Let’s step into Mister Peabody’s “Wayback” machine and turn the dials back to the nineteenth century — 1899 should do it. Strap yourself in as we traverse the fabric of time and space. The place — Colorado Springs.
The person: Nikola Tesla
For a man considered to be one of the great minds of his generation, this gentleman had more quirks than GE’s got engineers.
Born in Serbia in July of 1856, Nikola Tesla became one of the preeminent inventors and scientists of his generation. He became one of the early pioneers in the field of Electrical Engineering and Electromagnetism.
For all his genius, because of his eccentricity, many of his theories and bizarre claims were written off as the ravings of a crackpot. In spite of his many successes and accomplishes, Tesla died nearly penniless alone in the two-room hotel suite in New York city he called home. He was 86.
You can look back at many of the advances in science, mechanics, electrical engineering, nuclear physics, robotics and radar, can be traced back to ideas and philosophies that Nikola Tesla journaled about in the early twentieth century.
You may already be wondering why I’ve chosen Tesla as the weirdo this week. The answer’s quite simple really. There’s a fine line between weirdo and genius, and sometimes you have to be a bit of both to be who you are, so in that sense, I give you: Nikola Tesla.
Here are some weird Tesla facts:
Teslas was fluent in eight languages. Along with Serbian, he spoke Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.
He likely suffered from an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
He had a thing for the number three. He refused to stay in a room number that was not divisible by three. He lived in room 3327 of the Hotel New Yorker for the last two years of his life. (3327/3=1109)
He was celibate and never married, claiming his chastity helped his scientific ability. Sort of explains his weirdness.
He was obsessed with pigeons and kept a supply of expensive bird seed to feed the pigeons in Central Park. He was known to rescue wounded birds and nurse them back to health in his hotel room.
A sketch likeness of Tesla adorns the Serbian 100 Dinar bill.
He was close friends with Mark Twain.
His friend Hawthorne wrote of Tesla, “Seldom did one meet a scientist or engineer who was also a poet, a philosopher, an appreciator of fine music, a linguist, and a connoisseur of food and drink.”
He ripped up a Westinghouse contract that would have made him the world’s first billionaire. mostly because it would end his dream of free power for everyone. (I dream of that myself.)
He found jewelry physically revolting, notably Pearl Earrings.
He was fastidious about cleanliness and hygiene, and was considered mysophobic.
Near the end of his life Tesla claimed to be visited by a specific white pigeon daily. It is said that Tesla viewed the death of the pigeon as a “final blow” to himself and his work.
His battles with Thomas Edison over electrical theories and methodologies are epic.
The rock band Tesla is named for Nikola Tesla. (duh)
I thought the “Tesla coil” was the coolest thing I ever saw.
For more on Nikola Tesla go to The Tesla Museum.