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Full text of "Nikola Tesla"

i 



Men of Science Series No. 1 



NIKOLA TESLA 
Electrical Genius 



NIKOLA TESLA 
Electrical Genius 



by 

ARTHUR J. BECKHARD 



PUbUC UBr; v::i 



(t^noj)^ 



i 



Cfass. j Ci : :I. 



London 
DENNIS DOBSON 



First published in Great Britain in 1961 by Dobson Books Ltd 
80 Kensington Church Street, London, W.8 

© Copyright 1 959 by Arthur J. Beckhard 



This book has been printed in Great Britain by 

titho-offset at Taylor Oarnett Evans dk Co. Ltd, 

Watford, Herts, and bound by them 



To my father 



Acknowledgment 



Many books and articles have been written about 
Nikola Tesla's scientific achievements, but none of 
them succeed in stating these highly technical prob- 
lems as clearly and understandably as Tesla himself 
does in his own writings and lectures. 

On the other hand, comparatively little has been 
written about Tesla the man. Therefore a special vote 
of thanks is due the late John J. O'Neill for his book, 
PRODIGAL GENIUS: THE LIFE OF NIKOLA 
TESLA, a painstaking character study of the great 
scientist, his family and his background. 

A.J.B. 



Chapter 



1 



On January 9, 1861, many events occurred which were to re- 
shape the history of the world. In America, the opening gun 
of the Civil War sounded the warning of the bloody years to 
follow. In Germany, young Bismarck, who was to be Germany's 
first Chancellor, and responsible for the militarization of the 
Fatherland, received his first decoration. In England, Queen 
Victoria was forging into a unified whole the far-flung British 
Empire and casting knowing eyes upon the Suez Canal, which 
had been started the previous year. 

In the little town of Smiljan in the Serbian province of Lika, 
then known as Croatia, a seemingly unimportant event took 
. place which, too, was destined to shape the future. Nikola 
Tesla, scarcely five years old, found the family's pet poodle 
Trixie dying. The little black poodle was lying under a bush 
at the side of the road, whimpering, and the small boy picked 
her up and carried her home to his twelve-year-old brother 
Dane. Strangely, the death of that pet dog was to be the first of 
several events that would determine the course of Nikki Tesla's 
life. 

Trixie had been given to Dane by one of their father's con- 
gregation. Everyone in Smiljan liked the Tesla family. The 
Reverend Milutin Tesla was a tall, handsome man with a fine 
speaking voice and a prodigious memory. He knew the Bible 



A* 



by heart and could quote it word for word in proof of a point 
he might be trying to make. Ojouka, his wife, a charming, 
attractive woman, also had an amazing memory. She had learned 
to speak German, French, and Italian, as well as her native 
Serbian, even though she never learned to read or write. 

Milka, Angelina, and Dane were the three oldest children; 
Nikola and little Marica were the youngest; and all pleasant, 
well mannered, and charming to be with. Neighbors often 
visited the Tesla home for an evening of music or conversa- 
tion, but it was Dane they talked about at their dinner tables 
or in their living rooms. Some said he was a genius; others were 
sure that he was not long for this world. Everyone agreed that, 
at twelve, Dane knew more than most of the grownups in 
Smiljan. 

No one was surprised when he was given a present of a thor- 
oughbred French poodle, even though he already owned a big 
white and tan dog, part Spitz and part Collie, which he had 
found in the woods behind the rectory. The family had ac- 
cepted Keno, but no one thought him very smart. Certainly he 
was not beautiful. 

Trixie was both and Dane spent every minute of his spare 
time teaching her tricks. She learned quickly and soon the 
evening visits to the Tesla home were even more enlivened by 
a "show" that Dane often put on. Trixie would walk on her 
hind legs, sit up and beg, fetch, and "speak," performing all 
her tricks with such relish and obvious enjoyment that the 
guests could not fail to praise the young boy for his kindness 
and patience as a trainer. 

When Nikki brought the dying Trixie home, the whole 
family gathered around anxiously. Dane turned angrily on his 
little brother. "What did you do to her?" he cried. 

"Dane!" The Reverend Tesla spoke sharply. "Nikki didn't 
do anything. Why should he?" 

"Because he hates her," Dane answered. "He's angry because 
no one pays any attention to him since we got Trixie." 

10 



"Stop such talk at once, Dane!" Mrs. Tesla ordered, putting 
her arm around the bewildered little boy. "Nikki loves the 
dog as much as you do." She knelt beside the little dog. "Get 
me the white of an egg, Angelina. Quickly!" 

They did everything that could be done, but it was no use. 
Nikki, seeing the little dog's eyes glaze over and close, felt very 
sorry for her, but even sorrier for his older brother. As he 
reached out to take Dane's hand, Keno arrived, late as usual, 
and pushed his big, bumbling way between them. He walked 
over to where the little black dog lay, nuzzled her, and licked 
her nose. Getting no response, he raised troubled eyes to his 
master's face. Dane looked down at him and cried out more in 
grief than in anger: 

"Why did it have to happen to Trixie? Why did Trixie have 
to die?" 

Keno's long, plumed tail drooped and he slunk away. 

"You shouldn't have said that," Nikki protested. "He thinks 
you're angry at him." 

Dane stared at his brother a few moments before answering, 
then said, "I didn't mean it the way you think. I only meant 
that, when there are so many dogs in the village, why did it 
have to be Trixie?" 

Nikki silently accepted this explanation, but he knew that, 
for a moment, his brother had wished that Keno had died 
instead of Trixie. 

After that, Nikki seemed to change. He became shy and 
withdrawn, as if afraid to call attention to himself, and this 
was especially noticeable whenever Dane was present. Perhaps, 
in time, he would have forgotten the unhappy episode of the 
dog and his brother's harsh accusations had not unexpected 
tragedy stricken the Tesla household. 

No one knew exactly how it happened. All five of the chil- 
dren were playing in the back yard when suddenly there was 
a loud scream. Mrs. Tesla found Dane, writhing in pain, at 
the foot of the stone cellar steps. He lost consciousness when 

11 



they carried him to the upstairs room he shared with Nikki, 
but he soon came to and began to talk excitedly, saying that 
Nikki had pushed him. The Reverend and Mrs. Tesla did not 
for one moment believe that their youngest had deliberately 
set out to hurt his older brother, but they didn't want him to 
hear Dane's delirious accusations and become upset, so it was 
decided that Nikola should spend a week or two with some 
friends who lived nearby, and little Marica went with him to 
Mr. and Mrs. Mark Wentzlas' to keep him company. 

Every morning Mrs. Wentzlas got Nikki his breakfast and 
hustled him off to school. And every day, when he returned 
at noontime, she was watching for him from the great bay 
window at the front of the little farmhouse. She would wave 
at him and little Marica would come bouncing out the front 
door, while Keno galumphed from somewhere at the back of 
the house to stand with his forepaws on the white gate waiting 
for Nikki to pat him. 

But one day Nikki came home to find only Mrs. Wentzlas 
waiting at the gate, with Keno standing quietly at her side. 

"I have sad news for you, Nikki," she said. "You must be a 
big, brave boy." 

He looked up at her worn, kind face and saw that her eyes 
were red, as if she had been crying. Even before she spoke he 
guessed what she was going to say. 

"Dane has gone away," she said solemnly and Nikki nodded. 
He had known she was going to say that. Why was it, he won- 
dered, that grownups so often said someone had "gone away" 
or "passed on" when they meant "died"? When an animal 
died, they said so, but it seemed as if people didn't ever die — 
they just "went away." 

"I knew you wouldn't cry." Mrs. Wentzlas went on. "I knew 
you'd he a fine, brave boy. And now you just go into the 
kitchen and wash and then go upstairs. You'll find your Sunday 
suit laid out on your bed." 

"Do I have to wear stockings}" Nikki asked. 

12 



"Of course. All your parents' friends and neighbors — every- 
body who loved Dane— will be there to say 'good-by' to him. 
Now hurry along. Marica is already dressed. We'll go over to 
your house as soon as you're ready." 

Obediently Nikki washed at the pump in the kitchen, then 
went up the back stairs to his room and dressed quickly. As 
he was coming down the front stairs he suddenly heard Mrs. 
Wentzlas speaking: 

" — didn't cry or seem to feel anything at all. Seemed almost 
stupid." 

Then a rumble. That was Mr. Wentzlas talking. 
"Oh, I know he's only five years old," Mrs. Wentzlas an- 
swered impatiently, "but he's no geniui. Oh Mark, why did it 
have to be Dane?" 

Nikki stood frozen on the dark stairway. Suddenly he wanted 
his mother. He wanted her arms around him. He wanted to 
hear her say that she didn't feel that way too. But what if she 
did? Almost as if in answer to his thoughts, Mrs. Wentzlas 
continued: 

"Oh, I know I shouldn't have said that, or even thought it, 
but I can't help it. Dane would 'have grown up to be a great 
man. He would have brought honor to his parents and to 
Smiljan . . ." 

Nikki forgot his own hurt and felt suddenly very sorry for 
his mother and father. And then, right there on the dark stair- 
way, he made his decision. He would be a greater, more im- 
portant man than Dane would have beenl He would bring 
more fame and greater honor to his parents than his brother 
would ever have brought 1 

Mrs. Wentzlas' voice grew louder. "Whatever can be keeping 
that boy? We'll be late unless ... Oh, there you arel" 

She had come out into the hall and now she held out her 
hand to him. "Come, Nikki. We must hurry." 

As they went down the walk toward the gate, Keno appeared 
from behind the house, walking slowly as if he knew that it 

13 



would not be appropriate to jump and frisk about. Nikki won- 
dered if he knew about Dane. 

"You be a good dog, Keno," Mrs. Wentzlas said. "You stay 
and guard the house. We won't be gone long." 

"Can't Keno come?" Nikki asked in surprise. 

"Certainly not," Mrs. Wentzlas answered Ermly. 

"But why not? You said that people who loved Dane were 
coming to say good-by to him. Keno loved him. Can't he say 
good-by to him too?" 

Mr. and Mrs. Wentzlas looked at each other. 

"The boy's right," Mr. Wentzlas rumbled. 

Mrs. Wentzlas stooped down and gave Nikki a quick little 
hug. 

"Of course, you're right," she said. "Keno can come along." 

Keno took his place beside Nikki and they went through die 
gate and on down the street side by side, the dog ignoring the 
taunting chatter of the chipmunks in the low branches of the 
elms that lined the sidewalk— resisting a temptation to reply to 
the challenge that at any other time would have been irresist- 
ible. After they had gone a short distance and were out of ear- 
shot of the others, Nikki addressed the dog seriously: 

"Keno, I am going to train you. I'm going to be a better dog 
trainer than Dane was, and you're going to be the smartest, best- 
trained dog in the whole world." 

Keno waved his plume slowly back and forth without much 
enthusiasm. 

"You don't believe it, do you?" Nikki went on. "Well, you'll 
see. Everybody will come to our house to watch us do tricks. 
Everybody will talk about you. You'll be famousl Just wait and 
see!" 

Secretly and with intense concentration and singleness of 
purpose that would have been startling — almost frightening — 
to anyone who might have seen them, Nikki spent every free 
moment training the big dog. Responding to this unexpected 
windfall of patient and affectionate attention, the friendly ani- 

14 



mal was transformed from a clumsy, lumbering clown into a 
skilled performer. And, as Nikki had prophesied, the night 
finally did arrive when neighbors and friends, who had dropped 
in to enjoy an evening of music and conversation with the 
Teslas in an effort to help them forget their loss, found them- 
selves unexpected witnesses to a performance they had never 
dreamed of. Keno walked on his forelegs, balanced a piece of 
sugar on his nose and then tossed it in the air on the com- 
mand of his new young master. Keno fetched and "spoke" and 
played hide-and-seek and did many tricks that they had never 
seen a dog do before. 

But being a better dog trainer than Dane was not enough. 
Nikki felt impelled to do something startling, something un- 
usual, but he had no idea what it would be. It was his mother's 
ingenuity and handiness with tools that finally gave him the 
idea of becoming an inventor. Mrs. Tesla had created several 
convenient or labor-saving devices for home use: the fourfold 
screen that served as a partition between the children's beds 
and provided a modicum of privacy, and her "egg-beater." 

She had tied two wooden forks together, facing each other, 
finding it much easier to beat eggs thoroughly with this device 
than with a single fork. One day Mrs. Tesla complained that 
her wrists ached, and said she wished she could think of some- 
thing that would turn her egg-beater. 

"The amount of energy I waste beating eggs for this family 
could probably pull a cart from here to Prague!" she said 
laughingly. 

Nikki pricked up his ears. If he could think of something 
that would turn the forks, he would be doing something that 
Dane had never thought of. If only he could think of some- 
thing! He thought about it a great deal, but when the idea 
finally came to him, it was while he was teaching Keno a new 
trick and not thinking about the egg-beater at all. 

Not far from the Tesla home a mountain stream rushed 
through the woods, tumbling over itself as it raced downhill 

15 



over small rocks and tree roots. Nikki decided that the power 
of the water should be used to turn something that would in 
turn cause a gear to revolve. The gear could be connected to a 
small upright post that would be turned by pulleys. In his mind 
the upright post represented his mother's egg-beater. He re- 
membered that when the woodcutters chopped down some of 
the huge trees on the mountainside, they often sawed the 
trunks into round segments that could be used as small cart- 
wheels. He went in search of a discarded or broken one and 
succeeded in finding a round one that had obviously been 
sawed too thin to serve any practical purpose, for it was only 
about an inch thick. 

Happily, Nikki bored a hole in the center of it, pushed a 
long green stick through the hole, and rested its two ends in 
crotched sticks he drove into the soft ground on either bank of 
the stream. As soon as the water struck the rough perimeter 
of the circular wooden segment, it began to revolve very slowly 
around the stick. Nikki saw at once that the water power 
was not great enough to turn the stick as well as the wheel. - 
He would have to find a place where the waters rushed with 
greater force — perhaps he could find a waterfall nearby, then 
he could run pulleys down the hill right into the Tesla 
kitchen. By connecting them with the egg-beater, the water 
power would turn it without any help from his mother. 

Accompanied by the seemingly tireless Keno, Nikki fell into 
the habit of taking long hikes into the nearby hills in search 
of a waterfall. The Reverend Tesla was pleased that his son 
should find so much of interest in nature, and Mrs. Tesla often 
made up picnic lunches for him to take on his trips. 

It was on one of these hikes into the mountains that Nikki 
came upon a very old and long-forgotten chapel formed by a 
great bronze door that had been hinged with iron spikes into 
a boulder that had fallen in front of the opening of a cave. 
Beyond the partly open door he could see the cavern, which 
was dark and evil-smelling, but his curiosity and his adven- 

16 



turous spirit overcame his fear. Calling to Keno to precede him, 
he started toward the cave entrance. Something, however, 
seemed to frighten the dog, and for the first time since Dane's 
death he refused to obey Nikki's command. 

"Keno!" Nikki shouted. "Go in!" 

But the dog backed away, the hair bristling along the length 
of his spine, his lips curled back from his teeth in a soundless 
snarl. 

"Sissy! 'Fraidy-cat!" Nikki jeered, but Keno would not ap- 
proach the cave. 

"All right then, I'll go in alone," the boy said and crawled 
around the heavy door and entered the cavern. The contact of 
his shoulder as he brushed by the door was just enough to dis- 
lodge the rust-encrusted hinge. The door sagged and the top 
swung across the opening, completely blocking it. Nikki was 
sealed in the total darkness of the damp-smelling stone chapel. 
He threw his weight against the door in sudden panic, but his 
efforts did not even make it budge. From the other side the 
frightened boy could hear the faint sound of the dog's barking. 

"Go home, Keno!" Nikki shouted. "Go home and get help." 
Keno did just that. Hours later, panting and bedraggled, he 
galloped into the Tesla yard. 

"What's the matter, Keno? What's all the fuss about?" Mrs. 
Tesla asked. He paid no attention to her but ran through the 
house, quite obviously searching for something or someone. 
He almost hurtled out of the front door and raced along the 
wooden sidewalk to the church. As he reached it, the Reverend 
Tesla emerged from a small side door and the frenzied dog 
flung himself upon the minister, barking and whimpering, 
running away for a short distance and then returning to the 
man. 

After watching for a moment the Reverend Tesla asked, 
"You want me to go with you? Is that it, boy?" and Keno barked 
furiously. 

17 



Mr. Wentzlas heard the noise and came hurrying along the 
street. "What's the matter, Reverend?" he asked. 

"I believe the dog wants to take me to Nikki," the Reverend 
Tesla answered slowly, and Keno bounded about, as if to show 
his relief at being understood. 

"What are we waiting for?" Mr. Wentzlas cried, and both 
of them started out after the barking dog. Four other neighbors, 
hearing the commotion, joined the party and headed for the 
mountains with Keno leading the way. It took all the strength 
of the six men to swing the heavy bronze door away from the 
opening far enough to let the Reverend Tesla slip through and 
carry out the now-unconscious Nikki. They revived him and 
the little procession turned homeward. 

"What were you doing 'way up here on the mountainside, 
Nikki?" his father asked him. 

"I was looking for a waterfall." 

"From now on you'll have to be more careful when you go 
into the woods," his father said sternly, but Nikki noticed a 
warm smile quivering on the lips that were barely visible be- 
neath the handle-bar mustache. 

"I'll try," Nikki promised. 

They walked down the steep mountain path in silence for a 
time, Mr. Wentzlas and the other neighbors following behind 
the Reverend Tesla. 

"Papa," Nikki said, "I don't have to stop thinking about die 
water, do I?" 

His father stared at him, completely puzzled. "Water? What 
water?" 

"Water all over — everywhere. The rivers and streams and 
brooks— 5? U moving and none of them doing anybody any 
good." 

"Nonsense," the Reverend Tesla replied. "Of course they do 
good. They supply moisture for our gardens; they provide 
fish and other food for people to eat." 

"I didn't mean that," Nikki tried to explain. "I only meant 

18 



that their force is being wasted. If somebody could capture it 
— the way my water wheel does; — and use it to help people turn 
things and move things and ..." 

The Reverend Tesla laughed. "One inventor in the family 
is enough! Oh, I'll admit that the four-way screen that your 
mother thought up, with the hinges on both sides, has its 
good points. It does keep the heat from the stove away from 
the kitchen table whenever we decide to eat there instead of 
in the dining room. And the bed without legs that your mother 
made is easier to get into, instead of climbing up into the big 
four-poster — but we're the ones who have to test all these ex- 
periments, and if you were to begin too, there's no telling what 
we'd find ourselves doing!" 

"I'm going to capture the water's power," Nikki said stub- 
bornly. "I'm going to harness it the way Mr. Wentzlas harnesses 
old Meg." 

The Reverend Tesla looked down at his five-year-old son's 
thin, earnest face and a frown of worry wrinkled his forehead. 
"Don't try too hard," he cautioned. 

"I'm going to make you proud of me, Papa," the boy said. 

"We like you the way you are." 

Then Nikki said something that made no sense at all to his 
father: "Dane liked Keno the way he was." 

Had the Reverend Tesla asked Nikki what he meant, he 
might have understood what forces drove his son on to endless 
and tireless efforts to succeed, but he saw no particular meaning 
behind Nikki's words. He thought the boy was criticizing the 
son he had lost, and so he spoke impatiently and said exactly 
the wrong thing: 

"Dane was different, he was a genius." 

Nikki decided in that moment that he would invent some- 
thing that would startle the world. 



19 



Chapter 



2 



Nikki tried one thing after another with a sort of desperate 
compulsion that made him seem almost feverish. Both the 
Reverend Tesla and his wife sensed that the boy was under a 
strain, but neither of them guessed the cause. Meanwhile Nikki 
invented a blow-gun and soon afterward a pop-gun, which he 
sold to his classmates in elementary school. When an epidemic 
of broken windows struck Smiljan, Nikki realized that this was 
not an invention that was likely to raise him in the esteem of 
their neighbors. 

Just after his fifth birthday he made his first attempt to emu- 
late the flight of a bird. The result was three broken ribs and 
six weeks in bed. Then followed another approach to the 
water wheel. This time he used parts of a toy cart and made 
scoops which turned the wheel much more effectively than had 
the water on the relatively smooth surface of his first wheel. 
He continued to drive himself, and grew thinner and quieter 
as time passed. 

"It's almost as if he blames himself for Dane's death," Mrs. 
Tesla said. "You don't suppose he overheard those delirious 
mutterings our boy . . ." 

"No," her husband assured her. "I'm sure Nikola doesn't 
blame himself. Perhaps he's just trying to make up to us for 
our loss." 

"Try to get him to relax, Milutin," Mrs. Tesla urged. "The 
boy will make himself sick." 

When the Reverend Tesla's popularity and many services to 
both church and community were rewarded by a promotion 

20 



to a much larger parish in the thriving city of Gospic, his 
parents thought the move would be good for Nikki. The boy, 
now seven, was delighted at the prospect of moving to a new 
home. His disappointment was great when he finally saw the 
red-brick rectory and the huge Gothic church adjoining it. He 
had spent a happy childhood close to nature, and he disliked 
the city with its little houses all crowded together like sheep 
huddled in a corral before a thunderstorm. Nor did he like 
the people he met. His reserve did not permit him to make 
friends easily and his loneliness added further to his unhappi- 
ness. 

