Nicola Tesla has become a household name

Photo courtesy of Pioneer News.

W. Bernard Carlson’s book Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age recounts the amazing life of Nikola Tesla. The book is written in a biographical format, yet delves into more than just Tesla’s life. Carlson manages to dive into other inventors of the time, such as Thomas Edison, and even provides accurate descriptions and drawings of Tesla’s electrical inventions.

The book begins by describing Tesla in 1894, when he was at his height of popularity. He had been widely admired by scientists and engineers of his time, having been awarded medals and honorary degrees. He was also popular among laymen due to his amazing electrical demonstrations in which he would take as much as 250,000-volt shocks through his body.

Soon after grabbing your attention, Carlson describes Tesla’s upbringing. Tesla was born in 1856 in Smiljan in the province of Lika, which is now Croatia.

Tesla’s father, Milutin Tesla, was a priest, and Tesla was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, as his son showed great aptitude in math and science and had a keen interest in engineering, Tesla’s father eventually supported Tesla’s original interest in attending school for mathematics and physics.

After a bumpy road through school, a fight with depression, and a few odd jobs, Tesla eventually made his way to New York where he began creating many inventions in his laboratory. He paired up with prominent businessmen to promote and sell his inventions. At this point in his life, he was competing with Thomas Edison over whether Tesla’s alternating current system or Edison’s direct current was better.

Carlson has truly written an amazing biography on Tesla. As you read through the man’s highs and lows, you get to see his inventions and understand his motivations. This book is not only for someone who wants to understand Tesla’s life, but also  those who have an interest in the history of electrical engineering.

The story of Tesla goes beyond Carlson’s book, as he seems now to be as popular as ever. Not only does he have a car company named after him, but he has also inspired a wacky new gadget.

Recently, ThinkGeek has come up with a Tesla watch. The watch looks like a nerd’s dream. It features a brown leather strap and two small light-up vacuum tube-style LEDs which protrude out of the side of the watch.

I believe that Tesla’s continued popularity is not only due to his inventions which furthered electrical engineering, but it is also due to the history of his eccentric personality.

Through his inventions, outrageous demonstrations of showmanship, and eccentric personality, Nikola Tesla’s popularity seems to be on the rise again.