Much of science today is grant-dependent and discourages dreamy, out-of-box thinking –- because who wants to fund mistakes, right? Well Nikola Tesla didn't give a fuck and there were no grants back then. Dude was a genius and therefore dude was insane.
Thomas Edison's nemesis arrived in New York City from Serbia in 1884 with four cents in his pocket and went on to become one of the most revolutionary and controversial scientists of the age with over 300 patents for things we still use to this day.
A lot of us learned that Guglielmo Marconi invented radio, but in 1943 the Supreme Court ruled Nikola Tesla transmitted electromagnetic waves before Marconi.
Tesla’s biggest innovation was introducing alternating current as the standard for modern electric power, breaking Thomas Edison’s monopoly on DC power.
Tesla was credited with a fertile mind but little business sense. During his lifetime he worked for, and feuded with Thomas Edison his rival in what was dubbed "The War of the Currents". Tesla spent his last years penniless and alone at the New Yorker Hotel.
But in his heyday Tesla was a flamboyant character who held salons where he played fast and loose with technology. Mike Daisey is an author and brilliant monologuist who performs a one-man show about Tesla. Here he tells the story of Tesla, Mark Twain, and an X-ray gun.
A new book by Samantha Hunt, The Invention of Everything Else, pieces together the extraordinary life of scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Here she describes the turning point in Tesla’s life when he began acting like a mad scientist, almost taking a page from the movies.
Mike Daisey completes his life story of Tesla with this tale about the scientist’s real Dr. Strangelove moment: inventing the ultimate superweapon, THE DEATH RAY! But did it work? The government thought it might, and the Cold War got hotter.
I'm so psyched NPR put this all up online. I caught it all live last weekend and it was incredible, so click some links, get blown away.
Tesla Map - see where Tesla hung out, lived and died in New York
Studio 360: Tesla's New York - the full package, links galore!
Book excerpt The Invention of Everything Else
Podcast: Get the complete Tesla narrative