Written by Kaira

Modified & Updated: 19 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

nikola tesla facts

Nikola Tesla is one of history’s most influential inventors. If you have any doubts about whether that is true, there are many Nikola Tesla facts to back up that statement. On the flip side, even if he is known by many as the “genius who lit the world,” Tesla’s story is one of both creativity and tragedy. Creative in the sense that some of his inventions include the Tesla coil, alternating-current (AC) electricity, and the discovery of the rotating magnetic field.

Out of all of that was mentioned, the genius inventor centered his work around alternating current or AC. Aside from that, Tesla made great discoveries in the field of science and technology. Did you know that he demonstrated radio communication years before Guglielmo Marconi helped save the survivors of the Titanic? Plus, he also encountered puzzling signals from outer space

Here is where the tragic part comes in. As any historian will tell you, Nikola went through a lot in his life. Despite his glowing career, Tesla suffered from different mental illnesses that made him fit the mad scientist trope. He lived an eventful life but died in solitude. When he died, the United States Government seized control over Tesla’s inventions. That is why most of Tesla’s experiments remain confidential to this day. There are a lot of Nikola Tesla facts hiding in the shadows. And there’s so much more about Tesla’s life that we don’t learn in schools.

In this article, we are here to shed light on some of them. Learn about his inventions and delve into the different events that led to Nikola’s success and eventual downfall in our list of Nikola Tesla facts.

  1. Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, Croatia.
  2. Tesla’s four siblings were Daniel, Angelina, Milka, and Marica.
  3. Nikola Tesla died in his room at The New Yorker Hotel on January 7, 1943.
  4. In 1884, Tesla moved to New York to work as an engineer at the Continental Edison Company in Manhattan.
  5. Tesla has over 300 patents across five different continents.
  1. Djuka Mandic gave birth to her son, Nikola Tesla, during a lightning storm.
  2. His father, Milutin Tesla, worked as a priest at a Serbian Orthodox church.
  3. Nikola Tesla became famous for his various breakthroughs and inventions related to AC or Alternative Current.
  4. Tesla dropped out of the Graz University Of Technology.
  5. Tesla first worked for his soon-to-be rival Thomas Edison when he took up a job at the Continental Edison Company in Paris.
  6. Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse lit up the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
  7. Tesla invented a remote-controlled boat during the Spanish-American War.
  8. Tesla produced artificial lightning at his laboratory.
  9. Famous architect Stanford White designed Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower.
  10. The renowned inventor spent his final years in solitude.
  1. Nikola Tesla had a gambling addiction.
  2. In 1899, Tesla believed he received signals from outer space.
  3. He paid an overdue hotel bill with a model of his “Death Beam.”
  4. Nikola Tesla wanted to literally light up the whole earth with all of his inventions.
  5. Tesla was a germaphobe and hated touching hair.
Table of Contents

Djuka Mandic inspired her son, Nikola Tesla, to pursue his love of inventing.

Nikola Tesla proudly credited his mother, Djuka Mandic, for inspiring him to pursue his love for inventing. She was known for giving birth to her son during a lightning storm.

While managing their family farm, Mandic invented small household appliances at home. Amidst all that, she raised five children, one of whom made such a big impact in science and technology. Djuka Mandic is one badass woman.

He witnessed his brother’s death.

One of the saddest Nikola facts includes the untimely passing of Daniel “Dane” Tesla. Daniel died after an unfortunate riding accident. Adding salt to the wound, seven-year-old Nikola Tesla saw his brother die before his very eyes. Some historians believe that Tesla’s mental illnesses stemmed from witnessing the traumatic event.

Mark Twain struck up a friendship with Nikola Tesla.

Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Nikola Tesla formed an unlikely friendship. Twain first met Tesla in his laboratory at South Fifth Avenue, New York. The Serbian-American inventor was a fan of Twain’s early work. The two historical icons ended up bonding over photography. Twain usually took time off to schedule visits, or just hang out with Tesla in his laboratory.

Their friendship overcame the vast difference of their homes. Twain resided in Europe, while Tesla lived in the U.S. The distance did not stop Twain from inviting Tesla to his daughter’s wedding in 1909. The two men’s close friendship lasted for almost two decades. It only ended because of Twain’s passing in 1910.

Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain
Source: Flickr

Tesla visualized his inventions in 3D.