It was his job to ring the church bell before and after ser- 
vices. After a service one Sunday in the spring, Nikki came 
down the spiral staircase in great leaps, swinging himself past 
three or four steps by leverage on the hand-rail. At the bottom 
of the stairway he sprang down and landed on the train of the 
new gown of the Countess von Furstenburg — the wife of the 
fat Austrian mayor of Gospic. With the sound of tearing cloth, 
the very pompous dowager was bereft of her skirt and her dig- 
nity. Her face purple with rage, she turned to the astonished 
minister. 

"This boy is your son, is he not, Dr. Tesla?" she asked ac- 
cusingly. The Reverend Tesla nodded. 

"I want him punished, and punished severely," the angry 
woman ordered. "He has been rude and destructive. I 
want " 

"He meant no harm," Nikki's father protested. "Perhaps it 
was wrong for him to jump in the House of the Lord, but " 

"Perhaps! I" she screamed. "Perhaps? Of course it was wrong 
and I want him punished. And I want the damages paid for. 
Do you understand?" 

"Calm yourself, Madam," the Reverend Tesla replied quietly. 
"The damages will be paid." 

"Out of what? The measly salary we pay you to preach in our 
church? It would take a year." 

21 



"You will have to be patient then, for I have not yet received 
even the first quarterly payment of the 'measly salary' the 
church pays me. But if you will send me a bill, it will be paid." 

"Very well," the Countess sputtered, not at all mollified by 
the minister's quiet tone, "but you must promise to punish 
the boy." 

"The boy will not be punished." 

"What!" 

"He was guilty of nothing more serious than an excess of 
high spirits. It was an accident. I'm certain that Nikola is very 
sorry for what happened. I cannot find it in my heart to feel 
that he requires further punishment." 

"My husband and I are not accustomed to having our re- 
quests refused. I say that the boy must be taught manners and 
respect — if not for persons at least for the church. 

"The Bishop shall hear of this!" the Countess von Fiirsten- 
burg threatened. "We'll see what he thinks of your disrespect." 
She swept the remains of her torn gown about her and moved 
haughtily out onto the marble steps at the church entrance. 

Dr. Tesla looked down at his small son and smiled. "Let us 
go home together," he said. 

"6h Papa!" Nikki cried, "Can't we go back to Smiljan, where 
everyone was friendly?" 

"I'm afraid not." His father said and explained that a new 
minister had already been installed in the church there and 
could not very well be asked to give up his post. 

"We'll just have to be brave — all of us," he said. 

At that moment Nikki wished that he had the words to tell 
his father how sorry he was for what he had done and how much 
he admired him for his kindness and his loyalty. 

He soon found out that being brave was not easy. The Von 
Fiirstenburgs had two sons and a daughter at the school that 
Nikki attended. The girl talked to her friends about the Teslas 
and made it plain that her parents would be pleased if so crude 
a family were ignored and socially ostracized. These were only 

22 



words to Nikki and did not really hurt him. But the two boys 
did not confine their dislike to words. Nikki discovered that 
if he managed to think hard enough about something else, he 
didn't feel the pain so much when they pulled his hair or 
twisted his arm back between his shoulder blades. When the 
bullies finally learned that they couldn't make him knuckle 
under to them, they decided to leave Nikki alone; but while 
this afforded some physical relief, it did not help to make the 
boy happy. Then when the Teslas had been in Gospic little 
more than a year, Nikola was given an opportunity to win 
recognition and a sort of grudging respect. 

The Town Council decided to purchase a brand-new fire 
engine, which turned out to be a most impressive-looking con- 
traption. The Council was very proud of it and planned a 
parade and a public demonstration to introduce it to the en- 
thusiastic townspeople. General Count von Fiirstenburg, hus- 
band of the formidable lady whose wrath Nikki had incurred, 
had volunteered to arrange for the purchase of the new ap- 
paratus, and on the day of the carefully planned ceremony stood 
in the place of honor, a hastily erected rotunda on the river 
bank, where the shiny new engine was to be demonstrated. 

Pompously and at great length the Count told the assembled 
citizens how very fortunate they were to have such a splendid 
Town Council headed by so distinguished a leader as himself. 
He pointed out the vast improvement of the new apparatus 
over the old bucket-brigade system and explained at length 
how it was made and operated. It seemed to Nikki, standing 
shyly at the outermost edge of the crowd, that the Mayor had 
done everything but draw a diagram of what seemed like a very 
simple idea. The long, flat canvas hose that led from the engine 
to the river was the means of drawing the water into the tank, 
the central supply source, from which it would be pumped, 
under pressure, onto the flames. 

At last the pompous little man stopped lecturing and called 
upon sixteen members of the Volunteer Fire Department to 

23 



man the pump handles. Then, to the amazed delight of the 
onlookers, eight men on each side grasped the two long handles 
and began a sort of formal minuet. The pump was operated 
much as a railroad hand<ar is operated, first one then the other 
handle being forced down. A silence fell upon the crowd as they 
stared in fascination, waiting for the shining brass nozzle to 
begin spouting an impressive stream of water skyward — but 
Nikki only had eyes for the sixteen men who seemed to be 
bowing to one another over the heavy pump handles. 

"Nikkil" his mother said sharply. "Stop smiling. They'll 
think you're laughing at them. Haven't you caused us enough 
trouble without making them any angrier?" 

Nikola obeyed instantly, and a look of hurt appeared in his 
eyes. Mrs. Tesla, seeing the pained look, felt sorry for her sharp 
words and put her around his shoulder. 

"I'm sorry, Nikki," she said gently, "I know you never mean 
to cause trouble. It just seems to follow you around like Keno." 

Then, completely forgetting her warning to her son, Mrs. 
Tesla laughed too. It was indeed amusing to watch the sixteen 
men laboring in vain — their almost mystic genuflections pro- 
ducing nothing. 

The Count angrily ordered the men to pump harder, but 
their resultant perspiration was the only moisture forthcoming. 
Suddenly, without understanding how, Nikola knew that there 
was nothing wrong with the new apparatus. He realized that 
the men would not be pulling and pushing against so much 
pressure if water were entering the hose. Therefore, the trouble 
must be at the river end. Without a word he ducked quickly 
from under his mother's arm and ran toward the river bank, 
taking off his clothes as he went. 

Stripped down to his long woolen drawers, he held his nose 
and leaped from the high bank. He saw immediately that the 
mouth of the hose had folded back upon itself and was flattened 
by the vacuum created by the pumping. Holding his breath and 

24 



using both hands with all his strength, Nikki flipped the hose 
over and saw the water rush in. He immediately surfaced. 

Under the continued bellowing of the purple-faced Mayor, 
the sixteen members of the Volunteer Fire Department of 
the city of Gospic continued to bow to each other rhythmi- 
cally as they pumped, but the men holding the hose gazed with 
considerable interest at Mrs. Tesla as she and some of her 
neighbors ran fearfully toward the spot where Nikki had 
jumped into the river. In their curiosity, the firemen permitted 
the nozzle of the hose to droop down. 

At that precise moment the water released by Nikola and 
pumped by the conscientous volunteers belched from the nozzle 
in a mighty sixty-foot stream, exactly as the Count von Fiirsten- 
burg had said it would! But he had claimed that it would shoot 
sixty feet straight up in the air. Actually, with the hose aimed 
at the speakers' platform, the water blasted the Mayor and three 
members of the Council right off their chairs and onto the 
floor. 

"Turn it up! Up in the air, you idiots!" Von Furstenburg 
shouted as soon as he could get enough breath with which to 
shout. "Turn it away. I'll have you all discharged for this!" 

But the firemen, watching the growing crowd at the river 
bank, were paying no attention. The vice-chairman of the Coun- 
cil helped the Count to his feet and whispered to him, "Who- 
ever fixed the apparatus deserves to be rewarded. I'd rather be 
a little wet from the hose than have had to face the crowd an- 
other minute if it hadn't worked." 

Von Furstenburg decided that it would be wise to laugh at 
his own discomfort. "You're absolutely rightl" he announced. 

Those of the Gospic citizenry who lined the bank of the 
little river were impressed by the little drama they had wit- 
nessed. Eager hands were held out to the skinny, nearly naked 
boy who, now that his object had been achieved, was realizing 
the risk he had taken to achieve it. Nikola was hauled up onto 
dry land, embraced by his weeping mother, and hoisted onto 

25 



the shoulders of the shouting, laughing firemen. They carried 
him to a place of honor on their recent acquisition, wrapped 
coats around him, and wheeled the bright new engine and pump 
down the main streets of Gospic in a march of triumph in 
Nikki's honor. The young boy was happy at last because he had 
helped to make his father's job securel 



Chapter 



3 



When he was nine and in his last year of elementary school, 
called Normal School, in Serbia, Nikola temporarily abandoned 
the study of water power for renewed work on the development 
of air power. He still wanted to invent something that would 
impress grownups, particularly his parents. One day, although 
not conscious of thinking about it, he suddenly pictured a way 
to create a motor that would rotate his mother's egg-beater 
without using up her energy. 

He visualized a small wheel revolving parallel to the ground 
and meshing with a gear that was connected to an upright pole. 
When the wheel turned, it turned the gears, and they in turn 
made the pole revolve. And the wheel, he thought, would be 
much easier to turn than the pole. Wind or air could be used to 
turn a small light wheel. He thought about ways to create air 
power. For two years he had held a healthy respect for the power 
caused by the flapping wings of the great hawks that flew over 
the cornfields from time to time. He well remembered his 
broken ribs after an attempt to fly from the barn roof, with only 
his mother's parasol to serve as wings. He had learned then 
that the sustaining power of a bird's wing was far greater than 
he had thought! 

26 



He had a sudden flash of inspiration: he would use bugs as a 
source of powerl After capturing a jarful of June bugs, Nikki 
retired to the privacy of the barn behind the rectory. Instead 
of using a wheel, he crossed two thin slivers of wood cut from a 
roof shingle. These he fastened together at right angles to each 
other, like the blades of a windmill. Then he covered them 
with a paste he made of flour and water. He joined the "wheel" 
by silk thread to a pulley and a pencil. One of the Von Fursten- 
burg boys came to watch, drawn to the scene by the sounds 
in the barn, but Nikki was so intent upon his work that he 
was completely unaware of the other boy, who watched in 
silent fascination as Nikki painstakingly removed the bugs 
from the jar, one at a time, and glued their feet to the surface 
of the crossed blades — four bugs to each half of each blade — 
sixteen bugs in all. Then he stood up to watch eagerly for the 
result of his experiment. He was proud and excited when the 
frenzied whirring of wings as the bugs struggled to free them- 
selves from the paste caused the crossed pieces to turn laterally. 
Elatedly he watched as the slack in the thread was taken up 
and the pencil began to turn. And then he realized that he had 
an audience. 

"It works! It works!" he cried. "Of course it doesn't turn 
fast enough, but that's easy. All I have to do is add more bugs. 
Stay here and don't touch it. Don't let anything happen to itl 
I'm going to get Mother." / 

When Mrs. Tesla saw her son's flushed cheeks and shining 
eyes, her first thought was that he had a fever. She ran to him in 
alarm. 

"Come with me, Mama," he cried. "You must. I've invented 
a motor. It will turn your egg-beater!" 

Laughing in relief, she allowed herself to be pulled out of the 
kitchen toward the barn. But she did not laugh as she watched 
the rapidly fluttering wings of the imprisoned bugs propelling 
the little "motor." For the first time Nikki, staring up at her 
anxiously, saw on her face the look he had often seen there 

27 



when she had been listening to one of Dane's intelligent ob- 
servations, and Nikki knew that his efforts had at last been 
rewarded. 

"It hasn't got enough power yet," his mother said seriously, 
"but it's wonderful, Nikki — really wonderful." 

The two of them and little Alfred von Furstenburg stood 
gazing at the miniature contraption for several seconds before 
Mrs. Tesla spoke again: "Don't you think it's cruel, Nikki?" 

"Cruel!" he exclaimed indignantly. "Why? Bugs are of no 
use. This makes them useful! Don't you see, Mama? All I have 
to do is add four more bugs to each cross-piece and it will turn 
the upright fast enough to beat your eggs. I've got plenty of 
bugs. They're right here in this " 

Nikki stopped abruptly and gazed in shocked surprise at the 
empty jar he had taken from the shelf below the work table. 

"That's funny," he said, "they were right here in this jar." 

Slowly he turned toward the uninvited guest. The smallest 
of the Von Furstenburg tribe grinned and patted his stomach. 
Without a moment's hesitation Mrs. Tesla grabbed the young 
man by the nearest available appendage — which happened to 
be his ear — and hurried him into the house where certain 
crude but effective remedies were quickly applied. Shortly there- 
after, looking a little green, he was sent home and Mrs. Tesla 
made it very clear to Nikola that he was to discontinue "Opera- 
tion Egg-beater" as of that moment. Nikola didn't feel too 
badly. He had succeeded in inventing and operating a sixteen- 
bug-power motor — which was something his brother Dane had 
never done — and he had the pleasure of beholding that very 
special look on his mother's face. 

When he was ten, Nikola entered the Real Gymnasium of 
Gospic. This four-year institution was similar to an American 
grammar and junior-high school, and served to introduce 
Nikola to more advanced studies. He particularly enjoyed 
mathematics, and the memory training received at home, plus 

28 



a natural liking for the subject, sent him rocketing to the head 
of the class, which did not increase his popularity with his fellow 
students. When Nikki first demonstrated his amazing ability to 
supply formulas and solve equations with lighting speed, even 
his teachers were amazed, and it took very little prompting 
from the Von Furstenburg boys to make the entire faculty 
suspicious. Nikki was accused of cheating and the Countess 
von Furstenburg demanded that he be expelled from school. 

One day the Reverend Tesla asked Nikki to come into his 
study. "Have you been cheating, Nikola?" he asked. 

"No, Papa." 

"That's what I told Mr. Oberndorf, the principal. He says 
that you answer the questions more rapidly than any ten-year- 
old boy could possibly work out the answers. He believes that 
you see the questions before class, or that you have obtained a 
book with answers in it. He doesn't quite know, you see, but 
he is sure there is something wrong." 

"I haven't cheated." 

The Reverend Tesla looked at his son and smiled. "Tell me 
Nikki, are you doing what you used to do at home — I mean in 
Smiljan?" 

Nikki grinned and nodded. "I picture in my mind the for- 
mula or the equation," he said. "It's as if I saw it written and 
then worked out on a blackboard. It doesn't take me very long 
to work it out when I can see it that way." 

"And you can always see it? Your memory, or whatever it is, 
never fails you?" 

"No, papa." 

"Then we will request a test in the classroom, before wit- 
nesses, with problems that are made up on the spot! Come, let 
us go to the school. I think I'm going to enjoy this." 

Nikki passed with ease every test that was put to him, but 
he was not elated. In such an atmosphere of distrust and enmity 
he was unhappy and lost. 

"Father, may I go to a Higher Real Gymnasium when I finish 

29 



here?" Nikki asked. "I think I can find a way to earn a living 
if I have four years in a first-class Higher Gymnasium." 

"The tuition is very high, Nikola," the Reverend Tesla 
answered, "but I'll see what I can do when the time comes." 

"Perhaps if I could get a job," Nikki suggested, "I could 
begin to earn part of the expenses." 

The Reverend Tesla smiled. "It hasn't come to that yet, 
Nikki," he answered. "And I don't want you overworking 
yourself. You're not too strong and " 

"I'd love to get a job, Father. I won't work too hard. I 
promise." 

But there were very few jobs open to young boys, and those 
that existed paid too little or required time that was needed 
for classes and homework, but Nikki's persistence in seeking 
work was rewarded by the discovery that there was at least one 
job in Gospic for which the supply of eligible applicants never 
seemed to equal the demand. Librarians and assistants were 
always needed in the town library as well as in the primary 
and high school libraries. When Nikki inquired further into 
this possibility, he discovered why there always seemed to be 
vacancies: a librarian — even a second assistant — was required 
to have enough working knowledge of German, French, and 
Italian to enable him to read book titles and have some idea 
of the contents of the books written in those languages. 

The Real Gymnasium offered a class in German to its under- 
classmen, but French was taught only to juniors and seniors, 
and Italian not given at all. So Nikki set about teaching him- 
self. 

Mrs. Tesla spoke all three languages fluently, relying solely 
on her memory of the sound of the spoken words. Nevertheless, 
by asking her the meaning of words, Nikki used his ability to 
visualize, so that he could create a definite picture in his mind 
of the way the spoken word would look on paper. Also, there 
were books in all three languages in his father's library and he 
took one to bed with him every night. 

30 



Fearing that Nikki would strain his eyes by doing so much 
reading in addition to his schoolwbrk, the Reverend Tesla 
urged the boy to case the pressure he had imposed upon him- 
self. But Nikki had not learned how to give sparingly of himself 
or his energy. 

"If you're not careful, you'll have us all in the poorhouse," 
his father said teasingly. "Ten or twelve whole candles every 
single week!" 

Over-sensitive about being a financial burden to his parents, 
Nikola did not realize that his father was only speaking for his 
own good, to persuade him to use his eyes more carefully. That 
afternoon the boy went out to the town dump and found a large 
piece of tin. He brought it home and in the cellar he bent and 
hammered it into a candle mold that would make several 
candles at a time. Next, he went from room to room collecting 
all the candlesticks and candle holders, and diligently scraped 
the melted wax from their sides and bases. Then he went out 
into the back yard and built a little fire of twigs and dead 
leaves and melted the hardened wax scrapings. A ball of string 
that he had been carrying around in his pocket for weeks — 
for no particular reason except that he felt he'd find a use for it 
someday — now served to furnish him with wicks. Holding a 
piece of string into the mold with one hand, he poured in the 
melted wax with the other, hid the filled mold under a bush, 
and left it to harden. After a hurried supper, during which he 
was twice accused of gobbling his food, he rushed outdoors to 
discover himself the proud owner of eight perfectly formed 
candles. 

For the next few days Nikola lived in hopes that his father 
would again bring up the matter fit his extravagance so that 
he could have the pleasure of explaining that these particular 
candles were costing the family nothing. But with the perversity 
that Nikki felt adults so often displayed, the Reverend Tesla 
made no further comment on his son's reading habits. -So the 
boy continued to read for long hours every night. Even so, 

31 



progress seemed painfully slow to him, for his mind was always 
racing ahead to the finished job. 

Progress with his other major project was also painfully 
slow at this time. In competing with the "genius" of Dane, he 
felt that he should fully understand what the word itself meant. 
The definition in the dictionary didn't tell him very much, so 
he began to study the biographies of men who had been ac- 
claimed geniuses. Still, he had no very clear idea of what made 
them members of that select society. All he could discover was 
that most geniuses behaved differently — went barefoot or 
dressed oddly, or were "absent-minded." One fact, however, 
stood out. Practically none of them was called a genius while 
alive, and Nikki could not help wondering if he, too, would 
have to die before he would be recognized as a genius. There 
would be no satisfaction in thatl He wanted to be around when 
his family and neighbors exclaimed over his great achievements 
and success. 

He came to the conclusion at last that a genius was someone 
who did something that no one had done, or thought of doing, 
before; and he determined that he would think of something — 
the sooner the better. Then, just a day or two after he had 
reached this decision, he happened to pass a group of boys prac- 
ticing archery. He stopped to watch and was surprised to note 
how short the trajectory of the arrows was. The boys seemed to 
use a great deal of effort and muscle in pulling back the bow- 
string. And yet when released, the arrows flew in an almost 
straight line toward the target some fifty yards away. 

He asked to be allowed to try a shot. Permission granted, he 
drew the bowstring taut and released the arrow. Everyone 
was amazed to see how true his aim was, but he was not at all 
impressed with his own performance. There was no real sense 
of release — no feeling of unleashed power. He imagined him- 
self the arrow, and was disappointed because he felt as if he 
were wobbling slowly through the air instead of sailing through 

32 



it cutting it cleanly and sharply, the way a diver, in performing 
a swan dive, seems to cleave the air like a knife edge. 

He went home and cut himself a length of ash from a little 
tree behind the rectory. He whittled it to the right thickness 
and shaped the grip to fit his right hand, for he was left-handed. 
After it was carved and molded and sanded, he held it over a 
great iron kettle filled with boiling water. 

How he happened to think of doing this he did not know, but 
he felt certain that steaming the wood would leave it more flex- 
ible and thus allow him to shape it more readily. He felt that 
part of the power of the bow was lost in the width of the single 
arc and that if the ends of the bow could be straight, with the 
curve only in the center section, the force of the bow, hence the 
velocity of the arrow, could be greatly increased. 

His very first attempt confirmed both theories. The heated 
wood bent easily under pressure and when it cooled it hardened 
into a bow resembling a "cupid's mouth" instead of the single- 
arc bow used by the other boys. The bowstring could be pulled 
back further, and when he tried it he was delighted to learn 
that he had made a bow with about five times the propelling 
power of the bow he had handled that morning. 

