Nikola Tesla
Guy Lochhead, 07/09/10
Serbian mechanical and electrical engineer. A true visionary, Tesla was bothered by hallucinations from childhood. He apparently had a photographic memory, and was capable of memorising whole books and imagining incredibly detailed plans to the extent that he rarely made written plans for his inventions. This proved problematic in furthering his work after his death. His lack of business skills was exploited horribly by his contemporaries – most notably Edison – and he lived through, and died in, poverty. He was reclusive, a devout Serbian Orthodox Christian, an animal lover and vegetarian, obsessed with hygiene, a great showman, a believer in gender equality (borderline female supremacist) and a multi-linguist. Tesla is one of the most extraordinary figures in modern history. His ingenuity is incomprehensible, and he took many unrealised theories (national defence field, motorless aeroplane) to his grave. I was initially reluctant to include him, because he was born extraordinary, and that can be intimidating and distancing to someone approaching his work for the first time. I’m not sure if that sort of borderline-unreachable genius is a constructive thing to include, but I think that distance is closed somewhat if you know the full story of his life, and how much he was overlooked, misunderstood and exploited. His religious beliefs are kind of weird, but I’m alright to sort of overlook them as a desire for structure and routine that rarely affected his (and others’) life and achievements. I will include ‘Wizard’, the best biography of him. I’d also like to include something named The Magnificent Mačak, as a tribute to his much-loved childhood cat.

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