While most have heard of Thomas Edison, the same can’t be said for his rival Nikola Tesla. Tesla was born in what is now Croatia in 1856 and the genius inventor created and theorized significantly over his life, but fell into obscurity after dying. Only in recent years, have his achievements gained more recognition with many coming to the conclusion that his alternate current (AC) electricity was in fact better and safer than Edison’s direct current (DC) electricity. So, let’s tune up some AC/DC and learn about the unsung hero:
Tesla once worked for Edison, designing and improving electrical equipment. As he relocated from France to the United States, he was aboard a ship that faced a mutiny and was nearly tossed overboard. Some of his money, luggage, and even his ticket aboard the vessel were stolen. When he arrived in New York City, he had four cents to his name. He must have hid those pennies real well!
The beginning of the two men’s rivalry may have occurred when Tesla began redesigning Edison’s motors and generators with the promise of a $50,000 reward. When improvements were made, Edison said he was merely joking, although he did offer a weekly pay raise to Tesla, who quit the job immediately.
The War of Currents between Edison and George Westinghouse (who employed Tesla as a consultant and used his alternate current patents and inventions) drove both men to the brink of bankruptcy. The AC current won the war, despite Edison’s smear campaign against Tesla and Westinghouse, using AC to electrocute animals in an attempt to show it as more dangerous and even inadvertently creating the electric chair method of capital punishment. Suck it, Edison!
Legends persist that Tesla and Edison were to be co-winners of the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics, but one or both of them refused the honour thanks to their bitter hatred of each other. Some even say that Edison, who had grown wealthy thanks to his inventions, balked at the reward just to make sure Tesla didn’t receive any prize money.
Because of his Eastern European ethnicity and some of his concepts and inventions, Tesla gained a reputation as a mad scientist and a number of conspiracy theories center on the inventor, such as UFO and occult related notions. Some of Tesla’s papers are still classified by the U.S. government and when asked for through Freedom of Information requests, are heavily censored.
A hero of super villains everywhere, Tesla claimed to have invented a death ray, dubbed ‘Teleforce.’ Known as a “directed-energy weapon” or even a “peace ray,” Tesla insisted he had built and tested the device. When he grew suspicious of spies and other officials trying to steal the plans from him, he revealed that the entire blueprint was in his mind and had never been drawn out on paper.
Despite all the rumours, Tesla had over 700 patents to his name and can be credited with work in robotics, radar, wireless communication, lighting, and so much more. Tesla was also a showman and often invited the press to his birthday party, where he would unveil new creations and discuss his various theories. Among his greatest inventions was the Tesla Coil, which allowed the transmission of electrical energy without wires.
As it is with most brilliant people, Tesla had some quirks. He claimed to only need two hours sleep each night (although he napped, as well) and had some issues with obsessive compulsive disorder, including the cleaning of cutlery and a fascination with the number three, going so far as to wash his hands three times in a row and walk around a building thrice before entering.
Sounding like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Tesla denounced marriage and sex, stating “I do not think you can name many great inventions that have been made by married men.” At least he didn’t use Sheldon’s term of coitus when he believed that getting down with his bad self would take away from his scientific achievements. Hey, the guy did create remote control, radio, and even lasers, so perhaps he was onto something.
One thing I can certainly fault Tesla for (I mean, aside from his anti-sex agenda) was his affection for pigeons. I’ve written numerous times about my disdain for the winged rats, but Tesla would go so far as to rescue injured pigeons and bring them home. He even fell in love with one, writing “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.” Now, that, my little sippers, is a prime example of eccentricity!
Tesla passed away in 1943, with little to no fortune, unlike his contemporaries, Edison and Westinghouse. After dying, Tesla was cremated with his ashes being placed in a golden sphere urn, as the sphere was his favourite shape (despite reportedly hating round jewelry like pearls and even going so far as to not speak to women who wore them). The urn is on display at the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia.
Posthumous honours for the scientist include the unit of measure for magnetic field strength being known as a “tesla” and an electric car company, Tesla Motors, being named in memory of the inventor. Best of all, he now has a Sip Advisor article dedicated to his work!
Croatia: Belle of the Ball
- 0.75 oz Irish Crème
- 0.5 oz Rakija
- 0.25 oz Campari
- 0.25 oz Jagermeister
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
- Garnish with Orange Slice
I’ve become interested in Tesla in recent years and it seems I’m not alone, as others become recognizant of the fact that his contributions to the world went largely uncelebrated compared to some of his partners and adversaries. This drink is made in his honour!
Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail is pretty good… until that damn Campari bitter aftertaste kicks in and dominates the whole experience. The Rakija is pretty strong too, but not in a necessarily bad way. The cocktail measurements don’t provide a big drink, so it’s not like you’re dedicating a lot of time to it. Give it a shot if you’re curious, but it might be one recipe to avoid.