What I Learn From Nikola Tesla

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Commentary

I originally posted this vignette on Facebook back in 2015. Tesla’s life story remains a cautionary tale. A man can be brilliant in some ways, but stupid in others. Shift the fulcrum of pride, and brilliance and stupidity balance differently.

What I Wrote in 2015

In “Wizard: the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla,” Marc Seifer reveals how Tesla’s success was undermined by pride and naiveté. One interesting account is in Chapter 26, “Contact:”

On September 22, 1899, Nikola Tesla wrote his assistant, “Do not worry about me. I am about a century ahead of the other fellows.” Those “other fellows” were pioneers in wireless communications. Two months earlier, Tesla had detected a radio signal at his lab in Colorado Springs. Since Tesla was convinced that “the other fellows” were incapable of producing long-distance transmissions, he attributed the radio signal to INTELLIGENT LIFE ON MARS. He concluded, “I have been the FIRST to hear the greeting of one planet to another.” What a special man! As it turns out, the signal came from his archrival Guglielmo Marconi, who was conducting successful tests of ship-to-ship wireless communications in the English Channel, almost 5,000 miles away! Investors, who valued Marconi’s practical experiments, were merely entertained by Tesla’s brilliant, self-serving demonstrations.

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