But he was still far from satisfied. He knew that there must 
be some way of drawing the bowstring tighter. And, just as he 
had always been able to visualize a problem in geometry or 
algebra, now there came into his mind a picture of a bow that 
could shoot farther and harder than the one he had made. It 
was not exactly a picture that came into his mind; it was more 
like a three-dimensional image. He had never seen a picture of 
a crossbow. He had never even heard of an arbalest. And yet 
he was able to think of and make a bow that rested on a cross- 
beam with the bow in horizontal instead of vertical position. 
The bowstring was pulled taut by a hand-screw, much like the 
pegs on a violin which, when turned, tighten the strings to the 
desired pitch. A small wooden trigger, very much like the latch 
on the Telsas' front door, released the tightened string and sent 

N.T.14).— B 33 



the arrow speeding through the air with such velocity that it 
sailed for as much as five hundred yards. At the short range of 
eight feet the arrow was thrust forward with such tremendous 
force that it would completely penetrate a plank an inch thick. 
Shooting with a crossbow, Nikki so far outclassed his rivals 
that the fun soon went out of competition. Then, suddenly, 
everyone wanted one of "Nikki's crossbows," as they were called. 
Nikki sold arbalests as fast as he could turn them out, subse- 
quently making a handsome profit. He hid the money in one of 
his mother's discarded stockings in the bottom drawer of his 
bureau. It was actually his first marketable invention. He had 
learned that there were other ways of making money than by 
having a job. 

Encouraged by his sale of the arbalest and thrilled by the 
feeling of excitement and elation that he always got from 
watching an arrow in flight, he decided that he would attempt 
to make a flying machine. He had just learned in school about 
a vacuum — the space within a container from which all air has 
been exhausted. He had learned that every object on the earth 
is subject to normal atmospheric pressure of approximately 
fourteen pounds per square inch of surface, but that objects 
in a vacuum are free of such pressure. He decided that the 
pressure of fourteen pounds would be enough to rotate a cyl- 
inder at high speed. A completed picture came into his mind: 
he would build an airtight box around half of a cylinder and 
have the other half exposed to air pressure. In his mind's eye 
he could see the cylinder attached to a propeller that was turn- 
ing so fast it was just a gleam in the sunlight and he, Nikki, 
with his vacuum-box strapped to his back, was being propelled 
through the air in the winged flight of one of his own arrows. 
He had no way of knowing, of course, that his youthful theory 
was incorrect and would not work. There were no courses in 
manual training at the Real Gymnasium, no shop work of any 
kind, so Nikki had to borrow tools and figure out his own 

34 



methods of construction. It took many weeks to build a wooden 
box and fit a cylinder into one end of it so precisely that there 
would be no air leakage, and during this time he cheered 
himself on with the thought that, if he succeeded, he would be 
performing two feats at once. He would be hailed as a genius 
and he would make a lot of money — enough to pay tuition at the 
Higher Gymnasium. And, best of all, he would flyl 

When the cylinder and box were finished, he transformed 
an everyday air pump, which he borrowed from a livery stable 
in Gospic, into a vacuum pump by reversing the valves. Then 
he attached the pump to the box. Discovering that the cylinder 
revolved only so long as a vacuum remained, he realized at once 
that the box was not airtight and he would have to keep pump- 
ing all the time and this would not allow him much freedom to 
fly! 

He was disappointed but he had learned that vacuum power 
could be used. He believed that someday he would find some- 
thing to which he could apply this newly discovered source of 
power. Meanwhile he would go back to the study of languages 
so that he could get a job in the library. It wouldn't pay as 
much, or as quickly, as an invention might, but it would be 
safer and surer. 

TheHailure of his flying machine convinced him that he 
was not a natural-born genius. With this admission came the 
beginning of an idea so big, so staggering, that he became 
hypnotized by its limitless possibilities. The idea as it had 
first occurred to him was a simple one: he wondered whether a 
person could make a genius of himself. It was as simple and 
unpretentious as that. Some people dieted to lose weight, and 
others ate lots of bread and potatoes to get fatter. Could a per- 
son select certain emotions and feelings and discard others so 
that his thinking would be unbiased by love or affection or 
personal prejudice? The more he thought about it, the more 
the idea appealed to him. If he could only make himself into a 
sort of synthetic genius — a superman — he believed that hia 

35 



parents would be envied by parents all over the world. But he 
didn't know where or how to begin. He didn't know what 
should be cultivated and what discarded. He would have to 
study and think, and hope that with knowledge would come the 
answer. 

He plunged into his studies with renewed energy, and by 
the time he had completed the course at the Gymnasium four 
years later he had won the reputation of being an excellent 
and serious scholar. He was graduated with honors, one of the 
top students in his class, and his mother and father told him 
they were very proud of him. They said so over and over — 
almost as if they were trying to convince themselves, he thought. 
Perhaps they were proud of him in the same way that they had 
been proud of Angelina and Milka when they had married, but 
not proud in the way they had been proud of Dane. There had 
been a light in their eyes, a tremor in their voices, which were 
not there now. 

Nikola was given the hoped-for job in the town library, and 
for a time all thoughts of supermen were erased from his mind. 
Great doors were opened wide and he was admitted into worlds 
he had never dreamed of: German literature, the works of 
French poets, scientific treatises from all over the world. He was 
amazed to learn how much more the scientists of Germany and 
Italy seemed to know than had been taught in the highly- 
thought-of Real Gymnasium of Gospic. 

As he read volume after volume and catalogued them with 
meticulous care, he came to the amused conclusion that the 
only thing he had "invented" that nobody else had ever thought 
of seemed to be the sixteen-bug-powered motor! 

That summer of his fourteenth birthday he was content. The 
days were never long enough for him. He read incessantly, 
often taking the library books with him when he went for walks 
in the woods or lazed comfortably on the banks of a little stream 
near the outskirts of the city. 

36 



On one of these occasions he was sitting under a tree on a 
hilltop overlooking the countryside, with Keno snoring gently 
beside him. The sky was blue, the white church steeples were 
sharply outlined in the clearness of the pleasantly warm sum- 
mer day. Deeply engrossed in his book, Nikola did not notice 
the sudden appearance of a fat gray cloud directly overhead. 
Suddenly he was startled by a brilliant lightning flash. Imme- 
diately following it came the rain. 

Nikola sat with the book open on his knees, the rain beating 
unheeded against his face as he realized a connection between 
the two events. The lightning, then the rain. As if the cloud 
had been punctured like a paper bag, releasing its torrential 
contents. If this were so, he thought— if lightning caused the 
rain to fall— then man could control weather, for man would 
one day be able to make lightning. On a tiny scale he had seen 
manmade lightning in the physics laboratory when Professor 
Gruditsch had caused an electric spark to leap from one electric 
pole to its opposite. Nikola's conclusions were based on his 
observations and, as such were justified. However, further 
study would have shown him that the rain came first but took 
longer to reach the earth. 

Nikola's first impulse was to cry aloud to all who would 
listen that he had made a great discovery— but in a moment he 
conquered the impulse. People would laugh or, even worse, 
would look at him pityingly as he had sometimes seen them 
looking at Poor Jon, the simple-minded country boy who often 
wandered the streets of Gospic. No. He would not talk of this 
idea. Not yet— perhaps not for a long time. He would wait 
until he had won the respectful attention of the scientific 
world. When everyone looked up to him and listened to his 
every word — that would be the moment. Just then Keno gave 
himself a mighty shake, splattering water from his shaggy coat 
all over Nikola and the library book he still held open and 
rain-soaked on his lap. 

37 



Chapter 



4 



For weeks Mrs. Tesla and her husband had been worrying 
about their son. They knew he had his heart set in entering the 
Higher Real Gymnasium in Carlstadt that fall. The money for 
his tuition had been set aside, but they were troubled by the 
problem of living expenses so far away from home. Also, they 
were concerned for their son's health and the possibility of his 
becoming ill, with only total strangers to care for him. They 
both felt that Nikola was not too strong and that he drove 
himself too hard. When Mrs. Tesla remembered a distant 
cousin living in Carlstadt, they hoped that this might solve 
all of the difficulties. 

"I'll write Cousin Sarah right now," the Reverend Tesla 
exclaimed and went into his study. 

The response to that letter was everything that they had 
hoped for. Cousin Sarah and her husband, Colonel Brancovic, 
would be glad to have young Nikola live with them while he 
was attending the Higher Gymnasium. He must be sure to 
bring plenty of warm things to wear, for the winters in Carl- 
stadt were often severe . . . 

The weeks immediately preceding Nikki's scheduled de- 
parture afforded him ample opportunity to test his growing 
theory of renunciation and self-discipline. The library job did 
not pay a salary, but Nikki would receive a fee upon the com- 
pletion of the cataloguing. A great deal of work remained to be 
done. In order to finish the job and collect the fee he had to 
forget all about eye strain, nervous tension, fear of failure, and 

38 



normal weariness and direct his thought and energies to the 
job at hand. 

He completed the catalogue two days before he was to leave 
for Carlstadt. The Board of Trustees of the library told him 
over and over again how pleased they were, how grateful, and 
how impressed they were with the high quality of his work. He 
listened with ill-concealed impatience, waiting only to be paid 
so that he might hurry home and live in actuality a scene he had 
often visualized. 

He was glad that his mother was out marketing. That was 
as he'd imagined. His father was in his study. That, too, was 
right. His spirits rose as he sneaked up the stairs, carefully 
avoiding the sixth step that always groaned and the eighth that 
squeaked. He hurried to his room and to the bureau drawer 
where he had for so long kept the stocking which served him 
as a bank. Here he had accumulated the money from whatever 
small jobs he had been able to achieve in the past four years, 
and the money he had made from the sale of the arbalests. He 
took the money he had just received and stuffed it into the 
stocking, smiling in anticipation of the look on his father's 
face, alight with happy surprise and pride — yes, at last — pride 
in his son's achievement. 

Quickly, with hands that were so awkward they seemed to 
belong to someone else, he stuffed the paper money into the 
stocking, taking care that it rested on top and in no way muffled 
the comforting clinking of the heavy silver coins. Then he went 
downstairs, purposely treading heavily, and knocked loudly, im- 
periously. He smiled, knowing exactly what he was going to say. 
"Father," he would say, "I bring you this money with a request 
for your forgiveness for the trouble and worry I " 

The door opened and his father stood in the doorway just as 
Nikki had known he would— smilingly but with his thoughts 
still far away, as they often were when he was interrupted while 
working on a sermon. 

"Why, Nikki!" the Reverend Tesla exclaimed. "I didn't hear 

39 



you come homel Come in, boy, and tell me what's on your 
mind." 

This, too, was exactly right. Nikki had known he would say 
that — use those very words. 

"What's this?" his father asked, looking down at the bulging 
black stocking dangling frora Nikki's fist. 

To his utter amazement Nikki heard himself speaking. 

"Here. It's for you," he said and thrust the stocking awk- 
wardly toward his father's chest. The Reverend Tesla accepted 
it wonderingly, looking at it vaguely as if he felt he should 
know what it was but didn't. Then he smiled. 

"Why, it's your money, Nikola. The library paid promptly, 
I see . . . For me, you said?" 

Suddenly all vagueness left him. He looked sharply at Nikola 
and then raised the stocking to better examine its contents. 

"This is a great deal of money, Nikola. Much more than the 
library was to pay you. Why are you giving it to me?" 

"I— I want you t-to have it," Nikki stammered. "It's for the 
dress — the dress I spoiled, the windows I broke, the candles I 
used— It's for " 

He stopped speaking. A look of such wonder had come to his 
father's face that he was frightened. He had never seen that look 
before and he didn't know what it meant. Suddenly he saw his 
father's eyes fill with tears as he dropped the stocking to the 
floor with a loud clank. Then the Reverend Tesla reached out 
and pulled his thin, tall son close to him. 

"Nikki, Nikki, is that what it has been all this time? Is that 
the wall that came between us? Have you come home at last — 
now that you are going away?" 

He pushed the boy away from him with a roughness that tried 
to mask his deep emotion. Then he tousled Nikki's long, dark 
hair and father and son grinned at each other. A bond, closer 
than any Nikki had ever known, was established between them. 
He felt warmth and happiness coursing through him. 

40 



"If you had only told us what you were thinking and doing," 
his father said. "After this, if you are troubled- " 

"I'll tell you, Father. I promise." 

"This money," the Reverend Tesla said, stopping to pick up 
the forgotten stocking, "this money we will set aside for any 
future education or a vacation or whatever else you wish. It's 
yours. Neither your mother nor I would want to spend money 
that you have earned. And, one more thing: I do not mean to 
preach a sermon to you, Nikola, but remember, your mother 
and I love you. Not matter what you might do — even if we were 
ashamed of you, of what you had done or failed to do— we 
would not stop loving you. That is what you must never 
forget." 

"I'll remember," Nikola said. 

Nikola remembered. He was remembering now as he sat in 
the grimy third-class coach of the old-fashioned wooden train 
that was taking him on the long journey to Carlstadt. He was 
remembering the warmth he had felt. He was remembering . . . 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack-clack, clickety-clack. 

He had unfortunately been assigned to a seat over what he 
realized must be a flat wheel. The repeated break in rhythm 
was irritating. He wondered if he would be allowed to move to 
another seat or another coach. This was his first train ride and 
he didn't know. 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack-clack, clickety-clack. 

He was very tired. His face felt hot. Leaning his cheek 
against the cool glass of the window, he looked out but saw 
nothing of the woods and streams that were flashing by. His 
thoughts were turned inward. He saw again the scene at the 
tavern in Gospic where the coach that made connections with 
the railroad stopped to change horses and take on passengers. 
He tried to close his mind to the annoyance of the train noises. 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack, clack, clickety . . . 

He was re-creating scenes that had taken place the past two 

41 



days — his room at home, Keno following him about from room 
to room, sensing something amiss, seemingly afraid to let his 
master out of sight. His mother's fingers flying as she performed 
last-minute miracles on last year's clothes, which were all much 
too small for him now . . . He had never ceased to wonder at his 
mother's dexterity — her fingers seemed large and clumsy-look- 
ing. 

It had required very little teasing to have her stop what she 
was doing and laugh as she beckoned him closer. "All right, all 
right, you silly boob! I'll show you again that I can still do it. 
But, mind, this is the last time." 

Then, while he had watched, fascinated, she had plucked a 
hair from one of his bushy eyebrows and proceeded, with 
lightning speed, to tie three knots in it. She had held it out to 
him. 

"Here. Take it. Look at it. Are there three knots in it?" 

"There are three knots in it." 

"Satisfied?" 

"Yes!" 

Then they had both laughed and she had given him a little 
push. 

"Now go away and let me finish altering this coat or your 
hands will hang down below the sleeves like a pair of hams in 
the smokehouse." 

Nikola remembered his father, thinking up excuses that had 
brought him back from the church to the house. He saw him- 
self, with his two new straw suitcases, walking through the little 
foyer toward the front door. His parents had preceded him and 
were waiting on the sidewalk, chatting with the driver of the 
hired victoria. He remembered turning back and seeing Keno 
at the foot of the stairs, not making any attempt to follow him, 
just standing there, quietly looking at him. . . . 

Nikola opened his eyes and looked out the train window. He 
wanted to shut out of his mind the look of betrayal he had 
seen in the dog's eyes. Keno thought he was being deserted. 

42 



"If you had only told us what you were thinking and doing," 
his father said. "After this, if you are troubled- " 

"I'll tell you, Father. I promise." 

"This money," the Reverend Tesla said, stopping to pick up 
the forgotten stocking, "this money we will set aside for any 
future education or a vacation or whatever else you wish. It's 
yours. Neither your mother nor I would want to spend money 
that you have earned. And, one more thing: I do not mean to 
preach a sermon to you, Nikola, but remember, your mother 
and I love you. Not matter what you might do — even if we were 
ashamed of you, of what you had done or failed to do— we 
would not stop loving you. That is what you must never 
forget." 

"I'll remember," Nikola said. 

Nikola remembered. He was remembering now as he sat in 
the grimy third-class coach of the old-fashioned wooden train 
that was taking him on the long journey to Carlstadt. He was 
remembering the warmth he had felt. He was remembering . . . 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack-clack, clickety-clack. 

He had unfortunately been assigned to a seat over what he 
realized must be a flat wheel. The repeated break in rhythm 
was irritating. He wondered if he would be allowed to move to 
another seat or another coach. This was his first train ride and 
he didn't know. 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack-clack, clickety-clack. 

He was very tired. His face felt hot. Leaning his cheek 
against the cool glass of the window, he looked out but saw 
nothing of the woods and streams that were flashing by. His 
thoughts were turned inward. He saw again the scene at the 
tavern in Gospic where the coach that made connections with 
the railroad stopped to change horses and take on passengers. 
He tried to close his mind to the annoyance of the train noises. 

Clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clack, clack, clickety . . . 

He was re-creating scenes that had taken place the past two 

.. 41 



days — his room at home, Keno following him about from room 
to room, sensing something amiss, seemingly afraid to let his 
master out of sight. His mother's fingers flying as she performed 
last-minute miracles on last year's clothes, which were all much 
too small for him now . . . He had never ceased to wonder at his 
mother's dexterity — her fingers seemed large and clumsy-look- 
ing. 

It had required very little teasing to have her stop what she 
was doing and laugh as she beckoned him closer. "All right, all 
right, you silly boob! I'll show you again that I can still do it. 
But, mind, this is the last time." 

Then, while he had watched, fascinated, she had plucked a 
hair from one of his bushy eyebrows and proceeded, with 
lightning speed, to tie three knots in it She had held it out to 
him. 

"Here. Take it. Look at it. Are there three knots in it?" 

"There are three knots in it." 

"Satisfied?" 

"Yes!" 

Then they had both laughed and she had given him a little 
push. 

"Now go away and let me finish altering this coat or your 
hands will hang down below the sleeves like a pair of hams in 
the smokehouse." 

Nikola remembered his father, thinking up excuses that had 
brought him back from the church to the house. He saw him- 
self, with his two new straw suitcases, walking through the little 
foyer toward the front door. His parents had preceded him and 
were waiting on the sidewalk, chatting with the driver of the 
hired victoria. He remembered turning back and seeing Keno 
at the foot of the stairs, not making any attempt to follow him, 
just standing there, quietly looking at him. . . . 

Nikola opened his eyes and looked out the train window. He 
wanted to shut out of his mind the look of betrayal he had 
seen in the dog's eyes. Keno thought he was being deserted. 

42 



Nikola had wanted desperately to drop his bags and run back, 
to put his arms around the big dog and explain. But if he did 
he knew he would cry and he mustn't do that. 

"1*11 be back, Keno," he had muttered. "I'll come back." 

Then he had almost run out of the hall and pulled the front 
door shut with the back of his heel. 

He'd have to put that out of his mind, he thought. It was all 
very well to promise to remember — but he must not do so. He 
would not be able to concentrate on his work if he were to go 
on remembering. For the time being, at least, he must forget 
Keno. He must forget Marica and Angelina and his brother-in- 
law, blubbering while they tried to comfort his mother. He 
must forget their tenderness and warmth . . . 

A fine specimen of a superman he had turned out to be. He 
had allowed his feelings and emotions to crowd out more im- 
portant things: his studies, the new courses, the library, await- 
ing him in Carlstadt. He felt as if he had lost ground which 
must now be made up. Family affection, the knowledge that he 
was loved, pleasant as they were, must not be allowed to come 
between him and his momentarily forgotten goal. It was not 
enough to have his father pleased with him just because he 
was a member of the Tesla family. That had not been of his 
own doing. That was nothing to be proud of or praised for. 
He must stop caring what people thought or felt about him. 
Suddenly he began to have a feeling of kinship with his dead 
brother Dane. For the first time he thought that perhaps Dane 
had deliberately refused to allow himself to be won over by 
Keno's affectionate nature; perhaps he had been right to think 
only of Trixie's cleverness. Nikola promised himself he would 
be more wary in the future. If he were to become a self-trained 
genius he would have to avoid emotional entanglements. He 
was going to a place where he was completely unknown. He 
would start all over again — make a brand-new beginning. He 
would not make the mistake of allowing himself to become fond 
of anyone. He would not make friends, for they might un- 

43 



wittingly make demands upon him. He would have no ties and 
he would stop thinking of the past. And he would work, work, 
work. 
clickety-clack, clickety-clack, work! worx! clickety-clack . . . 

Circumstances helped to make it easy for him to keep his 
resolution. 

Cousin Sarah and her husband, "the Colonel," were not the 
sort of people to appeal to Nikola. Sarah, tall, straight-backed, 
and bucktoothed, had little natural warmth and absolutely no 
charm. The couple had no children and she liked the idea of 
having someone about the house to "make a fuss over" — as 
Nikola's mother would have said. She was a kindly person with 
the best of intentions but not one whit of understanding of a 
boy as reserved and withdrawn as Nikola chose to be. 

The Colonel, on the other hand, was short and squat and 
always spoke as if he were bellowing orders to his battalion. 
He was no conversationalist and took not the slightest interest 
in science or anything that smacked at all of the intellectual. 
The only interest he could share with the shy boy who had 
suddenly become a member of his family was the flower garden 
in which he took an inordinate pride. And after a week of 
exclaiming over the amazing growth and variety of the petunias, 
Nikola felt that the subject had been pretty thoroughly ex- 
hausted. 

Perhaps Nikola might have been lonely had he permitted 
himself to contrast this dreary, arid home with the rich, warm, 
and colorful one he had left behind. But he stuck firmly to his 1 
resolution and thought only of the present and the future. The 
fact that his courses were difficult and required complete con- 
centration helped him to get through what might otherwise 
have been a difficult time. 

He found that physics attracted him more than any other 
subject, for in this course the wonders of electricity were studied 
and discussed. The knowledge that there were units of elec- 

44 



tricky in the very air he breathed — that all living things were 
surrounded by it, that it was ever-present as a source of limit- 
less power that could be tapped by manmade mechanical con- 
traptions — filled him with excitement. He longed for the 
day when he would understand it enough to permit clear, 
original thinking. He felt that it was something so miraculous 
that, once understood, it must change man's whole concept of 
life and death. 

