Serbian-born inventor and physicist Nikola Tesla is known mostly as the mastermind behind the AC induction motor and the Tesla coil. Nikola Tesla was one of the most outstanding physicists in the history of science. But beyond his brilliant work, some aspects of his life remain unspoken in the pages of history.

Tesla registered more than 300 patents and became famous for developing AC (alternating current), while his work became the basis of developments in wireless communications, radar, laser X rays, lighting, robotics, and many other areas.

Here are the 10 Surprising Facts You Don’t Know About Nikola Tesla,

1. He rarely slept and had obsessive compulsive behavior

Tesla claimed to only sleep two hours per night, and was prone to spending two days or more in his laboratory without sleeping at all. But it’s unclear whether this was because he wanted to or because he actually couldn’t sleep any more than that.

Tesla hated round objects and jewelry, and could not bear to touch hair. Also he was obsessed with the number 3 and had a habit of polishing each point of the dining room before dining, using precisely 18 napkins.

2. Pearls drove him crazy

Tesla could not stand the sight of pearls, to the extent that he refused to speak to women wearing them. When his secretary wore pearl jewelry, he sent her home for the day. No one knows why he had such an aversion, but Tesla had a very particular sense of style and aesthetics, Carlson said, and believed that in order to be successful, one needed to look successful. He wore white gloves to dinner every night and prided himself on being a “dapper dresser.”

Every photograph of Tesla, he said, is very carefully constructed to capture his “good side.”

3. He had a photographic memory

Tesla’s memory was eidetic, which means he could recall entire books and images in great detail. He allegedly used his potent imagination to temper the vivid nightmares he had as a child. He was known to memorize books and images and stockpile visions for inventions in his head. He also had a powerful imagination and the ability to visualize in three dimensions.

4. He spoke 8 languages

No doubt hastened by his eidetic—commonly known as photographic—memory, Tesla was fluent in 8 different languages: Serbo-Croatian, English, Czech, German, French, Hungarian, Italian and Latin. Linguists refer to such a person as a “hyper polyglot”, or someone who can speak more than six languages with great proficiency.

5. The U.S. Government has classified Tesla’s stuff

When Tesla died, the Office of Alien Property seized all of his possessions. It eventually released most of his possessions to his family, and a few items were donated to the Tesla Museum in Belgrade. Curiously, Tesla died in 1943, yet some of his personal documents still remain classified to this day by the U.S. Government.

6. He had the Idea for Smartphone Technology in 1901

Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not as good at reducing his ideas to practice, Carlson said. In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla described to his funder and business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new means of instant communication that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet, Carlson said, adding that of all of his ideas, that was the one that stopped him in his tracks.

7. Edison and Tesla were not arch-nemeses

It would be delightful to imagine Edison and Tesla as bitter enemies, constantly one-upping each other with their latest inventions. However, in actual fact, they collaborated in designing direct current generators before Tesla quit to pursue his dream of the alternate current induction motor. Perhaps, a more accurate description of their relationship is as ‘business rivals.’

8. He invented the first hydroelectric power plant

In 1895, along with George Westinghouse, Tesla built the first power plant to tap the hydroelectric potential trapped within Niagara Falls. The Niagara Falls Power Company marked the final victory of Tesla’s Poly-phase Alternating Current (AC) electricity, which powers the world today.

9. Nikola Tesla drank whiskey every day

Cheers to a long life! Another interesting fact about Nikola Tesla is that he used to drink Whiskey daily, because he thought that whiskey would make him live up to 150 years. He considered whiskey as a tonic to live younger and longer, and only gave up drinking after the prohibition came in the First World War. Gradually however, he gave up on all the beverages except milk and water.

10. Tesla was an environmentalist

As Alcorn said, Tesla was “worried about the fact that people consume the Earth’s resources too fast, so he wanted to make sure that these resources were renewable“. Thus he studied the ways to gather the natural energy from the ground and air. He created artificial lightning in his lab and detected differences in electrical potential on Earth and on high objects.

About Author

Biplab Ghosh

Biplab lives his life around technology and is particularly keen to explore the intersection of technology and human behaviour. Always looking for new ideas, and ways that can make things simpler. He is a geek with the flair for travel and has great passion for music and theatres.

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