Nikola Tesla is among some of the most prolific inventors of all times. He is also regarded as one of the pioneers of electromagnetic induction and the developments that have been made based on the invention of alternating electric current. With these interesting facts about Nikola Tesla, let’s learn more about him and his career, inventions and personal life.

Facts about Tesla’s birth, his mother’s involvement in his career, his father’s will and connection with Thomas Edison etc.

Fact 1. Tesla was born during a lightning storm. Yes, the man who would conduct experiments with light later on in his career was born during the darkest of the times.

Fact 2. Tesla thought of mobile phone technology and wireless internet way back in 1901. He had imagined transmission of messages wirelessly before anyone did.

Fact 3. Tesla once shook the poop out of Mark Twain with an earth shaking experiment: once Tesla invited Twain to witness one of his experiments, where he was to demonstrate his high frequency oscillator. Mark Twain was known for his digestive problems and was instructed by Tesla to stand on the platform underneath which was the oscillator. After a minute and half, Twain left the platform in search of the facilities.

Fact 4. Nikola Tesla moved to the U.S. to work for Thomas Edison, another famous inventor of his time and his future rival.

Fact 5. Nikola Tesla became U.S naturalized citizen in 1891.

Fact 6. They called him mad: Tesla for his attitude and intellect was also known as “mad scientist.” He also tried to develop a particle gun, or death ray.

Image of Nikola Tesla at age 40
Nikola Tesla at age 40. Image credit – Wikipedia

Fact 7. Unmarried life: Tesla did not marry and had explanation for why he was not going to marry. Other famous scientists that did not marry include: The Wright brothers (they built the world’s first heavier-than-air aircraft and made a successful flight on December 17, 1903), Isaac Newton, Henry David Thoreau (Author of Walden and Civil Disobedience).

Fact 8. In 1960, the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density “The tesla” (The tesla (symbolized T) is the standard unit of magnetic flux density. It is equivalent to one weber per meter squared (1 Wb. m 2 ).) in his honor.

Fact 9. He also invented the Tesla coil which is still used in radio technology today.

Fact 10. Did you know who is the inspiration behind Tesla’s interest in electricity and related things? It is his mother – Djuka Mandic, who invented small electrical appliance in her spare time while Nikola Tesla was still growing up.

Also read: 35 Interesting facts about Albert Einstein

Fact 11. Nikola’s father who was a priest wanted Tesla to join the church and pursue priesthood. However, Tesla was interested in sciences.

Image of Tesla AC induction motor
Tesla AC induction motor of 1888, from Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company. Image credit – Tesla society

Fact 12. Tesla had the idea to develop an induction motor when he was working at the Central Telephone Exchange in Budapest.

Fact 13. Tesla in pursuit of his inventions moved to the U.S. in 1884 with little to no cash. However, he managed to grab a letter of introduction to the famed inventor – Thomas Edison, who would only become his rival in the time to come.

Fact 14. Shaking hands with Edison: when Tesla joined Edison, Edison was pursuing DC based electrical works which were becoming standard in the country. The duo worked together for sometime but ultimately separated because of their conflicts which spanned their business and scientific thinking.

Fact 15. In 1885, Tesla parted with Edison and was able to gather funds for the Tesla Electric Light Company. He proved beneficial for his investors by turning their investments into profits but at last he was expelled again from the company. To survive, he worked as a manual laborer.

Facts about Tesla and AC based inventions, first hydro electric power plant in the U.S., Tesla’s photographic memory, his classified inventions, patents, lofty ambitions and death. 

Fact 16. Tesla’s luck was soon to favor him, as he founded, once again, his new Tesla Electric Company. This company would bring him fortune and a good name; and he ended up filing for several patents for AC-based inventions the same year. The roller coaster continues testing the limits of this great inventor and thinker.

Fact 17. George Westinghouse when became aware of the new invention of AC (alternating current) which could be transported to long distances without much loss, purchased Tesla’s patents for a sum of $60,000 in cash and stock in the Westinghouse Corporation. This had obvious effects on Thomas Edison who was doing his best to oust Tesla from the current supply business. Edison started negative propaganda with a press conference in an attempt to tamper peoples’ interest in alternating current.

Fact 18. The first hydro electric power plant in the U.S., installed at Niagara Falls, was designed by Tesla. The current from the hydro electric power plant was used to power the city of Buffalo, New York. This achievement made the use of alternating current quite famous throughout the world.