In his reading at the library he had come across books on 
electricity written by two well-known German scientists, both 
of whom mentioned the contemporary work of an American 
named Thomas Alva Edison. Nikola was not certain whether 
the German authors were fully explaining the work of this man 
or were merely giving their own appraisal of its value. He 
decided to add the study of the English language to his already- 
crowded curriculum in order to read the American's own 
descriptions of his experiments. He found English much more 
difficult than German or French or Italian, and he spent most 
of his "free" time surrounded by lexicons and dictionaries while 
trying to decipher the abstruse technical explanations of the 
early experiments with electric light. 

The first few weeks at college he found to be both stimulating 
and depressing. The more he read and studied, the more it 
seemed to him that man had made only a tiny dent in the vast 
and almost endless fields of knowledge. He was reminded of 
Keno digging furiously in the sandy soil of a little beach near 
his home in Smiljan. The dog had put every ounce of energy 
into his digging, yet the faster he dug, the more sand slid down 
the sides of the hole, so that a good proportion of the dog's 
energy was wasted in clearing away sand that had been scooped 
out several times before. And there was too little time, he 
thought, for wasted effort. He became more than ever con- 
vinced that his superman theory offered the only hope. If he 
could eliminate from his own life all distracting influences, he 
stood a chance of being able to accomplish something of real 

45 



scientific value in the short period of one lifetime. But time 
was passing. There just weren't enough hours in the day. 

Although they had never met, and would have had absolutely 
nothing in common had they done so, the dean of the Higher 
Gymnasium and Cousin Sarah agreed on one point: young 
Nikola Tesla was working too hard. Both of these individuals 
felt it their duty to take pen in hand . . . 

The Reverend Milutin Tesla took off his glasses and sat 
quietly staring into space. He had just finished reading the 
two letters aloud to his wife. 

"What can we do?" he asked after a moment. "He doesn't 
answer my letters. I don't even know that he reads them." 

"If I had only learned to write!" Mrs. Tesla exclaimed. 

Her husband smiled at her. "What could you write to him 
that I can't?" 

"I'm his mother. I'd know what to say!" 

"Well, I'm his father-^and I don't!" 

"Let's ask him to come home for the Christmas holidays. 
Once he's here we might be able to persuade him to overstay 
his vacation for at least a week or two." 

"It's an idea, certainly," the Reverend Tesla agreed. "Well 
worth a try." 



Chapter 



5 



Sitting on the edge of his bed in his narrow little room at 
Cousin Sarah's, Nikki finished reading his father's letter. He 
held it in his long, tapering fingers and stared unseeingly at the 
whitewashed wall, seeing instead his home at Christmastime . . . 

46 



die tree, the lighted candles, the gaily wrapped gifts, his sisters, 
nieces, nephews — the tolling church bell, the choir singing The 
Messiah — Keno walking on his hind legs begging for Christmas 
candy. The whole family would gather around the big round 
table in the dining room — this occasion would call for the 
extra leaves on the table so that it would be oval instead of 
round — his father carving the Christmas goose. 

At this point he interrupted his thinking. He must not think 
of such thingsl It made him remember how hungry he was. 
He wished Cousin Sarah would get over the silly idea that, just 
because he was thin, he had a small stomach and that overeating 
might distend itl Whenever she caught the Colonel trying to 
slide an extra piece of meat off the platter and onto Nikola's 
plate, she would embark on a ten-minute lecture describing the 
dangers of overeating. The meat she had served that evening 
had been sliced paper-thin and had been no more satisfying 
than the paper he was holding in his hand. No, he mustn't allow 
himself to think of Christmas dinner. It seemed to him that he 
was always hungry, and the thought of good food and plenty 
of it might prove to be the weak link in his armor. 

In spite of the letter Nikola had no intention of going home 
for Christmas. This was the first real chance he had been given 
to test his new-found theory. Families and gifts and loved ones 
were wonderful, and most people should enjoy and appreciate 
them; but scientists had no time to waste. If he stayed on at 
college for the holidays he would have the library and the 
physics laboratory to himself. He could afford the luxury of 
wasting a little time on working out new ideas without the inter- 
ruption of classes and lectures. It could be a wonderful holiday 
and a productive one. He must not let himself think of a juicy 
roast goose, his mother's delicious stuffing. The rich pastries 
and glazed fruits . . . 

"I will not co home for ChristmasI" he said aloud and 
with great determination. He had passed his first test. 

47 



Everything seemed to conspire to make Christmas Day in 
Carlstadt the most wonderful one Nikola had ever known. 

First of all, it had begun to snow on Christmas Eve, and 
when he awakened early the next morning he saw that the 
whole countryside was completely blanketed. It looked so clean 
and inviting that, forgetting all about breakfast, he bundled 
up in heavy sweaters his mother had knitted for him, pulled 
on his warmest boots, and hurried out of the house. 

The library being closed for the day, he decided to do his 
thinking and figuring while he walked toward a high mountain 
that, in the clear air, seemed a good deal closer than it actually 
was. 

The campus was deserted. The common was a vast expanse 
of white, and he broke trail across it, glancing up at the huge 
gray masses of stone that were the college buildings. He paused 
to examine more closely the hulk of the Administration Build- 
ing. It was of Gothic architecture, with great, leering gargoyles 
perched on each of the four cornices. Usually their crouching 
forms seemed misshapen and meaninglessly ugly to him, but 
today, crowned with cones of snow, their gaping mouths 
adorned with icicle beards, they seemed like merry, laughing 
clowns or dwarfs. Suddenly aware of the cold and, holding 
mittened hands over his ears, he turned and stamped on his way 
toward the mountain. Not a soul was in sight, not a sound 
broke the silence. What a perfect time for concentration! As 
he trudged onward, he began to work out the formulas he 
needed to calculate the stresses and strains of the gigantic 
trusses needed to support a unique transportation system that 
would encircle the globe. 

This was Nikola's favorite game. He didn't really think the 
plan was feasible; but, as some people find pleasure and relaxa- 
tion in playing solitaire, he found a guilty pleasure in day- 
dreaming about this difficult and intriguing problem. His idea 
was to build a ring around the earth at the Equator — a rigid 
structure constructed on an enormous system of scaffolding. 

48 



Once the ring was complete, the scaffolding would be removed, 
leaving the ring suspended in space, held there firmly by the 
constant pull of gravity and free to rotate at the same speed as 
the earth. If the ring could be made to stand still, the earth 
would spin within it at the rate of a thousand miles per hour, 
enabling a tourist to "travel" around the earth in a single day! 
If he could only find, discover, or invent a reactionary force 
strong enough to counteract the pull of gravity and cause the 
ring to stand still! 

He created and discarded formula after formula as he 
trudged through the heavy snow. The pealing of church bells 
recalled him to awareness of the world around him. He was 
halfway up the high mountain and the sun was nearly at its 
zenith. He paused to look down at the college and the city 
in the valley below him. The air was so clear that he could even 
distinguish the snow-capped gargoyles. He thought he could 
see wreathes in the windows of faculty houses surrounding the 
campus. He was sure that he could even see his own footprints 
marring the unbroken whiteness of the campus itself. Directly 
below him, at the base of the mountain, was a little cluster of 
small wooden houses from which sounds of laughter rose to 
remind him that it was Christmas. Suddenly he felt very small 
and lonely and homesick. 

Who was he, he asked himself, to think he could become a 
great scientist? What made him think he was destined to bene- 
fit all mankind? Didn't his father preach that God would punish 
those who tried to usurp His powers? A ring around the world 
indeedl He hadn't even succeeded in making an airtight 
vacuum box! 

Idly, and without thinking what he was doing, he stooped 
and gathered up two handfuls of snow, which he molded and 
packed into a snowball. Then, seeing what he had done, he took 
aim and threw the snowball at a nearby tree— and missed. He 
couldn't even hit a tree with a snowball! Quickly, he made some 
more and this time had better luck. He noticed that the snow- 

49 



balls that had missed their mark rolled a short distance down 
the slope, gathering more snow and growing quite large before 
they stopped moving. He wondered how big one would get if it 
rolled all the way down the steep mountain. He decided to find 
out, but the first few snowballs fell apart after traveling about 
twenty feet. He tried again. This time the snowball did not 
fall apart but rolled into a bramble bush. Idly he told himself to 
try just once more before returning home. The exercise had 
warmed him up, but it had also made him aware that he was 
hungry. He packed and pounded the snowball in his hands 
and then threw it underhand as if it were a bowling ball. 

This time it rolled exactly as he wanted it to. As it gathered 
speed, it grew in a matter of seconds into a huge ball, remind- 
ing Nikola of a giant snowman. And it continued to grow as 
it plunged on down the side of the mountain. Then, due to its 
speed and the force of its headlong plunge, it dislodged a large 
rock, which crashed and bumped down the wooded slope ahead 
of it. The two flying missiles seemed to devour everything they 
encountered, and soon, before Nikola's horrified eyes, the 
whole mountainside seemed to be sliding and crashing down 
onto the group of little houses below him. Carrying trees and 
rocks and boulders with it, the heaving mass cut a swathe down 
the side of the mountain that left it looking as if a straight 
razor had been stroked through heavy shaving lather. 

The avalanche was headed straight for the houses! Everyone 
inside would be crushed under that prodigious weight; the 
voices he had heard— the laughter— would be stilled forever. 
There was nothing he could do. He could not even scream a 
warning, for the noise of the avalanche — the sound of uprooted 
trees and clattering rocks — would drown out his cries. He hoped 
that the sound itself would be a warning, but no one was 
running out of the houses. 

And then came the miracle. From where he stood, Nikola 
could not tell exactly what happened. Somehow, that sliding, 

50 



flowing, writhing mass was deflected and the avalanche sud- 
denly changed its course and veered off at an angle. 

Nikola felt a tremor through his thick-soled boots as the 
mass harmlessly crashed to a halt in an empty field. Now he saw 
people running out of their houses and dropping to their knees 
in the snow, offering up thanks for their deliverance from 
catastrophe. He stepped back from the edge of the cliff— sup- 
pose someone should see and connect him with the avalanche! 
Deeply shaken, he sank down on a fallen log and dropped his 
head into his cupped hands. 

Was this a warning to him, he wondered? Should he take it 
as a sign that he was trespassing in a realm reserved for a 
greater power and authority? He decided against this. He was 
only Nikola Tesla, a boy who had thrown a snowball and who 
was hardly important enough to attract the attention of any 
unearthly power. That crushing, roaring mass of destruction 
had been started by a snowball — a snowball the size of his fist— 
with snow he had held in the palm of one handl The snowball 
had released the avalanche. 

And suddenly he saw and understood something quite clearly. 
The snowball had triggered the avalanche in just the same way 
the trigger on his crossbow had released an arrow with the 
tremendous force that enabled it to pierce a one-inch plank. 
The trigger did not have to be big or strong or in itself power- 
ful. It simply had to release the powers of nature that sur- 
rounded it. It came to him in a flash as brilliant as any lightning 
flash that he, Nikola Tesla, could be a trigger. He would 
learn how to harness or unleash the power of the avalanche, the 
waterfall, rain, lightning! He would learn how to make dynamos 
and motors so that men might only have to throw a switch to 
release the power of a hundred galloping horses! He would 
learn how to make a water wheel that would generate enough 
electrical power to light up a whole city! He would learn to be 
an electrical engineerl 

He stood up and took a deep breath. Suddenly he felt faint 

51 



and dizzy. He had had a shock and he had seen a vision, but 
he realized that neither phenomenon was responsible for this 
feeling of lightheadedness. He had had nothing to eat since 
the night before and he was hungry! 

He began the descent of the mountain, going out of his way 
to avoid being seen by the little crowd that had gathered to 
gaze awe-struck at the hill that had been deposited in their 
midst. It was nearly two in the afternoon when he reached 
home and there was a distinct air of hauteur about Cousin 
Sarah when she opened the door for him. 

"Well, Nikola, I'm pleased to see that you've decided to 
honor us with your company for a late Christmas dinner." 

The accent on the word "late" was faint but unmistakable — 
as was the aroma of cooking that wafted out from the kitchen. 

"Merry Christmas, my boy," the Colonel boomed, coming 
into the hallway. "Did Cousin Sarah tell you about the sur- 
prise?" 

Nikola shook his head. 

"Your mother has sent us a whole goose — all cooked and 
spiced, with slices of roasted orange " 

"It almost seems as if your mother thought me incapable of 
cooking a goose well enough to please you, Nikola. I s'pose I 
really ought to be hurt." 

"There are two kinds of dressing, Nikki," the Colonel inter- 
rupted. "Oyster and chestnut. Fairly makes your mouth water!" 

"There's a letter of instructions with it from your father, 
Nikola. He writes that you're to be given a drumstick, a wing, 
and four thick slices of breast-meat. It will probably make you 
ill, but since " 

"Merry Christmas, Cousin Sarah!" Nikki cried and, throw- 
ing both his long arms around her bony shoulders, whirled her 
out of the hall toward the kitchen. 

Nikki was fourteen. He had discovered what he wanted to do 
with his life. And there was roast goose and all the trimmings 
for Christmas dinner! 

52 



Chapter 



6 



In February, shortly before the midterm semester was scheduled 
to end, Nikola received another urgent plea from his father to 
come home. Keno was getting old and feeble, the letter said. 
He seemed to be lackadaisical and without the will to live. 
Perhaps if he were to see Nikki again . . . but, of course, dogs 
did grow old and one must get used to the idea of losing them 
one day ... 

This was another test, Nikki thought. A test much more dif- 
ficult than any he had had to face so far. He remembered only 
too clearly the look of betrayal in the big dog's eyes. He also 
recalled his promise to return. 

The fact that he was homesick made his decision more dif- 
ficult. He missed his parents, his sister Marica. He wanted to 
feel Keno's heavy fur under his fingers. He longed to feel his 
mother's arms around him, see his father's lopsided smile. But 
he thought these longings were a sign of weakness. He believed 
with his whole mind that a scientist — a searcher after scientific 
truth — must live in a human vacuum in order to devote his 
whole self to his work. He believed that, jusfas members of a 
track team renounced alcohol and smoking in order to build 
their bodies up to the highest possible pitch of efficiency, so a 
scientist must renounce love and sentiment and friendship. He 
had managed to do without them for more than six months. If 
he weakened now he might never be able to develop immunity 
to them. 

Reluctantly and painfully he wrote his father that he was 
behind in his studies and needed to stay in Carlstadt if he had 

53 



any hope of catching up. Even as he wrote, he seemed to see 
the big dog sitting across the room from him, gazing at him with 
unwinking, reproachful eyes, but he forced himself to finish 
the letter. 

"Ask Mother to try feeding Keno raw meat instead of the 
cooked table scraps. The raw meat might possibly give him 
back his strength. Don't worry about me. I'm feeling fine. 
Love, Nikki." 

It was late in May when his father wrote to tell him that 
Keno had died. By that time Nikola had so steeled himself 
against the shock of the expected news that he was able to shut 
it out of his mind and concentrate on the coming examinations. 
He felt that, if he had been remiss or unfeeling, the only thing 
that would justify his action was success. He owed it to every- 
one who loved him to reach the highest pinnacle of fame. He 
knew now that he wished to become an engineer. If he could 
manage to pass its stiff exams and get into the Polytechnic 
Institute in Gratz, Austria . . . 

He did not go home until the summer vacation. He had 
passed every test and examination that had been given him and, 
more than that, he had passed the tests he had imposed upon 
himself. He had made application for admission to the Poly- 
technic Institute only to be informed that applications from 
minors were not considered without the signature of at least 
one parent. He rebelled against his extreme youth but there 
was nothing to do except to ask his father's help. Since he had 
no confidence in his own ability to put this strongly and appeal- 
ingly in a letter, he agreed at long last to heed the pleas of his 
parents and spend at least part of the summer vacation at home. 

As he had feared, his father flatly refused to help him. "Nikki! 
Don't you ever look at yourself in the mirror?" he exclaimed. 
"Don't you realize that you are pale and gaunt? You look as if 
you were ready to drop at any moment. You can't go on like 
this. Your mother and I lived through the grief of losing one 
brilliant son. Don't ask us to do it again." 

54 



"But, Father ..." 

"It's no use, Nikki. I won't sign the application, I'd feel as 
if I were signing your death warrant." 

Nikki said nothing and the two sat in silence for a long 
moment, before the Reverend Tesla spoke again: 

"There's another thing, Nikki. Something I think you've 
forced out of your mind because you don't want to remember 
it." 

"You mean because I haven't been home before and . . ." 

His father looked at him sharply and Nikki knew that he had 
revealed more of his inner conflict than he had intended to. 

"No, I wasn't thinking of Keno," he replied. "I was thinking 
of the army." 

"The army!" 

"You had forgotten, hadn't you? But you know that every 
boy in Gospic must serve three years in the army or go to 
jail." 

"But that's impossible, Father! I can't take the time away 
from my work. Why, it would mean — three yearsl I can go 
through Polytechnic in that length of time! Isn't there anything 
we can do? Someone to see who might " 

"The Military Police paid me a visit only two weeks ago. 
They were very polite, very — genial, almost — they said that they 
just wanted to remind me that the army was looking forward 
to obtaining the services of my gifted son . . . next year. And 
they reminded me, gently and pleasantly, that the only ad- 
missible reason for failing to register is death or a critical ill- 
ness. They would surely say that if you're well enough to apply 
for admission to Polytechnic, you're not too ill to serve in the 
army." 

"Is there nothing we can do? Isn't Cousin George a colonel 
or a general or something?" 

"Lieutenant Colonel, I believe. Oh yes, I've got high-ranking 
relatives in the army. Even a brother — Uncle Alfred, whom 
you've never met — but I'm afraid they'd not be inclined to lend 

55 



a sympathetic ear to any plea from me. No. No hope there. 
There is one way though." 

"What is it? I'd do almost anything " 

"You might consider entering the church." 

"The church! Oh no!" 

"Your horror is not very flattering, Nikki." 

"I'm sorry. I've never been able to understand how someone 
I — I respect as I do you — how you could have chosen the church 
as . . . I've never been able to talk about it. I can't now." 

"I got into the church in exactly the way I'm suggesting 
that you do, and for the same reason." 

Nikola stared at his father as if he were seeing him for the 
first time. "You mean you didn't want to serve in the army, 
either? That you " 

The Reverend Tesla nodded, smiling a little at his son's 
amazement. "Ours is an old army family, Nikki," he said. "My 
great-great-grandfather was a general; my grandfather was too. 
My father was a colonel, and was up for promotion when he 
died. So you see, when I said I didn't believe in war as a means 
of settling a dispute between nations, I did not make myself 
very popular in my family. That's why those members of it 
who are still alive would not be very likely to help me keep 
my son from serving. I wanted to study medicine. I felt that 
there was a need in the world that I could fill. My father forced 
me to enroll in the Letz Military Academy. I stuck it out for 
nearly a year, but I could not stand the lack of privacy, the total 
disappearance of the individual ... the training of boys to be 
killers." 

"So you " 

"It wasn't what you're thinking, Nikola." The Reverend 
Tesla smiled again as he saw the growing look of disapproval 
on his son's face. "You must believe me. It wasn't that way at 
all. I never pretended that I heard the 'call.' I never pretended 
to be a learned theologian. I told the chaplain at the school 
how a felt, and asked him if the church could use a man like 

56 



myself — a man who loved people and whom people might learn 
to trust. I told him how little I knew and that I wasn't even 
certain what I believed." 

Nikola relaxed. The frown left his face. His father, watching 
him anxiously, sat further back in his heavily carved chair and 
waited. 

"I'm— I'm awfully glad you told me, Father," Nikola said at 
last. "It explains so many things. And you are good at it, and 
the parishioners do trust you and look to you for help in times 
of need. But I can't do it, Father. I would be doing it just to 
avoid the army and I can't do that. I don't believe in — in the 
sort of thing you believe in. And so it would be dishonest for 
me to pretend ..." 

The Reverend Tesla sighed. "Of course you couldn't, 
Nikola," he said. "And I wouldn't want you to even if you 
could. I had hoped that you might bring yourself to discuss my 
beliefs and see whether they are too far apart to " 

"I know they are, Fatherl" Nikola exclaimed. "For one 
thing, you've often said you love people. I don't. It is mankind 
that I love." 

"Aren't you — might not there be some who'd say that to take 
such an attitude is to play God? Only He has the right to judge 
people. Furthermore, my son, isn't mankind made up of 
people?" His father watched him searchingly. 

"I s'pose it is. But in working out an invention that will 
benefit mankind, one does not think of helping any special kind 
of person — but the world as a whole." 

"I see." At those words, Nikola looked up quickly to see if 
his father was laughing at him, but the Reverend Tesla's face 
was grave. Encouraged by his father's attentive listening, Nikola 
continued: 

"The most important thing, though, is faith. You say that 
people in the church must have faith — in something, mustn't 
they?" 

"There's no denying that." 

57 



"Well, a scientist must not have faith in anything until it's 
proven. If a scientist sets out to prove a theory just because he 
has faith in it, he's likely to unconsciously twist the results to 
fit his theory or interpret them in a way not justified by the 
facts. And that's dishonest." 

The Reverend Tesla leaned forward in his chair. "Nikola," 
he said with grave earnestness, "will you answer one question?" 

"I'll try." 

"What is it that a scientist is seeking?" 

"Truth, Nikola told him. 

