blue. He claimed his eyes were originally


    darker, but that as a result of the excessive use of his


    brain their color changed. His mother's eyes, however, were


    gray and so are those of some of his nephews. It is


    probable, therefore, that his gray eyes were inherited,


    rather than faded by excessive use of the brain.



    Tesla grew to be very tall and very slender--tallness was a


    family and a national trait. When he attained full growth


    he was exactly two meters, or six feet two and one-quarter


    inches tall. while his body was slender, it was built


    within normal proportions. His hands, however, and


    particularly his thumbs, seemed unusually long.



    Nikola's older brother Dane was a brilliant boy and his


    parents gloried in their good fortune in being blessed with


    such a fine son. There was, however, a difference of seven


    years in the two boys' ages, and since the elder brother


    died as the result of an accident at the age of twelve,


    when Nikola was but five years old, a fair comparison of


    the two seems hardly possible. The loss of their first-born


    son was a great blow to his mother and father; the grief


    and regrets of the family were manifest in idealizing his


    talents and predicting possibilities of greatness he might


    have realized, and this situation was a challenge to Nikola


    in his youth.



    The superman Tesla developed out of the superboy Nikola.


    Forced to rise above the normal level by an urge to carry


    on for his dearly beloved departed brother, and also on his


    10


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