Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla!

This Studio 360 episode is a wonderful place to start in today's appreciation of "the father of electricity." This PBS documentary is also great. (thanks, Jesse Thorn)

Related: These folks are trying to preserve "Nikola Tesla's last and only existing laboratory, in Shoreham, NY (USA) [as] a science and technology center and museum." Apparently, AGFA wants to buy the space and turn it into a corporate center. The Tesla Science Center project solicits your support and donations to protect the site as a historic landmark. (thanks, Evelyn)



  1. Didn’t Tesla have a lab in Colorado? I saw it in “The Prestige“, it must be true. ;^) (David Bowie played Tesla in this film)

    Actually, he always struck me as a brilliant man with a bad PR agent – there are so many books written about this “unknown genius” that I can’t believe anyone still hasn’t heard of him. Amazon has 173 references to “unknown tesla” when you search their site.

  2. #1 Tesla WAS his own PR agent, unfortunately.

    In his last decades he kept visible on the strengths of stunts and wild claims. e.g., a gadget that could split continents with harmonic resonance.

    Or, for that matter, broadcast power. It was based on an incorrect assumption of how electricity would travel through the atmosphere.

    Brilliant and ground-breaking, absolutely. But he peaked early and stubbornly refused to accept quantum theory and discoveries about electromagnetism.

    Lab in Colorado: Yes.

  3. Tesla was awesome.

    He worked in Colorado Springs at the turn of the last century. I live a few blocks from where the lab was, now a city park. The only sign of it is a Historical Marker. There was a Tesla museum in town, but the owner went broke and cleared out in the middle of the night (as far as I remember) before I got a chance to see it.


  4. Tesla’s greatest mistake was not challenging Edison publicly.

    Imagine how many kids would fall in love with history after reading: “Thomas Edison’s life was cut short by a giant lightning robot.”

  5. Anyone who makes it possible to murder Hugh Jackman hundreds of times in the same movie is alright in my book.

  6. Edison did use Tesla’s alternating current on the elephant to prove it was unsafe in their AC vs. DC publicity war.

    Yes, he did have a lab for a time near Colorado Springs. He managed to take down the power grid in the area a few times, as I recall.

  7. The Colorado Springs and Wardenclyffe labs no longer exist.

    Several of Tesla’s stunts are not currently reproducible. This leads people to say they were frauds, because the alternative is to admit that they are not as smart as Tesla was. And Tesla was demonstrably mad (obsessive compulsive disorder) so modern scientists don’t like to admit he might have been smarter than they are.

  8. Nikola Tesla did not get the credit he deserved during his lifetime, as he was often overshadowed by Thomas Edison. I think this is a fitting tribute to him to preserve the last and only existing laboratory in Shoreham, N.Y., as a science and technology center and museum.

  9. What would *you* have done differently, had you been Tesla? :)

    Well, he was a minister’s son and man of peace who always walked away from fights. When ripped off by Edison, Marconi, and patent infringers, he refused to defend himself; turned the other cheek. He gave away billion-dollar inventions, kept it a secret, couldn’t fund his own further work. He refused to expose cheaters, and walked away from any rough-and-tumble competition. He refused to patent medical inventions (made no money, couldn’t afford to create more medical inventions.) He avoided self-promotion, and didn’t fight back when later generations started ignoring all his accomplishments.

    You can try to be Gandhi. You can try to be Thomas Edison. Perhaps mixing the two is a recipe for failure?

  10. He worked in Colorado Springs at the turn of the century. I live a few blocks from where the lab was, now a city park. The only sign of it is a Historical Marker. There was a Tesla museum in town, but the owner went broke and cleared out in the middle of the night (as far as I remember) before I got a chance to see it.


    apologies if this shows up twice, and hopefully I fixed my link.

  11. I admire the guy a great deal, but I’ve become used to pre-emptively cringing whenever I hear his name. He’s become the patron saint of crackpots and tinfoil hatters everywhere (suppressed or no, most of his stuff just doesn’t work, people), and almost a cliche in fiction as the “mad scientist” from that era who did whatever impossible thing the plot demands.

    Still, though, that’s a pretty awesome cliche to inspire…

  12. > most of his stuff just doesn’t work, people

    Really. Based on what evidence? At the very least, list his patents, and point out the supposed majority which don’t work.

    It’s a good idea to learn the difference between Tesla’s actual work and his untried future plans, versus all the crackpot stuff later attached after his death.

  13. Edison wasn’t the only one mooching off his talent.

    Marconi stole the claim of inventor of radio from Tesla. This was upheld in court when Tesla challenged him with his patent claims. Tesla hadn’t made it publicly known he had invented radio because he was still working with JP Morgan to perfect wireless power / data transmission. When Marconi illegally made the claim, Tesla’s funding was cut.

  14. Actually, AFGA already owns the property and they want to get rid of it … and are willing to ‘clear the property’ for a buyer.


    That red-brick building standing there *is* the original lab – paid for by J. P. Morgan. It was designed by architect Stanford White.


    (The giant tower was knocked down nearly a hundred years ago.) There’s more in the WP article:
    which links a Googlemaps view (alas, no streetview on the property, which is hidden behind trees).

    This is the only existing property that Tesla worked in, and some ‘stimulus’ would create a place to preserve the memory of the man who gave us all so much.

  15. (suppressed or no, most of his stuff just doesn’t work, people)

    Yeah, that “alternating current” stuff will never catch on.

  16. Those fluorescent lights he invented will never work, either.

    Oh, and the AC synchronous motor? Pure balderbash! Induction generators, automotive coils, all that stuff just plain doesn’t work, people, don’t believe the hype.

    Turn up the lamp wick, honey, I need to harness up the horses and drive to town for some more whale oil.

    Tesla said in 1915 that we’d regret establishing a petroleum based economy. In his opinion, oil was marvelous stuff, and too scarce to be wasted by burning it for fuel.

  17. When I was a young immigrant from Yugoslavia in the mid-seventies, in my seventh grade social studies class I mentioned that Nikola Tesla “invented electricity”.

    To that, my teacher said out loud to the class that communist governments in countries like mine feed their people lies of that sort all the time. I’ll never forget that ignorant jerk.

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