His father asked, "His opinion of what truth is?" 

"No! Truth — absolute truth." 

"Have I your permission to ask another question?" 

Nikki grinned and nodded. 

"How does he know there is an absolute truth." 

"He knows there is. He believes . . ." 

Nikki stopped and stared at his father in such ludicrous 
amazement that his father could not help laughing. 

"Of course. He believes, Nikki," he said. "We poor humans 
all believe in something or we couldn't go on. I won't ask any 
more questions. And believe me, I wasn't trying to trap you 
into agreeing with me, but I'm asking you please, my boy, 
please give it some thought, some serious thought. It offers the 
only way out of your dilemma — that is, if you could do it hon- 
estly." 

"I will think about it, Father. I promise. But . . ." 

"One more thing to think about," his father persisted. "Isn't 
it possible that what the scientist calls 'absolute truth,' others 
might call 'God'? Don't answer that now. Think about it. And 
now let's go in and ask your mother how supper's coming 
along." 

Shortly after his return, Nikola overheard some boys discuss- 
ing a classmate who was trying to attain leadership of the class. 

"Who does he think he is?" one boy asked his companion. 
"Napoleon Bonaparte? The Man of Destiny?" 

58 



"Alexander the Great, probably," the other answered. "He 
wants to conquer the whole world." 

Nikola could not help but wonder what they would say of 
him if they had the slightest inkling of the goal he had set for 
himself! An empire? The world? These were not for Nikki 
Tesla. He wanted to control the elements of nature, tame the 
universe and hand it over to the world for the benefit of man- 
kind! They would almost certainly say he was crazy. Perhaps 
they would say, as his father had hinted, that he was trying to 
play God. 

But it wasn't as if he felt himself to be a Man of Destiny. 
Nor did he think for one instant that he had any God-like 
power. If he had, he could have sat back on his lean haunches 
and waited for Fate to present him with the great invention, the 
great discovery that would make him the benefactor of man- 
kind, meanwhile basking in the warmth of his parents' love. He 
didn't feel that way at all. On the contrary, he felt completely 
inadequate for the task he had set himself unless he worked 
with a sort of desperate concentration on perfecting his ability 
to memorize and visualize so that he would achieve the highest 
possible sensitivity. Then, perhaps, the unseen mysteries of 
nature would fall into place, enabling him to unlock and 
release them in all their tremendous power. 

He pursued his studies with even greater intensity and con- 
centration. By now he was certain that he could complete the 
four-year course in three years, and he disciplined himself to 
ignore the high-spirited activities of his classmates, and the 
repeated urgings of his parents to come for holiday visits, in 
order to devote his whole time and attention to the subjects 
required for his diploma. 

As graduation time approached, the twin specters — the army 
and the church — were ever-present, lurking in the back of his 
mind. He thought that perhaps his father had this problem in 
view when he again wrote that Nikola should not come home, 

59 



but go away to some unfamiliar place to relax and be lazy. The 
more he examined this thought, however, the more he be- 
lieved that there must be some other reason. It was not like 
his father to urge him to avoid facing an issue bravely and 
courageously. The Reverend Tesla would not suggest to his 
son that he run away. 

In the midst of studying hard for final exams, the letter from 
home kept intruding into Nikola's thoughts. Had he offended 
his father? Was his mother ill? Were they trying to spare his 
feelings about something? He was about to graduate — com- 
pleting a difficult course in three years' time — he was being 
graduated with honors at the age of seventeen. He wanted to 
return to Gospic and surprise his family with the news of his 
achievement . . . and apparently they did not want him to come 
home! 

Nikola decided to wheedle information out of the Colonel. 
It was useless, he knew, to try to extract any secrets from his 
tight-lipped Cousin Sarah, but the Colonel should be easy. One 
had only to ask him a feW questions about "the old days," 
when he was a dashing lieutenant or a gallant captain in order 
to open the floodgates of that uncomplicated mind and let 
whatever small facts or secrets it might hold pour forth. 

And it actually proved as easy as Nikola had supposed it 
would be. On the very first attempt he learned why his father 
did not want him to come home: Gospic was suffering the 
ravages of cholera. The dread disease, which was usually fatal, 
had taken a heavy toll of the population. 

"You'd think that the doctors with all their talk and their 
pills and leeches, would be able to find some cure. But they 
haven't. It's still listed as a critical disease." 

Nikola — whose thoughts had been far away as he wondered 
about his parents' health, moved by their desire to spare him 
the risk that they were facing daily — was suddenly alerted by 
the Colonel's words. 

"Critical disease"? Hadn't his father said that the only ex- 

60 



cuse acceptable to the military authorities for exemption from 
three years' compulsory service was a critical illness? Perhaps 
he was being offered a way out! But did he have the courage to 
grasp the opportunity, considering the hazard involved? 

As usual, when faced with the task of solving a difficult prob- 
lem, Nikola felt the urgent need to be alone. He was not aware 
of leaving the room, or of passing men and women on the 
street, or of being hailed by classmates. He was trying to think 
things out . . . trying to weigh the! alternative clearly and 
with an open mind. 

First he considered the army and what it would mean to 
enter the service. Three years of "Squads Rightl" "Squads 
Leftl" "Shoulder Arms!" — three years of being bellowed at by 
men like Colonel Brancovic, three years of learning how to 
follow orders without question and without thinking — three 
years in which to be trained not to think! To Nikola this 
seemed like a stupid and wicked waste of all the time and 
money and self-discipline that had gone into his education thus 
far. And waste of any kind was wrong. 

The church? He felt that here, too, he would have to "un- 
learn" everything he had worked so hard to acquire. He meant 
no disparagement to those who labored for the spiritual well- 
being of their neighbors. He simply felt that he was not 
equipped for that work — and never could be. He had never 
been able to interest himself in people's everyday problems. 
He felt, with complete certainty, that no one would find com- 
fort or relief by unburdening himself to his not-sufficiently- 
sympathetic ears. Nor would he ever have the strong faith that 
would be demanded of him. He was not at all certain that he 
believed in the existence of a God. How then, could he con- 
vince others? 

At that point he allowed his thoughts to turn to where he 
felt they belonged. Electricity 1 The very word made his nerves 
tingle. Electricity! The almost miraculous force that scientists 
knew about but could not control. He felt as if electricity were 

61 



a prisoner of stupidity and ignorance and there it was waiting 
for him to come along and release it. People were afraid to 
use it. There was not a house in any village or town or city 
in which there was one room lighted by electricity; they used 
candles and oil lamps and even gas. People were indeed afraid 
of it. To most of them the thunderbolt was still the symbol of 
an angry God. Stories about persons who had been badly 
"shocked" or severely burned by an electric current were re- 
peated over and over. It reminded Nikola of the way people 
had reacted to a tiger he had once seen in Smiljan. 

It had happened when he was a little boy. One of his father's 
rich parishioners had returned from a hunting trip in India. 
He had brought back with him a live Bengal tiger, which he 
planned to present to the zoo in Prague. For two days the 
magnificent animal had remained in its great wooden cage at 
the coach terminus at Smiljan, awaiting transportation. The 
cage was made of heavy two-by-four planks, the corners and 
joints reinforced by iron plates. One side was open and closely 
barred. The big crate was all of ten feet square. Nikki had stood 
for hours, watching the great beast crouch and leap, fall back 
and leap again. The other onlookers had screamed with pleasur- 
able horror at the thought that the beast might succeed in 
crashing its way to freedom; but Nikki had watched with 
wonder the tremendous beauty and power of those rippling 
muscles, the long, graceful, hurtling body, and he had thought 
over and over again: "Oh, if I could only muzzle and harness itl 
If I could harness it to a chariot, we could leap over the roof- 
tops! We could travel faster than ten horses!" 

He knew now that no one could have harnessed that animal; 
no one could have put all that partially revealed power to any 
useful purpose. But this was not true of electric power. It 
could be tamed; it could be harnessed. And he knew that he 
was capable of doing both. He would rather be dead than be 
deprived of the chance to try. 

He made his decision. The day after graduation, he bade 

62 



farewell to Cousin Sarah and the Colonel and left immediately 
for Gospic. Confident in his ability to force his body to obey 
the dictates of his mind, he deliberately exposed himself to 
cholera. A week after his homecoming he was in a coma. 

For the second time doctors visited the home of the Teslas. 
For the second time sympathetic neighbors said in lowered 
voices how dreadful it would be if the Teslas lost their brilliant 
son who was well on the way to becoming a genius. 

Numb with fear and grief, Mrs. Tesla and her husband 
hovered by the bedside, wanting to be present if their son 
should return to consciousness. Nikola became weaker. He lost 
many pounds, which he could ill afford. The high cheekbones 
and long, thin nose seemed to be formed of wax instead of skin 
and bone. The boy often muttered in his restless sleep, but 
what he said meant nothing to his grieving parents. The doctors 
offered little hope. 

"You must lie down, Mother," the Reverend Tesla said to 
his weeping wife. "You must rest or you'll get sick yourself. 
I'm not strong enough to face this alone. For my sake, rest. 
I'll stay with our boy." 

For a long time the Reverend Tesla sat by his son's bedside 
with a feeling of complete helplessness. He could almost sense 
the withdrawal of the boy's spirit as he lay there with his eyes 
closed, his black lashes emphasizing the pallor of his cheeks. 
All his prayers seemed to have been in vain. He leaned closer 
to hear what Nikola was saying: 

"The tiger." The words came over and over again. "The 
tiger in the box." 

To the father it sounded like meaningless delirium. 

"They won't let me try to manage — tiger," Nikki murmured. 
"Won't — even — let me — try." 

Almost roughly the harassed father slid his arm. under the 
thin shoulders and turned the unconscious, unresisting body 
around to face him. 

"Listen to me, Nikki," the Reverend Tesla said in a hoarse, 

63 



choked voice. "You've got to listen to me, You mustn't go away, 
Nikki. Wherever you are, listen to me. We want you to come 
back." 

Nikola's eyes remained closed. His lips continued to move, 
forming words that were now soundless. 

"Nikki, listen to me," his father repeated. "You won't have 
to go into the army — just come back to us. Come back, Nikki. 
I won't ever again ask you to follow in my footsteps. You can 
be an engineer, if that's what your heart is set on. Just come 
back." 

Nikola sighed. The lips stopped moving. For one long mo- 
ment the Reverend Tesla thought his son had died in his arms. 
Then slowly the long eyelashes quivered. Nikola opened his 
eyes and the Reverend Tesla saw that they were clear-seeing 
and not feverish. And Nikki smiled. 

"Thank you, Father," he said weakly. "You won't be sorry. 
You'll be proud of me. I'm going to be the best — the best 
engineer in the world." 



Chapter 



7 



The crisis once past, Nikola recovered with a speed and re- 
siliency that astounded both his parents and the attending 
physicians. They had prophesied that, if he recovered at all, 
it would take him many months to regain his physical strength. 
They did not know Nikki 1 Nor did any of them have the 
slightest idea that he had deliberately contracted cholera in 
order to put his mind-over-matter theory to the test. Once he 
had what seemed to him conclusive proof that his mind and 
will could dictate even to the point of difference between 

64 



death and life, he emerged from the self-imposed test with all 
the high spirits of a victorious prizefighter after a decisive vic- 
tory. So great was this sense of triumph that it erased from 
Nikola's mind the real purpose for which he had risked his 
life. It was his father who reminded him of it. 

The Reverend Tesla came into his son's room early one 
morning about a week after that crucial day and stood at the 
bedside looking at Nikola solemnly. 

"Good morning, Father," Nikki said cheerfully. 

His father did not answer. He merely shook his head sadly 
and sighed. 

"What's wrong, Father?" Nikki asked, sitting up in bed. "Is 
anyone — is Mother ?" 

The Reverend Tesla placed a large hand on his son's chest 
and gently pushed him back onto his pillow. "I'm sorry to see 
you looking so pale and wan, my boy." 

"But, Father, I feel fi " 

"I know you like to put up a brave front," the Reverend 
Tesla interrupted quickly. "I know you want to spare your 
mother's feelings and mine. But you don't fool me. 1 know 
you're still critically ill. But it wouldn't be right for you to try 
to fool Dr. Reichsbahn, who is coming this morning to examine 
you before signing a certificate of disability for the army." 

Nikki realized at once that his father was trying to warn him 
of the pitfall toward which his pride had been leading him. 
He stared at his father in amazement, wanting to grin or laugh 
outright or at least say, "Thanks for the hint." But there was 
not a sign of a twinkle in the Reverend Tesla's eyes as he 
continued to gaze upon his son gravely and a little sorrowfully. 

Nikki clasped his fingers across his chest and stared at the 
ceiling. "I guess I just don't know my own weakness," he sighed. 

"Don't be surprised if Dr. Reichsbahn insists that you are so 
weakened by your illness that you must have complete rest for 
a year," the Reverend Tesla said gravely. 

"A yearl A whole year!" Nikki exclaimed and sat up again. 

N.T.E.Q. — C 65 



His father stared at him reprovingly, and he sank back on the 
pillows. "Not a whole year?" he asked pleadingly. 

"A whole year," his father repeated inexorably. "A year in 
which people must see you taking it easy, lazing in the sun, 
fishing, or possibly letting me teach you the noble game of 
billiards. We must be certain that no question is raised about 
your inability to do strenuous work." 

It was blackmail, Nikki thought, but a gentle kind of black- 
mail and intended only for his good. Besides, his father had 
the upper hand. Nikki sighed. 

"Very well, Father," he said with a sigh. "One year." 

Now, at last, his father smiled and the twinkle came into his 
dark brown eyes. 

"It's just as well," he said. "The Polytechnic Institute could 
not accept you for this year anyway. The quota is filled. They 
have accepted you for next year. You have already been regis- 
tered. Now, nowl Don't sit upl Don't shoutl You'll bring on a 
relapse!" 

Once having accepted the fact that he must rest, Nikola was 
surprised to discover that he really needed to. The illness had 
taken much more out of him than he had realized, and he 
found that he was grateful for the opportunity to lie on a 
wicker couch in the sun, wrapped in an afghan his mother had 
knitted for him, reading novels and books it would never other- 
wise have occurred to him to read. The neighbors and many 
of the Reverend Tesla's parishioners, as soon as they discovered 
that their first tentative overtures were received graciously and 
pleasantly by the tall, somewhat formidable-looking young in- 
valid, were quick to bring him fruit and lend him books from 
their libraries. It was thus that he happened to read Mark 
Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which 
he found so stimulating, as well as amusing, that he honestly felt 
it was the cause of a reawakened interest in life outside a 
laboratory. 

66 



Even the Countess von Fiirstenburg came to call on him! 
She told him that she and her husband, the Mayor, had talked 
things over and they both wanted him to know that they were 
his friends and were very proud of his scholastic record. Nikola, 
embarrassed and feeling guilty because of his long-nurtured 
dislike of this woman who had been so unkind to him, did not 
know what to say. He could not very well apologize to her for 
his many unspoken thoughts. She surprised him further by 
telling them that, when he had recovered sufficiently, there 
would be an easy job waiting for him in the library. He could 
only stammer his thanks. 

After she had gone, he began to re-evaluate some of his ideas. 
Perhaps he had not been right to exclude friendship and kind- 
liness from his life. Perhaps one could allow oneself to like 
people and accept their kindness. The more he thought about 
it, the more convinced he became that neighborliness, kindli- 
ness, even friendships, could be included in his life — as long 
as no emotional demands were made on him. A scientist could 
not afford to be distracted by problems created by a strong 
feeling of obligation to a friend— and he must certainly be on 
his guard against the bonds of love. 

After coming to this conclusion, he felt better about opening 
the carefully wrapped gift that the Countess von Fiirstenburg 
had brought him. It was a book, beautifully bound in green 
Morocco leather, containing colored drawings and steel en- 
gravings of many of the great wonders of the world. His father, 
crossing the lawn that separated the church from the back of 
the Teslas' house, waved at his son, but received no answering 
wave. He walked over, stood behind Nikola's couch, and looked 
over his shoulder to see what it was that held the boy's rapt 
attention. Nikola was staring at a picture of Niagara Falls. He 
became aware of his father's presence behind him and, looking 
around, he smiled. 

"Someday I'm going to harness that waterfall," he said. 

The Reverend Tesla came around the couch and smiled 

67 



down at his son. "You're beginning to feel better, I see. Don't 
you think it's time we began the serious study of billiards?" 

Billiards turned out to be the ideal game for Nikola. He 
found that he could visualize in advance the various angles of 
impact that would be needed to guide the three balls along 
the courses he wished them to take. His unusually long thumbs 
helped him to guide the cue with deadly accuracy. It was not 
many weeks before he could beat every opponent who dared 
challenge him. When this happened, he lost most of his interest 
in the game and played only occasionally with his father, more 
because he realized it gave pleasure to the Reverend Tesla than 
because of any fun he himself derived from it. 

Soon he was able to start working in the library. The job 
there served three purposes very well: It provided a small 
amount of money with which he could pay at least part of the 
cost of his illness; it gave him an excuse to begin work on his 
memory-training; and it also gave him an opportunity to ob- 
tain and take home with him the most recent works on elec- 
tricity. 

His mother's memory never failed to astonish him. She might 
not be able to remember the color of a neighbor's dress five 
minutes after the visitor had departed. But, on the other hand, 
she could repeat a whole chapter of the Connecticut Yankee 
after Nikola had read it to her just once — despite the fact that 
she did not understand English and did not know the meaning 
of a single word she "remembered." 

Nikola and his father, on the other hand, could not remem- 
ber sounds. But both could read a printed page, close the book, 
and recite every word they had read without a single error or 
omission. 

Nikola developed his memory still further at this time. He 
trained himself to make a mental index of his reading so that 
he could actually remember — for an indefinite period of time 
— the fact that on page 231 of a certain book there was a para- 
graph describing in detail the working parts of a dynamo. He 

68 



could file this information in his memory so accurately that, 
if he wished to review the material, all he had to do was to 
recall the book and the page, visualizing the printed paragraph 
so clearly that he never had to refer to the actual book. 

When the time came for his departure for Gratz, Austria, a 
year later to begin his work as a student at Polytechnic, it was 
almost with regret that he gave up his job at the library. No one 
outside the immediate family knew anything of his plans. Be- 
cause he was not yet of age, he did not need a visa to leave 
Serbia, but it was important that the army authorities continue 
to think of him as an invalid. Arrangements for his departure 
were made very quietly, and neighbors and acquaintances were 
given the impression that he was merely going to the Black 
Forest for a much-needed vacation. There was no farewell 
party; his parents even thought it wiser to refrain from ac- 
companying him to the coach station. Good-byes were ex- 
changed briskly and casually in the living room, and he left 
the house with no more ado than if he had been going to work 
at the library. As he walked down the front steps and along the 
path to the street, he wanted to resist the strong impulse to 
turn for a final glance at his home, knowing that not all the 
arguments in the world could keep his mother away from the 
window. Not to wave good-by would be to hurt her as much 
as he had once hurt Keno. He turned and waved cheerfully. 

The year of enforced rest had done Nikola a great deal of 
good. He was in better physical condition than he had ever 
been, and he plunged into the new curriculum with tremen- 
dous energy. He allowed himself only four hours' sleep each 
night. He developed the habit of reading and studying until 
eleven, when he retired; at three he arose refreshed and began 
tackling the more difficult problems in his homework. Classes 
at the institute began at eight. His heavy schedule enabled him 
to pass his exams in nine subjects at the end of the first term — 

69 



no one else in his class was enrolled in more than five courses. 
Without exception, his teachers marveled at his diligence and 
brilliance. 

The dean of the Technical Faculty wrote to the Reverend 
Tesla, at the end of Nikola's first term: 

Your son's ability to read and converse in four languages, 
and to read them with complete understanding of even 
the most idiomatic phrases — his brilliance in the labora- 
tory and his excellence in all forms of mathematics have 
impressed every member of the faculty. Your son is a star 
of the first magnitude. 

During the summer Nikola took account of himself and the 
progress he was making. Looking back over the past year, he 
came to the conclusion that he had been behaving rather like 
a child let loose in a candy shop. He had stuffed himself full 
of gum drops, all-day suckers, jelly beans, chocolate creams, 
caramels, and anything else that came to hand, swallowing 
them all in such rapid succession that each individual candy 
lost its flavor and simply blended into a general sweetness. He 
decided that it was high time to take a more mature view of 
his curriculum and so, in his second year, he limited himself to 
courses in mathematics, mechanics, and physics. 

This proved to be a wise and most fortunate decision, for it 
gave young Tesla more time to concentrate on solving some 
of the more difficult and intricate problems that were presented 
to him that term. Physics had always been his favorite subject 
and he had always been lucky in the professors assigned to him 
in those courses. At Polytechnic, his physics professor was Dr. 
Poeschl. It was he who seemed only to wave his hand in order 
to accomplish the minor miracles which were in every instance 
examples or proofs of the major miracles they served to demon- 
strate. It was Professor Poeschl who introduced Nikola to his 
nemesis — the Gramme machine. 



70 



Chapter 



8 



The Gramme machine was a piece of electrical equipment 
sent to the institute from Paris. It could be used as either a 
dynamo or a motor. If turned by mechanical power, it gen- 
erated electricity; if supplied with electricity, it operated as a 
motor and produced mechanical power. The machine fascinated 
Nikola from the first moment he saw it in operation. He liked 
its neat compactness and the ingenuity that had gone into its 
construction. He found it disappointing in only one respect. 

