Nikola Tesla was born on 10 July 1856 to Serbian parents in what is now Croatia.
He was an engineer and a scientist whose inventions include the Tesla coil, still used in radio technology, the alternating-current (AC) electric system, which is the predominant electrical system used across the world today, and the discovery of the rotating magnetic field.
He pioneered many of the technologies that shaped the second half of the 20th century, most of which were officially patented by other inventors.
Though he was famous and respected, he was never able to translate his work into long-term financial success, unlike his early employer and chief rival, Thomas Edison.
They had briefly worked together, when Tesla went to the United States in 1884, but their relationship was conflicting, due to their incredibly different personalities: Edison focused on marketing and financial success, while Tesla was commercially vulnerable-.
Though Tesla holds 112 lifetime U.S. patents, he died penniless and in relative obscurity.
He spoke seven languages, had a photographic memory, and could memorize entire books. He was able to visualise complete diagrams of inventions, working only from memory, without drawing them.
His unusual habits and strange behaviour were often minimized by his fans, who thought they were the mere eccentricities of a creative genius, and ridiculed by his critics, who considered him to be completely insane. However, his eccentricities have become as legendary as his discoveries in the field of electricity.
For example, Tesla required little sleep, and is reported once to have worked 84 hours straight without stopping to eat or rest. He claimed never to sleep more than two hours per night, but admitted to dozing from time to time to recharge his batteries.
He compulsively squished his toes one hundred times for each foot every night, saying that it stimulated his brain cells.
He had an obsession with pigeons. Later in his life, Tesla went to parks in New York City, and rescued injured pigeons, nursing them back to health.
When he took up residence at the Hotel New Yorker, where he spent the last ten years of his life, he had the hotel chef prepare a special mix of seed (which he hoped to commercialize) for his pigeons-
Tesla was tall and thin, and calculated the volume of every meal he ate and often expressed disgust for overweight people: once he fired a secretary because of her weight.
He was a vegetarian and eventually developed strange theories about the best human diet. In his final years he dined on milk and honey, believing that this was the purest form of food. Therefore he lost an enormous amount of weight and looked quite ghastly by the early 1940s.
His obsessive compulsive disorder compelled him to count the steps as he walked, and to repeat some activities so that the repetitions were divisible by three, including only inhabiting a hotel room that was divisible by the number three. Tesla died in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel on 7 January1943.
Image Pixabay (Nikola Tesla – illustration on the Serbian Dinara)