Mind-blowing Nikola Tesla facts include his complex brain. He didn’t create sketches of his inventions like most inventors. Instead, Tesla visualized how his work would turn out. His parents came up with ways to train young Tesla’s mind to reach its full potential.

Because of this, Tesla gained the ability to have a photographic memory. He then cultivated his mind to visualize images of his inventions in 3D. An example of this unique technique found in fiction is Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace.

He joined forces with George Westinghouse to compete against Thomas Edison.

One of the most critical Nikola Tesla facts center on the inventor’s partnership with George Westinghouse. They allied after Tesla left Thomas Edison‘s company. Tesla was infuriated when Edison joked about challenging the Serbian-American engineer into improving the specs of his DC dynamos. A dynamo is an electrical generator that uses a commutator to generate direct current.

Tesla took the task seriously, completed it, and expected to receive $50,000 from his renowned boss. When the cruel truth was revealed, Tesla aimed to establish a more successful electrical company. Tesla came up with an impressive AC system that fascinated George Westinghouse. At that time, the American businessman aimed to supply the nation with long-distance power. In 1888, he bought some of Tesla’s patents. He paid the inventor in cash and stocks from the Westinghouse Corporation. The success of their partnership made direct competitors of Thomas Edison.

Edison strived to promote his DC system. He bid against Tesla and Westinghouse in lighting up the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Much to Edison’s chagrin, the Westinghouse Corporation won against the Continental Edison Company.

Neither Nikola Tesla nor Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

Some people believe that Thomas Edison stole Nikola Tesla’s rights after inventing the first light bulb. However, that rumor is false. British chemists Warren de La Rue and Joseph Swan came up with different ideas that produced the first light bulbs.

De La Rue used thin fragments to delay the burnout of the bulb. Meanwhile, Swan found a way to improve de La Rue’s design by using commercially-viable carbon. Afterward, Thomas Edison combined the ideas of the two chemists to resolve the challenges of light bulb design. Because of this, Edison received acclaim as the inventor of the light bulb. He achieved this feat even if it wasn’t his original idea.

light bulbs
Source: Diz Play from Unsplash

Tesla pioneered radio communication before Guglielmo Marconi.

Fans of Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi loathe different Nikola Tesla facts. This stems from the fact that Tesla invented the radio first. Back then, Marconi became famous for inventing radio and radio communication. His invention also helped locate the survivors of the Titanic.

Almost more than a century passed before people learned about the truth. Tesla demonstrated short-range radio communication before inventor Guglielmo Marconi broadcasted the first transatlantic radio signal. Both inventors sparked controversies for establishing similar inventions centered on power. Marconi usually shined more than Tesla because of his fortune.

Tesla only gained fame with his original ideas. Meanwhile, Marconi used his money to achieve what Tesla couldn’t. After so many years, the United States Supreme Court finally decided to invalidate most of Marconi’s key patents to honor Tesla’s earlier work.

He temporarily moved to Colorado Springs after his New York laboratory went up in flames.

Nikola Tesla established The Tesla Experimentation Station in Colorado Springs. This move happened after a fire engulfed his New York laboratory and it turned in flames. Despite losing years’ worth of ideas and documents, Tesla remained determined in fulfilling his goals. Before returning to New York, he accomplished various feats during his short stay in Colorado Springs.

J.P. Morgan financed Tesla’s famous Wardenclyffe Tower.

As mentioned, one of the most known Nicola Tesla facts is that he lacked money. He needed someone rich to sponsor the feats he hoped to achieve. He especially wanted to be the first person to send messages across the Atlantic Ocean. To accomplish this, Tesla enlisted help from J.P. Morgan.

Using Morgan’s money, Tesla built Wardenclyffe Tower. Unbeknownst to his financier, Tesla’s ultimate goal with the 186-foot tower revolved around the wireless transmission of electricity. He wanted to produce and distribute free electricity. Tesla eventually revealed his grandiose plan when he needed more funding from Morgan. Unfortunately, the secret forced Morgan to pull out of Tesla’s project.

Tesla suffered from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

People close with Nikola Tesla can instantly attest to his admirable work ethic. They claim the inventor barely slept to religiously follow his schedule. His obsessive-compulsive disorder fueled his fixation with the number 3. Proof of this can be seen in records of the hotels he stayed in. He only booked at hotels that can provide him with a room with a number that is divisible by 3.