"I should think that so much sparking would cause waste of 
power," he stated. 

"It is unavoidable," Professor Poeschl answered. "As long as 
electricity flows in one direction, and as long as a magnet has 
two poles — each of which acts opposingly on the current — we 
will always have to use a commutator to change the direction 
of the current in the rotating armature at precisely the right 
moment. Thus far no one has been able to figure out how to 
make or use a commutator that does not give off sparks." 

"I know that," Nikola answered a little impatiently. "What 
I meant was, why do we have to have a commutator?" 

Professor Poeschl shoved his spectacles clear up to the top of 
his head and stared at Nikola as if inspecting a test tube con- 
taining a liquid that had just turned smoky when it should 
have remained clear. 

"Very humorous — very humorous indeed!" he said with no 
attempt to veil his sarcasm. 

"I wasn't trying to be funny," Nikola protested. "I just 
thought " 

71 



Professor Poeschl held up his hand for silence. "Just a mo- 
ment, Tesla — or perhaps I should say 'Mr. Tesla' to so pro- 
found a student " He turned to the other members of the 

class. "Do any of you feel the compulsion to eliminate a com- 
mutator from the modern motor?" he asked. 

Everyone shook his head. Someone laughed. Again the pro- 
fessor raised his hand for silence. 

"No, no!" he exclaimed. "This is no laughing matter. One 
of our ordinarily conscientious students wishes this informa- 
tion. Will one of you gentlemen kindly explain the function 
of a commutator to our Mr. Tesla?" 

Nikola started to protest, but Professor Poeschl, silencing him 
with a look, turned to smile benignly on a student who had 
stood up and was quite evidently anxious to impress the pro- 
fessor and the other members of the class with his own knowl- 
edge of motors and their operation. What was particularly an- 
noying to Nikola was the fact that he had always regarded — 
and continued to regard — this boy as a "cabbage head." 

"The first sources of electrical current were batteries," the 
youth began pompously. Nikola shuddered. Professor Poeschl's 
eyes twinkled mischievously as he saw Nikola bite his lip. The 
pompous one continued: "Batteries produced a small, steady 
flow. When man sought to produce electricity from mechanical 
power, he sought to make the same kind the batteries produced 
— a steady flow in one direction." 

Again Nikola tried to interrupt and again was silenced. 

"Very interesting. Very instructive," Professor Poeschl said, 
nodding encouragingly. "Please continue." 

"The kind of current a dynamo produces when coils of wire 
are whirled in a magnetic field is not this kind of current. It 
flows first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. The 
commutator was invented in order to make this alternating 
current come out in one direct flow. Without it the motor — • 
which depends on a flow of uninterrupted direct current— 
cannot operate." 

72 



"Excellent! Excellent!" beamed Professor Poeschl. He turned 
to Nikola. "Does that clarify the situation for you, Tesla?" 

"I find the gentleman's explanation most adequate, sir" 
Nikola replied with surprising meekness. Professor Poeschl 
looked at him suspiciously. It was not like this intense young 
firebrand, whom he both liked and respected, to take things 
lying down. "Have I your permission to ask him just one ques- 
tion?" Nikola asked and the professor nodded. 

"Why must the motor be operated on direct current? 
Couldn't we eliminate the commutator if we could devise a 
means of operating the motor on alternating current — the kind 
that is, as the gentleman says, now produced by all the dynamos 
manufactured?" 

Unexpectedly Professor Poeschl threw back his head and 
laughed so heartily that his glasses flew off the top of his head 
and it was only by a miracle that he rescued them unbroken. 
With the glasses safely back on his nose, he addressed the class: 

"You see before you an excellent example of a young man 
with a fixation — in other words, a very stubborn and obstinate 
young man." He continued more seriously. "Mr. Tesla wUl, in 
my opinion, one day accomplish great things. But this is cer- 
tainly one thing he will never accomplish! What he proposes 
is — well, it's as if we could convert the steady pulling power of 
gravity, for instance, into a rotary push or pull. It's an im- 
possible idea." 

Nikola raised his hand. 

"Now now, Tesla," Professor Poeschl admonished, "don't 
push me too far. Don't make me lose my temper. Well, out 
with it? What is it now?" 

"Isn't it true that the 'steady pulling power of gravity,' 
which you just mentioned, makes the moon go around the 
earth and the earth revolve around the sun?" 

Professor Poeschl stared at Nikola for a moment. His mouth 
opened, but no words came out. Then he turned to the class. 
"I'm changing tomorrow's assignment. Instead of taking up the 

c* 73 



question of sound transmission, as I had previously announced, 
we will spend the entire time in a discussion of Mr. Tesla's 
remarkable but impossible theory." 

Instead of discouraging Nikola, this ridicule had the oppo- 
site effect. His new schedule of classes allowed him more free 
time and he spent most of it in summoning up pictures of 
dynamos or motors operating smoothly and silently, fed by 
alternating, instead of direct, current. 

He recalled his unsuccessful attempt to make a flying machine 
by means of a vacuum-powered cylinder. He remembered what 
he had learned from that failure — that the angle at which the 
driving force struck the cylinder was the important factor in 
determining both the speed and continuity of the cylinder's 
motion. He visualized a force that could strike the cylinder 
successively as the cylinder revolved. But he struggled in vain. 
When graduation day came a year later, he had still not been 
able to prove his theory or make Professor Poeschl change his 
mind. 

Immediately following the graduation ceremony, while pack- 
ing his clothes and few personal belongings in his tiny fifth- 
floor room in the big dormitory, Nikola was surprised to hear 
the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairway. Who could be 
coming up all those stairs to see him, he wondered? Since he 
had stuck to his resolution jp give up the distracting luxury of 
friends and casual acquaintances in order to concentrate on his 
studies, he couldn't think of a single soul who would want to 
say good-by. But the footsteps stopped outside his room. There 
was a knock. Nikola's long legs carried him to the door in two 
strides and he flung it open. 

"You certainly manage to make yourself inaccessible, Tesla," 
Professor Poeschl panted. "It's been so many years since I've 
climbed five flights of stairs, I'd forgotten what it was like. 
Well, aren't you going to let me in, now that I've got here?" 

"Forgive me!" Nikola exclaimed. "It's just that I'm so sur- 

74 



prised to see you. I was thinking about you, you see, $&^-' .^ 
please come in." f ^'0^ • 

Nikola almost leaped across the room to the one chaft mat <£ 
the room boasted. Hurriedly he lifted a pile of books he^ 1 - 2 ^ 
put there ready for packing, and placed them on the desk. He 
turned around to find his visitor grinning at him. He looked 
from the spindly little chair in his hands to the tremendous 
girth of the florid, still-panting professor, and put the chair 
down again. 

"I think it would be safer for me to sit on the bed," Professor 
Poeschl said. "I don't want you to have to pay a bill for dam- 
ages on your last day here." 

The bedsprings squeaked and squealed as if in protest, as 
the old man sank down. Nikola straddled the chair and sat 
waiting for an explanation of this unexpected visit. As soon 
as he had caught his breath, Professor Poeschl obliged. 

"Nikola," he began, and interrupted himself. "I don't sup- 
pose you mind my calling you by your first name, now that 
you've graduated, do you?" 

Nikola shook his head. 

"Not that I intend to presume upon your courtesy in allow- 
ing me to intrude upon your privacy this way," his visitor 
continued. "I shall not ask if we may be friends. I know that 
neither of us is anxious to have friends. They waste too much 
valuable time, don't they, Nikola? No, I came to make a con- 
fession." 

He paused. Nikola said nothing, wondering how the pro- 
fessor, who had seemed to pay him scant attention, could pos- 
sibly have guessed his secret thoughts. 

"I'm certain that ever since I gave you that verbal spanking 
when you were a sophomore, you've had it in for me." 

Nikola started to protest, but the professor waved him into 
silence and continued. "Don't deny it. No matter what else 
you've been doing, you've thought almost constantly about the 
operation of an alternating-current motor. And every time 

75 



you've failed to come up with a solution and have been tempted 
to drop the whole blasted thing, a whole crew of snarling, sneer- 
ing, little devils — all wearing spectacles on top of their nasty 
little heads — have begun poking you in the posterior with their 
sharp little pitchforks, and back to it you went, having another 
try at that elusive solution! Well, here's my confession, Nikola. 
I think your idea is right." 

"You do I" Nikola exclaimed and stood up so suddenly that 
the chair fell over. 

"Yes, my boy, I do. I don't know what the solution is, and 
I'm sure I've thought about it almost as much as you have. I 
know it sounds crazy, and so I don't mention my belief — your 
belief — to any of my colleagues. But I believe in the possibility 
of eliminating the need for a commutator by the use of alter- 
nating current. What's more, I believe you're going to discover 
it if you keep on trying long enough and hard enough. And 
that brings me to the favor I want to ask of you." 

"A favor? Of course, if there's anything " 

"I want you to promise me you'll let me know at once when 
you do find the answer." 

"I promise," Nikola said without hesitating an instant. 

"There's one more thing, Nikola," he said. "In the event 
that you do find the answer, I'd like to feel that you're not too 
far away so that you could get in touch with me quickly. I 
know you're planning to go to Prague University in the fall, 
but how would you feel about a job in the meantime? A friend 
of mine owns a big tool and die factory at Maribor — less than 
ten miles from here. He needs a man who's good at math and 
has more than a working knowledge of mechanics to super- 
vise the making of some new electrical equipment. He would 
be willing to pay sixty florins a month." 

"Sixty florins!" 

Nikola could hardly believe his ears. He thought the pro- 
fessor must have said "six," not "sixty." Sixty florins! Why, 
that was about six times as much as the Reverend Tesla received 

76 



from the church. It was a small fortune. It would enable him 
to pay his own tuition at the University without help from 
his father. 

"I take it that you're not averse to giving the matter some 
consideration," Professor Poeschl said drily. 

"It would be wonderful," Nikola replied. "When do I start?" 

"Any time within the next few days, Nikola. I'll go home 
and write you a note that you can present to Mr. Droushka, my 
friend, when you go there." 

"I can't thank you enough " 

"Don't try. Just remember your promise, Nikola. I want to 
be the first to know if you should happen to hit upon the 
answer." He walked over to the door and turned. 

"Anyway," he said, smiling, "if you do, you'll be rid of those 
nasty little devils that are poking at you all the time." 

Nikola's thin, narrow lips spread into one of his rare smiles. 
"Oh, no, I won't. They'll be there just the same. But now 
they'll be smiling instead of snarling and sneering." 

Professor Poeschl laughed. "I wonder if your posterior will 
be able to tell the difference!" he said. His deep, rumbling 
laughter continued to fill the hall with echoes long after the top 
of his head had disappeared down the curving stairwell. 



Chapter 



9 



That autumn when Nikola went home for a brief visit before 
entering the university at Prague, his parents noticed a great 
difference in him. For the first time he seemed at ease and 
self-assured. He had money in his pocket and in the bank — 
money he had earned himself. The excellence of his record at 

77 



Polytechnic had made it possible for him to enter the university 
without having to take entrance exams. He had earned enough 
to pay not only for his tuition but also for his living expenses 
for the year ahead of him, and he had been assured emphati- 
cally that the job at Maribor would be held open for him the 
following summer. 

For the first time since that day, so long ago, when he had 
overheard Mrs. Wentzlas talking about his brother, Nikola 
was not driving himself. This was quite deliberate on his part. 
He had failed to find the elusive answer to the problem that 
so perplexed him and Professor Poeschl, and he attributed 
his failure to over-eagerness. He could visualize the motor of 
his imagination, operating to perfection, but he could not 
visualize the manner in which the magnetic field could turn 
the armature without the sparking and sputtering caused by 
the current's change in direction. He decided that, if he were 
to relegate the whole problem to his subconscious, he might 
some day — when least expecting it — awaken to the entire 
visualization of the solution. Professor Poeschl had been dis- 
appointed but completely understanding. 

"Perhaps if I stop sticking pitchforks into myself — in addi- 
tion to the ones you wield — " Nikola had said to the professor 
when he called to say good-by, "maybe the answer will come 
by itself." 

"It's worth trying, Nikola. Anything's worth a try. I know 
you'll hit upon it someday. I only hope " He stopped speak- 
ing suddenly. 

"What is it?" Nikola asked. "What were you going to say?" 

"No. I won't say it. It was just another kind of pitchfork. I 
won't inflict it on you, Nikola." 

And he flatly refused to say any more. 

The courses he had selected at the university — English litera- 
ture, advanced mathematics, and electrical engineering — were 
sufficiently difficult to hold his attention, yet not so demanding 

78 



that he felt himself under pressure. That "nature abhors a 
vacuum" had been one of the very first things he had learned 
in the physics class at the Real Gymnasium. He believed that, 
if he succeeded in maintaining a vacuum in his heart, ideas — 
such as the solution of the alternating-current problem — might 
rush in to fill it. In the meantime, with the self-discipline he 
had carefully developed, he found it a simple matter to limit 
his interests and enthusiasms to those studies and occupations 
and acquaintances that were likely to make few demands upon 
his emotions. He renewed his billiard playing and, for a time, 
again found the game exciting and challenging. But, as before, 
when he had succeeded in beating all challengers, from both the 
student body and the faculty, he lost interest. It was then that 
he became acquainted with chess. 

Here was a game that presented constantly changing sets of 
problems, depending on the opponent's technique and skill. 
Nikola found that, with his sense of visualization, he could 
often foresee his adversary's moves far enough in advance to 
work out a counterattack, and it was not long before he had 
acquired considerable fame as an expert. He organized a uni- 
versity chess team, which challenged teams from other colleges 
and schools, and so actually instituted intercollegiate activities, 
which up to that time were completely unheard of. 

Late in the spring of his final year of the three-year course, 
Nikola received a letter from his father telling him that he and 
Mrs. Tesla planned to come to Prague for their son's gradua- 
tion exercises. Mrs. Tesla, he wrote, had always wanted to see 
Prague, and they both wanted to have the pleasure of seeing 
their son receive the high honors that he had written them 
about. 

Nikola was delighted and spent the following weeks doing 
small errands to assure his parents' comfort and entertainment 
both at the university and in the city. 

Then, just a week before the day of their expected arrival, 

79 



he received a letter from his father saying that they would be 
unable to come. The Reverend Tesla explained in great detail 
how the minister whom he had engaged to substitute for him 
at the services that Sunday had fallen ill. Also, the bishop had 
been prevailed upon to speak at the Real Gymnasium gradua- 
tion exercises and might be offended if the Reverend Tesla was 
not in town to greet him. Plausible reasons they seemed, and 
Nikola took them at face value. He understood, too, that his 
mother would not want to come alone. She would not want to 
see the wonders of Prague for the first time without being able 
to share the thrills and pleasures with her husband. 

On the day of the commencement Nikola sat on the platform 
with some sixty other members of the graduating class. He was 
paying scant attention to the glowing words of hope that were 
being uttered, with impassioned gestures, by the valedictorian. 
The words were not new to him, nor were the thoughts and 
ideas being so ardently presented. He had spent many hours 
helping the young man write the speech. 

His attention wandered and he glanced down at the empty 
seats in the third row: the two he had reserved for his parents. 
He felt a moment's guilt for having forgotten to tell the authori- 
ties that he would not need them and that someone else might 
use them. As he gazed idly at the vacant seats, his mind began 
to play him tricks. He saw his mother and father sitting in the 
audience! They were listening to the speaker with rapt atten- 
tion. It seemed to Nikola that his father's eyes wavered from 
the speaker to glance at him. The Reverend Tesla smiled and 
nodded almost imperceptibly. His mother's attention never 
faltered; she was watching the speaker's every gesture as if her 
life depended on not losing a precious syllable. Enthusiastic 
hand-clapping aroused Nikola to awareness that the speech was 
finished. The speaker, bowed, acknowledging the applause, and 
bowed again. Then he came over and sat down next to Nikola. 

"We did it, Tesla! We did itl It went like a house afire, 
didn't it?" 

80 



"They certainly seemed to like it," Nikola agreed absent- 
mindedly. 

"Whewl I don't mind telling you I'm glad that's over and 
done with." His classmate sighed, wiping his perspiring face 
with a large handkerchief. 

Nikola nodded and glanced once more at the seats in the 
third row. His father was still applauding, but his mother had 
risen. She was the only person in the whole auditorium who 
had not remained seated to await the awarding of diplomas. 
She was not only on her feet — she was pushing her way past 
the others in the row, trying to reach the aisle. All the while 
she moved sideways, crowding past the knees of the other proud 
parents, she kept her face turned toward the platform, an ur- 
gent plea in her deep-set eyes. Her lips were drawn together 
tightly as if she were trying to repress tears, and she was beckon- 
ing to him, urging him to come down off the platform and go 
with her. 

Suddenly he was conscious of a loud shuffling of feet, and 
someone poked his shoulder. The whole class was on its feet, 
moving in single file toward the lectern where the president 
was handing out diplomas in alphabetical order. Nikola was 
near the end of the line, but his six-feet-two inches enabled 
him to peer over the heads of the others in front of him. Both 
seats were empty. 

He could not put out of his mind the look of urgent appeal 
he had seen on his mother's face. A feeling within him grew 
that something was wrong at home. Possibly she was seriously 
ill and hoping desperately that her son would come home before 
it was too late. Nikola felt that he must leave at once — catch 
the first train. Since no railroad ran to Gospic, he would have 
to change to a coach at the nearest junction. He had not in- 
tended to leave Prague for two days. There was the senior 
dance on the following night, as well as a series of small parties 
that would go on for several more days. To some of these he 
had accepted invitations, but everything seemed unimportant 

81 



to him now as he waited what seemed an endless time until his 
name was called. 

"Nikola Tesla." 

At lastl He hurried forward, almost running in his eagerness 
to have the ceremony over with. It was evident that the presi- 
dent had intended to single Nikola out for special commenda- 
tion, for he held a slip of paper with notes of what he planned 
to say. Extending the diploma with his right hand, the presi- 
dent glanced at the notes in his left. 

"It gives us the greatest possible pleasure — " he began but 
got no further. Nikola took the diploma from the outstretched 
hand, said, "Thank you very much," and walked quickly off 
the platform and out of the auditorium. 

On the way to his room, he suddenly remembered that he 
had not drawn much money from his bank account for the 
week end, and therefore would have to borrow money for his 
fare home. Then, realizing that he could write a check, he 
changed course and headed rapidly for the treasurer's office, 
where he knew they would accommodate him. But it was 
closed. Fretting and fuming at the delay, he went from one 
small store to another, cashing small amounts until he had 
accumulated enough for the fare. 

He wasted no more time but threw his belongings into two 
suitcases, stacking some things in a corner with the idea of 
having them shipped to him at a later date, and hurried to 
the station. 

Less than three hours after he had removed his diploma from 
the president's limp grasp, Nikola was on a train, looking back 
for the last time at the old, ivy-covered buildings and the tree- 
shaded campus. He arrived at Gospic at dusk on the following 
afternoon. 

The little coach station seemed to him much smaller than 
he had remembered. There was no hansom cab in sight and, 
feeling an urgency he could not explain, he started to walk. 
The station was a little more than a mile from the Tesla home. 

82 



Nikola set out with great strides, swinging his two heavy suit- 
eases backward and forward rhythmically so that their weight 
and impetus seemed to propel him forward. 
"Nikola! Nikola Tesla!" 

It was a woman's voice and it came from behind him. Not 
wanting to take the time to stop and exchange greetings, he 
pretended not to hear, but continued on his way without a 
break in the rhythm of the swinging suitcases. When the voice 
called out again, this time accompanied by the sound of horses' 
hoofs on crunching gravel, he realized that it came from a car- 
riage. It was the Countess von Furstenburg in a smart black and 
white phaeton driven by a liveried coachman. As the impressive 
rig pulled alongside Nikola, the lady leaned out and called 
again: 

"Nikola! Won't you let me give you a lift? I'm going right 
past your house." 

It would save precious time, he thought; besides, his arms 
and shoulders were beginning to ache from carrying the heavy 
bags. He had not realized how heavy they actually were until he 
saw the strapping coachman fumble with them as he tried to 
hoist them onto the high front seat. Nikola sank onto the tufted 
seat beside the Countess and, leaning back, closed his eyes for 
just a moment. 

"You poor boy, you must be exhausted," she exclaimed. 
"I'm sure you didn't sleep a wink all night. I know I never can 
on those sooty trains and dusty stages." 

He opened his eyes to look at her. "Thank you for the lift," 
he said courteously, "It will get me home much faster." 

"Of course it will," she answered, "and every minute counts. 
Oh Nikola, we're all so sorry for you. It's wonderful that you 
could get here so quickly. Your mother's been asking for you 
— hoping and praying that you'd get here before " 

Nikola stared at her. It was his mother then! Something had 
happened. An accident? A sudden illness? He would not ask 
because he couldn't admit that he had not known, and had 

83 



rushed home only because of a premonition. His father would 
not want him to tell her anything that would seem so irreligious. 
He said nothing but just sat staring at the fat red neck, of the 
coachman in front of him. 

The carriage was slowing down. They must be almost there. 
Yes, there was the Wentzlas house. Home was just around the 
corner. He stepped out of the carriage before the wheels 
stopped turning. 

