When you ask people who the most important inventor in American history is, most automatically say Thomas Edison. We were taught that it was the hard work and solitary genius of Edison that electrified America.

I don’t recall any teacher who discussed invention, inventors, patents, history, genius, creativity, electricity, electric power, radar, TV, alternating current, the wire-less, MRI scans, atom smashers, the radio or the Noble prize ever mentioning Nikola Tesla.

It was only years later that I discovered Tesla and how his amazing accomplishments have transformed America. Tesla was a mathematician, electrical engineer and inventor who was born in Croatia, immigrated to the U.S. and arrived with only 4 cents in his pocket. Thomas Edison hired him to be his assistant. Tesla and Edison had many arguments about how inefficient Edison’s electricity technique was, and Tesla claimed he could improve the efficiency of Edison’s DC dynamos. Edison told Tesla that what he suggested was impossible to do. In fact, Edison challenged him and said if Tesla could do what he claimed he would reward him with a $50,000 bonus and a hefty raise.

Tesla did the impossible and asked Edison for his bonus and raise. Edison congratulated him for his achievement but refused to pay the promised bonus or increase his salary. According to witnesses, Edison actually said, “You don’t understand American humor. We always joke about money. The offer was a joke.” As was his practice, Edison then registered Tesla’s work as his own and patented it. This ended the partnership between Edison and Tesla.

Tesla then moved to New York creating his own company. In 1893 he managed to transmit electromagnetic energy without wires, building and patenting the first radio. Guglielmo Marconi, however, copied Tesla’s patent and registered it as his own. Subsequently, Marconi made the first radio transmission. Tesla sued Marconi and eventually the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Tesla legally verifying that the Marconi patent was a copy of Tesla’s. Marconi eventually was awarded the Nobel prize and the press virtually ignored Tesla’s patent and legal victories proving the radio was based on his patent.

In the late 1800s the Niagara Falls Power Company offered a $100,000 prize for anyone who could develop a method to transmit electricity long distance. A think tank of the worlds  brightest minds was organized in London, England to evaluate proposals. Edison proposed his direct current (DC) method and Tesla entered his idea of a system of alternating current (AC). George Westinghouse, inventor and manufacturer, was so impressed with the (AC) method that he financed Tesla’s work and began to develop a system for commercial use. Tesla’s idea was adopted by the think tank as the standard for electrical transmission that makes electricity work. It was Tesla with Westinghouse financing that created the electricity as we know it work.

Nikla Tesla was the genius who created the modern world. In addition to AC electricity, electric cars, radio, the bladeless turbine, wireless communication, spark plugs, fluorescent lighting, the induction motor, a telephone repeater, the rotating magnetic field principle, the poly-phase alternating current system, alternating current power transmission, the Tesla Coil transformer and more than 700 patents. In addition, the principles he discovered and the mechanisms he invented led to TV, MRI, X-ray machines, radio telescopes, radar and even to the development of the controversial U.S. defense system known as “Star Wars.”

HIS MIND’S EYE. At an early age Tesla created an “imaginary world” where he pretended to reside. At night, when alone, he would start out on a journey, visiting new places, cities and countries. He would imagine living there, meeting people, making acquaintances and friendship. In his autobiography, “My Inventions,” he wrote “……however unbelievably it is a fact that they were just as dear and just as intense to me as people in real life.”

As an adult he said he would imagine himself as a time traveler in the future and observe what devices and machines they had. He noted how they created energy, how they communicated and lived. He imagined them to be alive and real. He would conduct imaginary experiments and collect data. In one of his travels he described people reading the household’s daily newspaper which was printed wirelessly in the home during the night. Incredibly he imagined the internet years before the computer was invented.

His imagination let him see projects of his inventions with perfect precision with his “inner eye.” He didn’t need to draw or write anything, and was able to develop any invention in his imagination from scratch to complete machine. He used to envision a project of machine, put it into motion, leave it for some time, and only come back to it later to check if it’s working properly. If not he would make corrections and again leave machine running inside his imaginary laboratory. His capacity for this was so developed that the results that he got in his mind were incredibly accurate. This was verified when it came to building prototypes for the new machine.

It is undisputed that many of Tesla’s inventions and discoveries were developed far after his death and are still being developed and expanded upon today. The day after his death all his records, journals, notes and equipment of every office and lab where he worked and hotel where he lived were removed by the FBI and are still classified top secret. 

Years later, the United States was the first country to publicly display a particle accelerator beam (originally developed by Tesla in the early 1920) as part of its effort to create a missile defense system based in space during the decade of 1980-1990 known as  President Ronald Regan’s program “Star Wars,” which helped the U.S. win the cold war.

THE MAD SCIENTIST. All-American Thomas Edison was lionized and adored by the American press during Tesla’s lifetime. In comparison, the press characterized the foreigner NiklaTesla as a “mad scientist” and delighted in reporting about all his odd quirks and habits for the amusement of their readers. Some of his quirks the press publicized were:

  • He was obsessed with the number three. He would only stay in hotels on a floor number and a room number divisible by three. Tesla lived the last years of his life in a three-room suite on the 33rd floor of the Hotel New Yorker, room 3327.
  • He also felt driven to perform repetitive behavior in sets of three. For instance, after walking around a block once, Tesla would feel compelled to do so two more times. He would wash his hands three times before meals and many other times throughout the day always in a set of three.
  • He preferred to dine alone at a table with three chairs at his hotel. If a fly so much as landed on his table, he would insist that the table be wiped clean and reset. He would clean his plates and silverware before eating with with 18 (divisible by 3) napkins before a meal. He would then calculate the cubic contents of all the food on his plate, divide the food into cubic bites and then eat it.
  • Tesla suffered a physical repulsion towards pearl earrings and the touching of another human’s hair
  •  He also had “a must” to finish everything he started before moving on to other tasks. For example, when he read a book, he was compelled to read all the author’s books before moving on to another author.
  • Tesla was very attractive to women and some were madly in love with him. Yet he was celibate and claimed that his chastity was necessary for scientific thinking. He never married.
  • Tesla was obsessed with pigeons, ordering special seeds for feeding pigeons in Central Park and even bringing some with him to his hotel room. He had a special “loving” relationship with one. He described it as being a beautiful female bird, pure white with light gray tips on its wings. He said his arrangement with the pigeon was as intense as the ones between male and female humans. One night the bird flew into Tesla’s room at Hotel St. Regis, and he perceived that she was attempting to tell him she was dying.

Tesla said a light came from her eyes more intense than he had ever produced by the most powerful lamps in his laboratory. The bird then died and Tesla said that at that same moment, something went out of his life and he knew his life’s work was finished.

ALMOST A NOBEL PRIZE. The names of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison were announced by the Swedish Academy, as the Winners of the 1912 Nobel Prize. Ultimately it was awarded to Gustav Dalen a Swedish Physicist. What made the change is that Tesla refused to share it with Edison as he did not consider him as an authentic scientist.

In summary, I find it astonishing that we were taught so little about the incredible genius Nikla Tesla who has given us so much power.



Michael Michalko is a highly acclaimed creativity expert. To learn about him visit:

To learn about his books visit:

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