He almost triggered an earthquake in Manhattan.

Tesla famously sent vibrations across East Houston Street. This usually occurred when he experimented on his electro-mechanical oscillator. A time came when the oscillator resonated the frequency of the whole building. The whole moment almost triggered an earthquake in the neighborhood. Nearly starting a catastrophic event only proves what a genius Tesla was.

Back then, no one could confirm Tesla’s terrifying experience. However, Discovery Channel’s television show, Mythbusters, soon debunked the famous inventor’s claims.

Tesla's AC system continues to hold the global standard for power transmission.

There’s a reason why Tesla famously won against Edison in the “Current Wars.” The AC system or air conditioning system that Tesla established with Westinghouse costs a lot cheaper than Edison’s DC system. Tesla proved that AC efficiently transmitted power. It also works best on transformers while DC cannot achieve the same feat.

Nikola Tesla was in love with a pigeon.

Losing his funding and fortune took a toll on Nikola Tesla’s mental health. Despite being a known germaphobe, the inventor loved spending time with the pigeons of New York City.

While staying in different hotels, Tesla always kept his window open for pigeons. He especially anticipated the numerous visits of a certain white pigeon. Tesla was recorded saying, “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

In 1922, Tesla claimed his beloved white pigeon visited him before breathing her last breath. The bird’s passing left Tesla devastated. The heartbreak led him to believe that his life’s work ended after the pigeon’s passing.

The successful electrical engineer dug up ditches to make ends meet.

After resigning from his post in the Continental Edison Company, Tesla struggled to make money for his projects. He took up the odd job of digging up ditches around New York City just to get by.

Tesla’s intense experiments caused blackouts and electrocuted butterflies.

During his stay in Colorado Springs, Tesla’s intense research went overboard almost all the time. While there, he built one of the biggest Tesla Coils. This large oscillator formed massive artificial lightning bolts. They spread out in the surrounding area electrocuting butterflies and causing city-wide blackouts. Plus, no one managed to replicate Tesla’s production of artificial lightning during this time.

Source: Beckett Ruiz from Unsplash

Tesla's inventions paved the way for our modern world.

Nikola Tesla’s work is still useful to this day. He also sparked the idea of smartphones and wireless internet. Tesla’s main goal centered on wireless transmissions. Because of this, he came up with the idea of building handheld devices to wirelessly communicate with other people. This eventually led to the production of smartphones and other devices we frequently use today.

Tesla resided in various hotels.

Tesla never really had a permanent address after migrating to the United States. He chose to book rooms from various hotels across Manhattan. If he ran out of money, his wealthy friends usually paid for his stays. This lifestyle made him easily lose the money he earned from his inventions.

Nikola Tesla attracted ladies, and some gentlemen, with his height and style.

Nikola Tesla towered over most men with his height of six feet and two inches. His tall stature paired well with his slender build and dark eyes. Tesla usually spent his spare time alone. On some occasions, he agreed to hang out with his elite friends from time to time. Various women admired Tesla’s taste for fashion during fancy gatherings. Unfortunately, no woman was able to grab Tesla’s attention. He remained unmarried to his death.

Elon Musk doesn’t like Nikola Tesla.

Famous entrepreneur and engineer Elon Musk revealed that he doesn’t like Nikola Tesla. In an interview, Musk stated that he admired Thomas Edison, Tesla’s rival, more than the Serbian-American inventor. He applauded Edison’s dedication to gaining profit for his work, unlike Tesla. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning founded Tesla Motors back in 2003. Musk just didn’t change the name when he took over as CEO or Chief Executive Officer.

tesla card
Source: Manny Becerra from Unsplash

The Tesla Coil and Tesla's other inventions stood the test of time.

Aside from the Tesla Coil, Nikola Tesla notably invented the first AC motor or electric motor driven by an alternating current among other things. Lazy about switching channels on your TV? Tesla invented the remote control to help you with that. Plus, Tesla improved the design of the neon lights that we encounter while enjoying the nightlife. He made our lives easier.

Despite all of this, did you know that not all of Tesla’s inventions came to light? After his death, the U.S. Government seized control over Tesla’s inventions. Because of this, most of Tesla’s work and experiments remain unknown to the public.

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