"Thank you . . . thanks very much," he said over his shoulder 
as he opened the white picket gate between the tall hedges. 
Forgetting all about his suitcases, he closed the gate softly be- 
hind him and turned. His mother was standing on the porch, 
with that same tight, drawn look he had seen on her face at 
the commencement exercises. She was slowly pounding her fist 
into the open palm of her other hand, rhythmically, intently, 
as if she were urging on a runner in a race. So great was her 
concentration that she neither heard nor saw her son as he 
hurried up the path. 

"Mother," he called softly in a tone one would use to a 
sleepwalker. 

She looked down and saw him. The tautness left her face, to 
be replaced by a stare of sheer disbelief and wonder. Then, 
suddenly and without warning, she fell against the post that 
supported the porch roof, slid down its full length to the floor. 
In one great leap Nikola was beside her, holding her around 
the waist. Her eyes opened, but for a moment they were un- 
seeing. 

"I must have fainted," she said wonderingly. "That's the 

first time in my life it ever happened. It's strange — like " 

Suddenly realization came as she remembered why she had 
fainted. 

"Nikki, oh Nikkil" she exclaimed. "You did hear me, didn't 
you? You've come. Oh thank God, you've come!" 

"Is it— Father?" Nikola asked fearfully. 

She nodded. 

84 



"Is he-^" 

"Yesterday afternoon the doctor told me that it was just a 
matter of a few hours, at most. It was then I prayed that you 
might come. He's been asking for you. He has so much he wants 
to say to you. Oh Nikki " 

For a moment she clutched him convulsively and held him 
close. She seemed to draw strength from him, for after a mo- 
ment she stepped back. "I feel ashamed of myself, Nikki. I 
didn't think my prayer was heard — I didn't believe it would 
bring you here in time. So I played the game we used to play. 
Remember, when you were little? I would stay in one room 
and you in another and I'd think hard about something. Then 
you would try to guess what I was thinking? Don't tell Father 
about this, will you, Nikki? I wouldn't want him to know I 
doubted that my prayer would be heard." 

He shook his head. Together they crossed the porch and went 
into the hallway. Neither of them heard the coachman as he 
set down the bags. 

"No, not upstairs, Nikki," his mother said. "Father's in his 
study. We fixed up a bed for him there to spare him the climb." 

The Reverend Tesla opened his eyes and smiled as Nikola 
opened the door of the study. 

"I thought I heard your voice, Nikki, but I was afraid I was 
just hearing things. Come here, boy. Sit on the bed. Let me 
look at you. Oh, I've so much I want to say " 

Nikola sat on the bed. 

"You know I'm dying?" 

Nikola nodded. It did not occur to him to offer polite re- 
assurances. There had never been any pretense between him 
and his father. 

"I wish you believed, as I do, that we will meet again, in 
another, a better, world." 

"I don't — I just can't, Father." 

"Scientist," his father chided him gently. "I'm afraid that 
you will find life lonely and empty unless you learn to believe. 

85 



I can be content because I know we shall all be together again." 

"You will be with me always, Father. When I miss you or 
need your advice, I have but to think of you to summon you. 
And there you are, so real that I can sense your nearness." 

"I'll be waiting for your call, Nikki. Take care of your 
mother. I've arranged to have Mother go to live with Mrs. 
Wentzlas. She will be less lonely . . . There will be enough so 
that she need not want, but if you make a great deal of money 
— well, I should like her to have the luxuries I couldn't give 
her." 

Nikki nodded. 

"There's something more. I've wanted to say it for a long 
time, but I lacked the courage. It's easier to be frank when 
you're dying, Nikki. I've wanted to tell you that I admire your 
honesty and integrity. If you keep those, you will always behave 
according to God's teachings, no matter what you believe. 
There!" He smiled and sighed. "That's said. Now, I'm sleepy, 
Nikki. Ease the pillow a bit, will you, boy?" 

Nikola adjusted the pillow. 

"Ask your mother to come in, Nikki." 

Then, as Nikola started to tiptoe from the sickroom, the 
Reverend Tesla called to him and he came back to the bedside. 

"I forgot one last thing, Nikki. I've meant to tell you — 
about your brother Dane. Your mother and I always feared 
we'd be punished through you because of our attitude toward 
him." 

"I don't understand, Father." 

"We took pride in Dane. He reflected his glory upon us and 
we boasted, but we both knew that it was our vanity. We didn't 
understand him, as we do you. We feared you would be taken 
from us because we had proven ourselves unworthy. . . 



86 



Chapter 



10 



Nikola had intended taking two more years of specialized 
training, but his father's death made it necessary for him to 
begin earning money at once. The job at Maribor had been 
completed. With the growing interest throughout Europe in 
electricity and its as-yet little-understood uses, Nikola expected 
little difficulty in obtaining a job. Armed with his diploma from 
the university and letters of enthusiastic recommendation from 
his former employer in Maribor, as well as from Professor 
Poeschl and the president of the university, he traveled to 
Budapest where there were several distant relatives and friends 
of his father. 

Like many graduates before him — and millions who would 
follow — he was due for a rude and harsh awakening: there 
were no jobs available. The seething, thriving city of Budapest 
had managed to get along very well without young Nikola 
Tesla, and the feeling seemed to be wide-spread that it could 
continue to do so. 

Everywhere he went he heard much talk of the new invention 
of an American scientist named Bell. Alexander Graham Bell's 
telephone would revolutionize Europe, people said. It would 
soon be possible to talk to people hundreds of miles away 
through use of this new means of transmitting sound. Nikola 
wanted very much to become associated with the development 
of this invention, but found that it was still only in the discus- 
sion stage. He learned, however, that when, at some future 
unnamed date, something would be done about it, such action 
could be under the supervision of the Hungarian government's 

87 



Central Telegraph Office. He applied for a job there and was 
offered the oportunity to become one of several draftsmen at a 
salary so small that he could barely live on it. He accepted it 
because of his interest in the telephone'. 

This proved to be a wise decision, for it was not long before 
his outstanding ability attracted the attention of his superiors. 
He was transferred to another department and found himself 
working on calculations and estimates of the cost of telephone 
installations. Again his diligence and ability stood him in good 
stead. In 1881, when the first telephone exchange was estab- 
lished in Budapest, he was placed in charge of it. He was given 
a week's vacation and traveled at once to Smiljan to tell his 
mother that on his twenty-fifth birthday he had been made the 
manager — in full charge — of an important engineering enter- 
prise. 

In connection with his work at the telephone exchange, 
Nikola had to listen to and subsequently analyze complaints. 
Reports of any inadequacy or failure of the instruments in- 
stalled came to his desk. It was in this way that he became 
aware of the many protests from customers who claimed to have 
great difficulty in hearing the speakers at the other end. Voices 
were faint and there seemed to be a great deal of crackling and 
other noises exploding in their ears much of the time. Upon 
investigation of these complaints, Nikola discovered that they 
were often justified. He set to work on an invention that would 
both magnify the sound of the voice and reduce the irrelevant 
sounds which he felt were due to "static" electricity. The fin- 
ished device, his first invention, was called the "telephone re- 
peater" or amplifier, but which today would be more accurately 
described as a loudspeaker. It was unquestionably the forerun- 
ner of the sound producer now in use in every home radio set. 
Nikola was very proud of it. He had every right to be, for even 
many years later the ingenuity and design of his 1881 invention 
compared favorably with those developed more than thirty 

88 



years later. This invention was never patented but it was put 
into immediate use by the Budapest Telephone Company. 

During the year he worked on the amplifier, he had as an 
assistant a young man named Szigeti, who, Nikola discovered, 
spent much of his free time reading poetry. Nikola at first 
looked down his long nose upon what seemed to him to be a 
foolish and rather effeminate pastime. He offered to teach the 
young man how to play billiards as a substitute for his off-time 
interest. Szigeti learned to play billiards quite passably during 
the weeks that followed, but, while he was learning, he man- 
aged to arouse Nikola's interest in poetry to such an extent 
that he began to attempt to write it. The mathematical exact- 
ness demanded by the sonnet form appeared to him to be a 
charming challenge, and he worked at it with all the energy 
and enthusiasm that he always put into everything he tackled. 

Nikola found the company of Szigeti pleasant without being 
in any way demanding. There would never be any danger of 
Szigeti wanting to develop their relationship into a lifelong 
friendship. He was Tesla's assistant and thought of himself as 
such. He knew a lot about poetry, but he also was, first and 
foremost, an intelligent assistant, a capable engineer. Nikola 
came to look forward to the occasional billiard games, the dis- 
cussions of Goethe and Shakespeare, and, once in a great while, 
walks in the country. 

In February, about a year after his invention of the amplifier, 
Nikola, suffering from a brief illness, stayed home from the 
office. After work Szigeti stopped by to see if there were any- 
thing his boss wanted. When Nikola said he felt like getting 
some fresh air, Szigeti suggested a walk in the park. The two 
young men started out at a leisurely pace toward the famous, 
hilly Budapest Park. On one of the higher hills they paused to 
admire the sunset. A poem of Goethe's about the sunset came 
to mind and Nikola began to recite it from memory. Abruptly 
he broke off and Szigeti, turning to him to see the reason for the 
sudden silence, was surprised and frightened by the look on his 

89 



companion's face. Nikola stood transfixed, staring straight into 
the sun. 

"What is it, Tesla? What's wrong?" 

Nikola did not answer, and Szigeti grasped his arm and shook 
him as one might try to awaken a person in a trance. "Mr. 
Tesla, don't you hear me?" he cried, his voice rising as his 
anxiety grew. 

Nikola's shook off Szigeti's arm. "Watch me," he said softly. 
"Don't speak. Just watch me. See, I can reverse itl" 

"Mr. Tesla, are you ill? I don't see anything. Do you think 
you can reverse the sun?" 

"Don't you see it? Look, it's right here in front of me. See 
how smoothly it's running! Now I throw this switch — and I 
reverse it. It goes just as smoothly in the opposite direction. 
No sparking, no loss!" 

"Perhaps we'd better sit down and rest for a little while, Mr. 
Tesla. You've been ill " 

Nikola turned to his assistant and seemed to be seeing him 
for the first time. 

"It's all right, Szigeti. Don't look at me as if I were the village 
idiot! I'm talking about my alternating-current motor. I've 
solved the problem! The answer was there all the time. It's so 
simple. Just stop talking. Listen and watch. It's right here be- 
fore us. It's the rotating magnetic field that is the answer! How 
could I have been so blind so long! Look, the rotating magnetic 
field drags the armature around with it! That's all! Isn't that 
ridiculous? All these years — and there it was all the timel So 
simple! So sublimely simple!" 

Suddenly Szigeti realized what Nikola was saying. The beauty 
and simplicity of the idea hit him with almost as much force 
as it had hit Nikola himself. 

"I think it's I who needs to sit down," he said. 

Nikola followed him to a bench and picked up a twig that 
lay nearby. 

"Szigeti, long ago I taught myself to visualize objects and 

90 



formulas so that I can work on them even when they are not 
actually before me. In some sense, they are actually before me. 
But I shouldn't expect you to be able to see it too. I'll draw it 
for you here on the ground and I'll give you an example." 

"I know what you mean by the rotating field, Mr. Tesla. I 
know that it will work. I don't quite see how, but " 

"I'll show you," Nikola exclaimed. "Look!" And he began 
to draw a diagram in the dirt in front of the bench. "In all my 
thinking I have always used only one circuit. That has been 
my trouble. It is like a steam engine with one cylinder. Look." 

He drew a diagram of a cylinder attached to a shaft. "You 
see the piston stalls for an instant on dead center both at the 
top and bottom of the stroke." 

"I see! Go on!" 

Nikola's excitement was infectious and Szigeti leaned for- 
ward to watch the grooves and circles made by the moving 
twig. 

"I add a second cylinder. The pistons in the two cylinders 
are connected to the shaft so that their cranks are at an angle 
to each other. Now do you see what happens? The two pistons 
reach the top and bottom of the stroke at different times. When 
one is on dead center, the other is turning the engine with a 
power thrust." 

Szigeti nodded. "That is obvious. But I don't see " 

"Using a second circuit is like adding the second cylinder 
to the steam engine," Nikola explained impatiently. "Don't 
you see? The two circuits will carry the same frequency alter- 
nating current, but the current waves will be out of step with 
each other — like the pistons. You must See. It is so simple!" 

"I do. I do see!" Szigeti exclaimed and Nikola dropped the 
twig and leaned his head against the back of the bench. He 
closed his eyes and spoke in a calmer tone. 

"The trouble has always been the single circuit. The mag- 
netic field produced by alternating current has changed as 
rapidly as the current. So, instead of producing a one-direction 

91 



turning force, the magnetic field just churned up a lot o£ useless 
movement — first in one direction, then in the other. That is 
what caused both sparking and vibration." 

"I seel Of course!" Szigeti repeated, but Nikola, his eyes still 
closed, his long legs stretched out before him, seemed to have 
forgotten the other man's existence. Szigeti lapsed into silence. 
Presently Nikola began speaking, but more to himself than to 
the young man beside him. 

"I will produce a field of force that rotates at high speed. 
It will surround and embrace an armature which will require 
no electrical connections! The routing field will transfer its 
power, without wires, through space, feeding energy by means 
of its lines of force to closed-circuit coils on an armature, en- 
abling it to build up its own magnetic field that locks it into 
the rotating magnetic whirlwind produced by the field coils. 
No wires! No faulty connections! No commutator! Commuta- 
tor!" 

He leaped to his feet as the startled Szigeti looked at him in 
renewed alarm. 

"I must go back to the exchange!" Nikola announced. 

"The exchange! But why? There is no lab there. You can't 
possibly " 

"I must go there to keep a promise!" 

He explained no further but started walking with long 
strides in the direction of the office. Szigeti jogged along at his 
side, hard put to keep pace with him, for Nikola seemed to be 
walking on air. 

"Now I can die happy," Nikola exclaimed as the two reached 
the busy roadway. "But I mustn't allow myself that pleasure. I 
must live. I must return to work — my own work! I must build 
the alternating-current motor so that I can give it to the world. 
It will set the world free! No longer will men have to strain and 
push and pull and sweat as slaves to the hard labor that has to 
be done. My motor will do it for them. My motor will set them 
free!" 

92 



When they arrived at the Telephone Exchange Building, 
Nikola turned to his somewhat breathless companion. "I want 
to thank you, Szigeti. You have been patient and kind. There 
is no need for you to wait for me, I may be some little time." 

"But you have been ill. You are still weak. Don't you think 
you might need me just in case " 

"111? Weak? I'm as strong os an ox — as powerful as AtlasI 
Don't wait for me. Stop around later, if you wish, and we can 
talk." 

Szigeti shook his. head somewhat dubiously, but he left and 
Nikola entered the building. He stopped beside one of the 
operators. 

"I'm going to my office," he said. "Please put through a call 
for me and connect it to the extension in my office." 

"Certainly, Mr. Tesla," the young man replied. "Where is 
the call going to?" 

"To the Polytechnic Institute at Gratz. I know they have 
installed our instruments there because I happened to see the 
signed contract when the order came in." 

"The call is a business call, Mr. Tesla?" 

"No. Personal. See that it is deducted from my salary." 

"Mr. Tesla, you're the manager. You know employees are not 
allowed to make personal calls outside the city from this ex- 
change." 

"Suppose you take that up with the manager tomorrow, 
Bernhard. In the meantime, please place the call." 

He entered his office, turned on the electric light, and sat 
down to wait. A few minutes later the phone on his desk 
sounded off like a gong in a firehouse. 

"Polytechnic. Administration Office here," said a voice very 
loudly in his ear. He wondered why people felt that they had to 
shout whenever they talked to someone in a distant city. 

"Will you please call Professor Poeschl to the telephone." 

"I'm sorry, sir, but that won't be possible." 

Nikola felt a sudden shock of fear. It had been at least four 

93 



years since he had heard from his old friend. Had he died in the 
interim? 

"Why can't you?" he asked, dreading the reply. 

"Because the institute has only one trunk line. There is no 
extension in Professor Poeschl's house. We'd have to send a 
messenger." 

Nikola laughed in relief. "Send a messenger, by all means!" 

"You'll hold on?" the voice exclaimed. "All that time? It 
will cost a fortune." 

"It doesn't matter. Nothing matters. Nothing matters one 
little bit. Just get him to the phone!" 

"Very well. Hold on, please." She sounded as if she thor- 
oughly disapproved of the whole business. 

Probably thinks I'm drunk, Nikola thought cheerfully. 

After a long, long wait Nikola could hear voices and then the 
professor's well-remembered voice said, "Poeschl here. What 
is it?" 

"This is Tesla." 

"Who?" 

"Tesla. Nikola Tesla. The boy you prodded with pitch- 
forks!" 

"It's nonsense. It's a lie! I never prodded you or any boy 
with a — oh. Tesla! My boy, have you done it? Is that why 
you're calling? Oh Tesla, I was afraid you'd never — I thought 
you'd given up. And I thought, even if you solved our old 
problem, you'd surely forget your promise. All this time I've 
kept looking in the newspapers, hoping to see an announce- 
ment. Oh Tesla, my boy, but this is wonderful! Tell me, how 
did you find the answer? ... A vacuum? I don't understand. 
What has a vacuum got to do with alternating current? Never 
mind. It's not important how you found the solution. The 
important thing is that you found it. What is it?" 

"A rotating magnetic field is the key. That and using more 
than one current at different frequencies so that the current is 
staggered and so gives out a steady one-directional force." 

94 



"A rotating magnetic field! How beautiful! How simple! It 
locks the armature tightly within its own field, doesn't it?" 

"Yes." 

"Have you made a model?" 

"Only in my mind, but it is made accurately and operates in 
silence, with an almost incredible smoothness." 

"Not enough, my boy. You'll have to make a model before 
anyone will believe you. If I didn't know you and your amazing 
ability to visualize things, I wouldn't believe you either." 

"I'll make models in all sizes and shapes with single current 
and with multiple current. It will be accepted. It must be 
accepted." 

"What did you say about how you discovered it? Tell me, 
perhaps it would work for me — help me in my work here." 

"After years of trying in vain to force my mind to a solution, 
I decided to create a vacuum in my mind, in the hope the 
answer would be drawn into it." 

Nikola could hear the old professor laughing at the other 
end of the wire. "How did you go about inducing a vacuum?" 
he asked, still chuckling. 

"The ingredients were billiards and poetry and some well- 
chosen, pleasant, but not-too-stimulating acquaintances." 

"I have plenty of not-very-stimulating acquaintances," Pro- 
fessor Poeschl answered. "And although I'm a little old for it, 
I might manage to take up billiards. But poetry! No, my friend, 
the curriculum you outline is too obnoxious to contemplate. 
I shall just have to be satisfied with being a teacher who prods 
his students with pitchforks." 

Nikola hung up the receiver and went into the main office. 
The operator who had put through the call was still at his 
board. He was figuring on a piece of paper, and seemed to be • 
having difficulty, for he wrote, erased, wet the pencil in his 
mouth, and wrote again. Nikola crossed the large room to him. 

"Perhaps I can help you," he said. "I was the one who 

95 



worked out the rates in the first place. I know exactly what the 
cost is per mile per minute, and I can tell you that my call cost 
forty-two florins and eleven pfennig." 

The operator looked up at him in amazement. 

"That's exactly what I got, Mr. Tesla, but I just couldn't 
believe it. Why, that's my salary for four weeks I" 

"It's equivalent to two of mine," Nikola answered, "but it 
doesn't seem too important just now. I'm entitled to a two-week 
vacation. The company can just charge it off against that. I 
shall be leaving. I've got another job." 

"Oh. A better one, I hope?" 

"Oh yes, much better. My new job is to set the world free. 
Good night to you." 

And Nikola left the building. He was whistling, but no one 
— not even he — could have recognized the tune. 



Chapter 



11 



The months immediately following his great discovery were 
the happiest, and at the same time the most frustrating, he had 
ever known. He was ecstatically happy in devoting full time to 
the development and perfection of not only every part but also 
every variation of his alternating power system. It was by far 
his most productive period. In his mind he built dynamos, 
motors, transformers — every unit that might someday be needed 
to demonstrate the many advantages of alternating current over 
direct as a source of electrical power. Each separate part was 
measured with such accuracy that there was not a thousandth- 
of-an inch variation in the measurements of duplicates. These 
constructs — the term used by engineers to describe a working 

96 



model — operated flawlessly, although they had been made with- 
out the benefit of work-drawings or blueprints. But Nikola had 
no hope of obtaining the financial backing necessary for market- 
ing his system. He could not show them. They existed only in 
his mind. The making of such constructs out of copper and 
iron would have cost a great deal of money and Nikola had 
only the fast-dwindling remains of his small savings. 

Having discovered that he could interest no one in Budapest 
in his power system, and knowing that he would soon need a 
job if he were to continue sending even small sums home to his 
mother, he was delighted when Szigeti told him of a firm in 
Paris that might be interested in his invention and, in any event, 
could certainly use his services as an electrical engineer. Nikola 
thought that his chances of being able to arouse interest in his 
invention would be far better in Paris. He packed his few 
belongings, wrapped his sparse notes in brown paper, and set 
out for France, armed with a letter from Szigeti and hopes as 
high as they had been when he first ventured to Budapest. 

