Here's how this week's arts and culture column begins:
July 10 is Tesla Day.
That would be Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer and eccentric known principally as the developer of the modern alternating current electricity supply system.
Tesla claimed to have been born during a lightning storm, and as a child had vivid nightmares. His father, an Eastern Orthodox priest, wanted Nikola to follow in his footsteps, but eventually relented and allowed the boy to pursue engineering studies.
He emigrated to the U.S. in 1884 and found work for a time with Thomas Edison designing direct current generators.
The two, famously, were not entirely simpatico. Tesla wrote of their time together:
“We experimented day and night, holidays not excepted. … He had no hobby, cared for no sport or amusement of any kind and lived in utter disregard of the most elementary rules of hygiene. There can be no doubt that, if he had not married later a woman of exceptional intelligence, who made it the one object of her life to preserve him, he would have died many years ago from consequences of sheer neglect.”
He then quit to pursue his own project: the alternating current induction motor.
Tesla’s dream was to provide free wireless electricity to one and all.
He had grand ideas and cosmic thoughts: on man’s human destiny, the Rotary Magnetic Field, world peace, divine power and other inventors (he considered Einstein’s work on relativity shot through with “underlying errors”).
“Everything is the sun,” he observed.
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