Fact 19. Tesla also pioneered the rotating magnetic field (a key principle in the operation of the alternating-current motor.), which is the basis of most AC machinery used today.

Fact 20. Tesla had a photographic memory. He could envision three dimensional structures in his head and work on them to be able to invent something. Quite amazing, isn’t it!

Related: Facts about Henry Ford

Fact 21. He was also very concerned about hygiene and neatness because he had a fear of germs. It is said that he used 18 napkins to clean his dining room before his evening meals.

Fact 22. Many states in the U.S. celebrate July 10, Tesla’s birthday – Nikola Tesla Day.

Fact 23. Tesla was not so convinced with the idea of transporting electric current in the form of DC. So he invented AC which needed fewer support system and could be transmitted over to long distances.

Fact 24. Tesla’s first invention: voice amplifier for the telephone receiver was Tesla’s first invention which he made in 1881.

Fact 25. Tesla did not like pearls so much that one day his secretary wore them for office and he sent her back for the day.

Fact 26. Some of Tesla’s inventions are classified. The Office of Alien Property seized all of his belongings. Later some of these items were delivered to the Tesla museum in Belgrade and some were sent to his family.

Fact 27. Tesla cared about the environment and was concerned that mankind would soon consume the available non-renewable natural resources. Thus, he was keen to invent some alternating ways of developing renewable energy and hence conducted many experiment of such nature in his lab.

Fact 28. Tesla was not much concerned about making substantial money out of his inventions, which is also a reason why he died poor. His aim was to invent things to make human life better and not just make a lot of money out of his intelligence.

Fact 29.  Tesla had insomnia and obsessive compulsive behavior, and was obsessed with number 3. The inventor said that he once worked for 84 hours straight without any rest.

Fact 30. Tesla has to his name more than 275 patents in 26 different countries. Here is a link to the list of Nikola Tesla’s patents.

Fact 31. Tesla, to boost his brain power, performed toe exercises. He used to squish his toes, each 100 times every night, to stimulate his brain cells.

Fact 32. Died in a hotel room: Nikola Tesla died in Room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel.

Fact 33. Tesla had ambitions to illuminate the whole earth. He theorized that the gases in the Earth’s upper atmosphere could carry high-frequency electrical currents and hence “terrestrial night light” could be created with the transmission of electrical currents through these gases. However, his dream of “illuminating the whole earth artificially” yet remains to be realized.

Quotes by Nikola Tesla

1. “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success… such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”

2. “The year 2100 will see eugenics universally established. In past ages, the law governing the survival of the fittest roughly weeded out the less desirable strains. Then man’s new sense of pity began to interfere with the ruthless workings of nature. As a result, we continue to keep alive and to breed the unfit.”

3. “Archimedes was my ideal. I admired the works of artists, but to my mind, they were only shadows and semblances. The inventor, I thought, gives to the world creations which are palpable, which live and work.”

4. “The scientific man does not aim at an immediate result. He does not expect that his advanced ideas will be readily taken up. His work is like that of the planter – for the future. His duty is to lay the foundation for those who are to come, and point the way.”

5. “Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”

6. “We crave for new sensations but soon become indifferent to them. The wonders of yesterday are today common occurrences”

7.If he [Thomas Edison] had a needle to find in a haystack, he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. … Just a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor.”

8. “My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements, and operate the device entirely in my mind.”

9. “As I review the events of my past life I realize how subtle are the influences that shape our destinies.”

10. “The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention.”

11. “When natural inclination develops into a passionate desire, one advances towards his goal in seven-league boots.”

Quick facts about Nikola Tesla

BornJuly 10, 1856, Smiljan, Croatia
DiedJanuary 7, 1943, Wyndham New Yorker Hotel, New York City, New York, United States
NationalityAmerican and Austrian
Languages knownSerbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin.
Age at the time of death86 years
Field of WorkElectrical engineering
AwardsIEEE Edison Medal - 1916, John Scott Legacy Medal and Premium - 1934, Elliott Cresson Medal - 1894
EducationGraz University of Technology (1875–1878), Gymnasium Karlovac (1870–1873)
ParentsĐuka Tesla | Milutin Tesla
SiblingAngelina Tesla | Dane Tesla | Marica Tesla | Milka Tesla
SpousesNikola Tesla never married
InventionsThree-phase electric power, Induction motor, Tesla valve, Violet ray, Wireless telegraphy, Vacuum variable capacitor, Alternating current, Neon lamp, Remote control, Tesla coil.
Height6' 2''
Weight198 lb