Paris! The very name held a sort of magic for Nikola. He 
was actually going to the city that was noted for its kindly 
interest in young talent — the city where, supposedly, it was 
never difficult to find a patron for a promising young painter 
or writer or, he hoped, engineer. He was not surprised that he 
was able to find, on the day of his arrival, an apartment on the 
Boulevard Saint Michel that suited his taste, his needs, and his 
purse. Nor was he surprised when his letter of introduction got 
him a job with the Continental Edison Company as "junior 
engineer." These things happened in ParisI 

In his free time he began frequenting sidewalk cafes and the 
stylish hotels of the period, not because he craved drink or 
enjoyed the fine old wines — not because he was lonesome and 
sought the gaiety and companionship of young people his own 
age. With his characteristic simplicity and directness he went 
to these places for the sole purpose of finding a patron or backer 
for his alternating-current power system. 

N.TJ.O. — D 9 I 



Most inventors knew the wisdom of refraining from discuss- 
ing the details of their inventions until the patents had been 
applied for. Without working models Nikola could not even 
register his power system, and yet he talked about it in the 
greatest possible detail to anyone who looked as if he might 
have money enough to help in the financing. Actually, he didn't 
care if someone stole his idea. He knew there was a fortune to 
be made from it, but he had no particular interest in making 
money. He only wanted the world to have the benefit of his 
invention. He could always earn money by working. 

No one stole the idea. No one thought well enough of it. He 
could not give it away! He knew he was walking around with 
one of the greatest discoveries of all time in his head and no one 
wanted it. 

The Continental Edison Company was a French company 
that made and installed motors and dynamos and lighting sys- 
tems under the Thomas A. Edison patents. These were all, of 
course, direct-current equipment, and no one there was in the 
least interested in a new system that would require new dies, 
new tools, and new, differently trained men. But if they were 
not interested in his invention, they were very much interested 
in the inventor. They had learned of Nikola's great ability both 
as an electrical expert and as an engineer, and he soon found 
himself being assigned to the jobs that presented the greatest 
difficulties. 

In the course of his "trouble-shooting," Nikola became aware 
of certain flaws in the dynamos manufactured by his company, 
and almost automatically worked out the way in which these 
faults could be corrected. He submitted his ideas to his superiors 
and was granted permission to test them on some of the dynamos 
then under construction. Every one of his suggested changes 
tested out satisfactorily, and all of them were adopted by the 
company and incorporated in all future models. Nikola received 
a friendly pat on the shoulder and the assurance that the Con- 
tinental Edison Company would not forget. In fact, to show 

98 



their appreciation, he was given a most important task. If he 
could complete it successfully, there would be a handsome 
bonus awaiting him. 

Strasbourg presented a problem unlike any he had been asked 
to face before. The Continental Edison Company had installed 
a lighting system and powerhouse at the railroad station. There 
had been a short circuit in the wiring and a wall of the station 
had been blown out. Unfortunately for all concerned, this hap- 
pened at the very moment when Kaiser Wilhelm was stepping 
from a train that had brought him there for the dedication of 
the new station. 

The technical part of his new job presented no problem to 
Nikola, but winning the confidence and cooperation of the em- 
barrassed and angry officials was something that he knew would 
require the tact and charm of a diplomat or a statesman. Real- 
izing that he would probably have to remain in Strasbourg for 
a much longer time than the job itself warranted, he decided to 
make the best of it, settle down, and do some work on his own 
power system. He found a machine shop near the station, sent to 
Paris for some materials he needed, and went to work in his 
spare time. When his job was finished for the day, he would 
hurry to his shop to continue building the actual, physical 
models of the machines he had so often seen in his mind's eye. 
It took him the better part of a year to build and assemble a 
motor and dynamo that would, when completed, operate on 
alternating instead of direct current. When, at last, the con- 
structs were completed, he pulled the switch on his power 
generator — exactly as he had imagined himself doing that day 
more than two years ago in Budapest. And, exactly as he had 
"seen" it happen on that occasion, when he closed the connec- 
tion, there was an instant response. The armature turned, built 
up to full speed in an instant, and continued to operate in com- 
plete silence. He pulled the reversing switch. The armature 
stopped turning for a moment and then whirled into full speed 

99 



in the opposite direction. There was no vibration. There were 
no sparks. 

The test completely confirmed the theory of the rotating 
magnetic field and the effectiveness of alternating current, but 
to Nikola, who had not one moment's doubt of the outcome of 
the test, this was less thrilling than the fact that he had suc- 
cessfully built a whole, tremendously complicated system of 
constructs without a single blueprint or even a free-hand sketch! 

The mayor of Strasbourg had taken a great liking to Nikola, 
and now offered to bring several wealthy and influential Stras- 
bourgers down to Tesla's machine shop. The young engineer 
was delighted. Both he and Mayor Bauzin felt certain that 
enough interest would be aroused to warrant the formation of 
a stock company, which would manufacture and market the 
Tesla polyphase induction motor. But Nikola was doomed to 
disappointment. The viewers could not deny that the motor and 
dynamo would operate. They were actually operating. But none 
of them could see any great advantages in the alternating- 
current idea. 

Mayor Bauzin assured Nikola that he would find more 
progressive-minded men in Paris, now that the constructs were 
available. He said that he would be willing to supervise demon- 
strations of the system, if Nikola chose to send anyone to 
Strasbourg to view the models in operation. 

Nikola had every reason to look forward to his return to 
Paris. He now had a better chance to raise the money needed 
to promote the alternating-current motor. Also, and more im- 
mediate, was the substantial bonus he would get for the work 
accomplished in Strasbourg and for the improvements he had 
effected in the Edison equipment. This represented an imme- 
diate opportunity to build and demonstrate more and larger 
models of the polyphase system. 

For almost two full weeks after his return to Paris, the Con- 
tinental Edison Company avoided the issue of his bonus. The 
president was away; the vice-president didn't have the requisite 

100 



authority. The treasurer had received no instructions. It all 
seemed quite plausible at first. 

The improvements that Nikola had made for the Con- 
tinental Edison equipment had saved the company thousands 
of dollars and would earn a great many more. The public- 
relations job he had done in Strasbourg meant more thousands 
to the company. In addition to these obligations, he was offer- 
ing the company first refusal on his alternating-current system. 
Had any one of the executives had any imagination or even 
common sense, they would have made Nikola some sort of an 
offer. He would have been satisfied with very little, provided 
his invention was given to the world. When Nikola realized 
that no one had any intention of giving him anything, he be- 
came so angry that he walked into the office and gave notice, 
effective immediately. 

One of the minor executives of the company sought him out 
in his quarters that evening. 

"I don't blame you for being angry, Tesla," Mr. Batchellor 
said sympathetically. "I would be, too, if I were in your boots. 
But if I were you, I wouldn't stick around Paris moping about 
it. I'd go to America, that's what I'd do." 

America! Why not? Why had he not thought of it before? 
America was a new country, a young country. It was quite 
likely that more people there would be interested in new ideas, 
new inventions, than were to be found in Budapest or Stras- 
bourg or Paris. 

"Tell me about it, please. Everything. The way they think — 
the way the people act about new things — about the chances 
of getting a job. I don't believe those stories of gold lying 
about in the streets. And even if they were true, I would still 
want to work," he told Mr. Batchellor. 

"Well, I think a letter from me might get you a job with the 
Edison Company in New York, Tesla. I can't guarantee it, of 
course, but I can promise you it'll at least get you an interview 
with Thomas A. himself. After that it'd be up to you, but I 

101 



think the Old Man is shrewd enough to know when it's wise to 
put a good man on the payroll." 

"Is the Edison Company in New York in any way like the 
Continental Edison Company of Paris?" Nikola asked, frown- 
ing. 

"As a matter of fact, it isn't," Mr. Batchellor assured him. 
"You see, we over here merely handle and manufacture ma- 
chines built on the Old Man's patents. We lease the right to do 
that. But the one company has nothing to do with the other. 
Mr. Edison has a very small staff. He does all the hiring himself. 
Every college graduate, every would-be engineer, every me- 
chanic, wants to work for Edison because he's got just about the 
biggest thing going and because he's the biggest inventor in 
America." 

"He will soon be the second biggest," Nikola said, smiling. 
"When will you be so kind as to give me that letter of intro- 
duction?" 

There was a boat leaving for America a week later, Nikola 
learned. 

"And the one after that?" Nikola asked. 

The clerk in the steamship office pulled a heavy ledger out 
of the drawer of the desk in front of him. "Hmm," he said as 
he glanced down the long columns of names and reservations. 
"The next boat leaves twelve days later, but steerage is com- 
pletely booked. There's some space available on the one after 
that, though." 

"And when does that boat sail?" 

"Three weeks later," the clerk replied. Nikola told him he'd 
think it over and notify him of his decision, and went out into 
the sunlit street to review his financial situation. By quitting 
without notice he had deprived himself of any severance pay, 
so he had only his last two weeks' salary in his pocket. All of his 
savings had been used to purchase parts for his constructs in 
Strasbourg. By careful managing he knew he would be able to 

102 



rtretch what money he had to cover the railroad fare to the 
harbor, the boat fare, and leave enough to pay for a week's 
living expenses in America. He wanted very much to travel to 
Smiljan to say good-by to his mother before leaving for America. 
However, if he had to wait a whole month before sailing, he 
would not have enough money to visit her and pay living 
expenses. 

He decided that the best thing he could do would be to leave 
on the boat sailing the following Monday. In America he 
would soon make a fortune and be able to afford a trip back 
to Europe to see his mother. Meanwhile he would sell his books 
so that he could send her money for some little luxury. He 
went back into the steamship office and booked passage on the 
next boat. 



Chapter 



12 



After a week of feverish activity, in which he just barely 
managed to complete all the necessary arrangements and ac- 
complish all the many tasks he had set out to do, he was actually 
on his way to the railroad station the following Monday morn- 
ing. In his wallet was his railroad ticket, his steamship ticket, 
and, when last counted, twenty-four dollars— plenty for in- 
cidental expenses on the trip and living expenses for about a 
week in New York, he thought. Under his arm he carried all 
his belongings in one compact, tightly wrapped brown paper 
bundle. It contained his good suit, several shirts and changes 
of underwear, and three pairs of socks. He felt that he was well 
prepared for any emergency. He was mentally reviewing the 
contents of his parcel, checking his memory to make certain 

103 



that he had not forgotten anything, when suddenly two men, 
approaching from the opposite direction, bumped into him, 
one on either side. 

"Hey! Watch where you're going!" he exclaimed angrily. 
But he realized that the bumping had not been accidental 
when one of the men grabbed the bundle from under his 
arm and the other snatched the wallet from his hip pocket. 
Then they gave him a shove that sent him sprawling to the 
sidewalk, and ran off down the street without a word having 
been spoken or a sound uttered. 

His first impulse was to run after them. He was taller than 
either of them and angry enough to beat up five men, let alone 
two! But he knew he didn't have much time. He reached for 
his watch — the watch his father had given him when he gradu- 
ated from the institute ... It was gone. He didn't think he had 
time to chase the thieves and still make the train. He just 
couldn't miss it. He thought he had enough change in his 
pocket to pay the train fare, and once at the boat he could 
identify himself and have them confirm his passage at their 
Paris office. But if he missed the boat — well, he just wouldn't 
miss it. He began to run toward the station. 

The train was just pulling out when he got there. He 
sprinted after it, caught up with it, and ran alongside it for 
several hundred yards until he spied one coach on which the 
doors had not yet been closed. Summoning all his remaining 
energy, he jumped, succeeded in catching hold of a metal bar 
on the side of the coach, and swung himself aboard. 

The money in his pocket was enough to pay the train fare. 
The conductor was very sympathetic and suggested that Nikola 
have a telegram sent from one of the stations on the way. 

"If you wire the steamship company in Paris they will tele- 
graph the ship's officers so that they will allow you to board 
without question." Nikola agreed that it was a good idea, but 
he did not have enough money to send the telegram. 

The ship's officers were considerably less sympathetic and 

104 



much more skeptical than the conductor had been. They 
doubted his whole story. The implication that he was lying made 
Nikola very angry and when he was angry he invariably forgot 
to be either wise or tactful. He berated the ship's officers for 
their stupidity, which hardly endeared him. They shouted that 
there was no point to be gained by telegraphing the Paris office, 
for even if they were to receive confirmation of the fact that the 
reservation had been made and paid for by one Nikola Tesla, 
they would still not know that he was Nikola Tesla as he had 
on him no means of identification. 

He suggested that they include in the telegram a request 
for a description of the man who had purchased the ticket. 
They scoffed at the idea that a busy clerk, who handled hun- 
dreds of reservations a day, would recall the appearance of a 
particular purchaser; but finally, to silence him and gain peace 
and time to go about their other business, they reluctantly 
complied with his request. The clerk did remember Nikola 
and sent an accurate description. Since there had been no other 
request for the reservation set aside in the name of Tesla, he 
was, at last, permitted to climb the steep gangplank. He was on 
his way to America! 

He had hoped to meet some wealthy and influential Amer- 
ican during the long journey — someone whom he could inter- 
est in the possibilities of his alternating-current motor. But he 
realized that he could hardly expect a welcome on the upper 
decks. He could not expect to be treated like a celebrity, and 
an invitation to sit at the captain's table was not very likely. It 
was obvious, after a cursory glance about him, that there was 
no affluence among his many fellow steerage passengers. The 
only thing aboard the great liner that held any interest for him, 
therefore, was the engine room. He found his way down to the 
depths of the ship and spent most of his time watching the 
gigantic and complex mechanism. 

As he sat on an overturned nail keg, observing the steady rise 
and fall of the great piston arms, he began to notice ways in 



D» 



105 



which the construction might be improved. Hypnotized by the 
rhythm of the throbbing motor, he was oblivious alike to the 
almost intolerable heat and to the constant grumbling going 
on among the engine crew members. Actually, while he sat 
there, contemplating ways in which loss of power might be 
eliminated, a full-sized mutiny was being planned all around 
him. 

The first inkling he had that anything was amiss was given 
him when the second mate, accompanied by two big able-bodied 
seamen, appeared without warning, on the narrow iron stairs 
that led topside and began laying about them with wildly 
swinging belaying pins. In an instant fists were flying, men 
were shouting, cursing, squealing in sudden pain. The mate 
swung his weapon at any head that showed itself. Nikola swung 
and landed an uppercut to the man's jaw and he went down 
without a sound. The engine crew, seeing that this six-foot-two 
stranger was on their side, crouched behind him and gave him 
much verbal encouragement but little fistic support. He ducked 
a blow that would have cracked his skull; everyone was hitting 
everyone else. Objects small enough to be picked up hurtled 
through the air; there was the sound of grunts and groans and 
shuffling feet. As suddenly as it had begun, it was ended by the 
appearance of a small army from up above. The men from 
the engine room were taken into custody, Nikola included. He 
explained that he was not one of them, and since his long, lean 
body and his aesthetic countenance seemed to confirm his 
statement, he was offered an apology and escorted to his quar- 
ters. 

Thus it was that Nikola Tesla arrived in New York the 
following day, carrying no baggage but boasting a bandaged 
thumb, a cut on his right cheek, and a lump on his forehead 
which pushed his hat back on his head to a somewhat rakish 
and disreputable angle. He had exactly four cents in his 
pocket. 

106 



He experienced no sense of anxiety; on the contrary, his 
situation offered a challenge that he found exhilarating. Except 
for his damaged thumb, he had the full use of his hands — 
which he regarded with a new respect since they had knocked 
out two husky men the day before. He had the full use of his 
mind, and a letter in his pocket — the inner coat pocket — that 
would assure him of at least a night's lodging with a relative of 
Szigeti's. Tomorrow he would present himself to Mr. Edison 
and would be given a job immediately. 

His cheerfulness received a slight setback when, upon in- 
quiry, he learned that Szigeti's relative lived some thirty blocks 
away and that the bus fare was five cents. Well, a long walk 
would do him good, he thought. Give him a chance to stretch 
his legs and at the same time get a look at a considerable section 
of the city which he knew would be his home for a long time. 
All might have been well if he had not accidentally chosen to 
pass a section of lower Broadway where pushcart vendors sold 
food. The odors of cooking meat and cheese reminded him 
that he had had nothing to eat since the day before. Suddenly 
he was ravenous. He bought half a dozen pretzels for two cents, 
hoping they would allay his hunger until he reached his destina- 
tion. But, as he walked, doubts assailed him. What if Szigeti's 
cousin was not home? Where could he stay? Where would he 
get anything to eat? He began walking faster. His one thought 
was to get to the address as quickly as possible. Had he not 
happened to hear loud cursing, expressed colorfully and flu- 
ently in his native Serbian tongue, he might never have looked 
into the open corrugated-metal shed from which the sounds 
emerged. But the noise stopped him and he peered into the 
badly lighted little shop. 

There he saw an elderly man bending over a small dynamo 
— one that might be used to operate a lathe. He held aloft a 
small electric light bulb attached to a long cord. 

"Can't you find the trouble?" Nikola asked in Serbian, duck- 
ing his head in order to enter the low shed. The man straight- 

107 



ened up as if he'd been jabbed by a hot needle. He turned and 
stared at Nikola. 

"Who are you?" he asked. "Nobody speaks Serbian around 
here. That's why I can say what I please. Nobody understands 
it." Disconsolately he turned back to the dynamo. "If I only 
knew where to begin work on the confounded thing. I've tested 
all the connections " 

Tesla stepped closer and peered over the man's shoulder. 

"Let me have a try," he urged. "I'm pretty good at fixing 
things." 

"Why not?" The man stepped aside as Nikola removed his 
jacket and rolled up his sleeves. 

He saw at once that the dynamo was very old and had re- 
ceived hard wear. It took only a few minutes for him to find 
out that many of the parts were worn beyond repair. 

"Have you files and a drill handy?" he asked. 

"Yes. This is a machine shop. I've got plenty of tools. It's 
just that I don't know the first thing about electricity. But I'm 
not alone in that — there's mighty few who do know anything 
about it." 

"Is that so?" Nikola asked politely. "Where's the drill?" 

"Over there, at the back of the shop. What you aimin' t'do?" 

"Make new parts. The field coil is gone, for one thing 
and " 

"Make new parts! You know how t'do that?" 

"Yes," Nikola answered simply and went to work. He worked 
for four solid hours before he was able to tell the little man to 
throw the switch. The dynamo whirred, caught, and steadied 
down to a soft, almost noiseless purr. 

The little man looked at Nikola as if he were gazing upon a 
worker of miracles. "I can't thank you enough. How much do 
I owe you?" 

Nikola was genuinely surprised. He had offered help at first 
only because the man had spoken Serbian. Then, as was usual 
with him, when he had seen the seriousness of the problem, the 

108 



job itself had become a challenge. He had fixed the dynamo for 
the fun of overcoming obstacles. 

"Could you treat me to a sandwich and a cup of coffee?" 
Nikola asked. He had completely forgotten his hunger but 
now it was gnawing at his stomach. 

"Don't talk like that," the man exclaimed indignantly. "I'm 
no cheap sponger. You walk in here — a complete stranger — and 
do a fine job of repair work. I don't want nobody to do nothing 
for me for nothing." 

Nikola knew what he meant in spite of the somewhat con- 
fusing grammar. 

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," he said apologetically. 
"Just pay me whatever you think is fair." 

The man drew out an old, worn wallet from his hip pocket. 
He scrutinized the contents thoughtfully for a moment, then 
pulled out two ten-dollar bills and handed them to Nikola. 

Twenty dollars! Twenty whole dollars! 

"That all right?" the man asked as Nikola stood staring at 
the bills in his hand. 

"It's — isn't it too much?" he asked. 

"Nonsense. I know I'm getting a bargain and if twenty seems 
fair, it's fine with me — just fine." 

"It's just fine with me, too," Nikola said. He put the money 
in his pocket, bade his benefactor good-by, and went out of the 
shop whistling tunelessly, his mind busy with thoughts of a 
thick, juicy steak, broiled onions, potato pancakes . . . 

Thomas Alva Edison made a futile swipe at the unruly lock 
of white hair that persistently flopped down across his forehead, 
and handed the letter he had been reading to his wife. Mrs. 
Edison had come down to her husband's headquarters on South 
Fifth Avenue, to bring him some milk and hard-boiled eggs, 
knowing he had worked all night and had probably forgotten 
to have breakfast. At first she glanced at the letter idly, then 
read it all the way through with increasing interest. 

109 



" 'I know two great men,' " Mrs. Edison read aloud. " 'You 
are one of them. The other is the young man who will present 
this letter.' That's certainly high praise. Who wrote it? Is the 
man given to exaggerations of this sort?" 

"Name's Batchellor," Edison said, "foreman of Production 
for Continental. Good man, knows his stuff. Knows men too. 
And, no, he's not given to exaggeration." 

"Then hire this boy, Chief," Mrs. Edison urged. "If you had 
a really competent assistant, you might come home for dinner 
once in awhile." 

"I might just do that," Edison said. "On your way out you 
can ask this what's-his-name? — Nicholas Kessler " 

"Nik-o-la Tes-la," Mrs. Edison corrected, handing him Bat- 
chellor's letter of introduction. 

"Tell him to come on in." 

"Yes, Chief. And please behave yourself. Don't frighten the 
daylights out of the boy with your rough, tough, big-boss act." 

"What do you want me to do? Offer him a lollypop?" 

He grinned as his wife turned toward him, ready to continue 
the argument. "All right, all right," he said hastily. "I won't 
frighten the little feller. I promise." 

Mrs. Edison smiled, waved, and went out of the private 
office into the small waiting room. As she closed the door be- 
hind her, she nodded to Lucy Bogue who was typing at the 
secretary's desk, and turned to look at the only other occupant 
of the room. He was rising politely from the low chair in which 
he had been sitting, and to her startled eyes it seemed as if the 
rising process would never end. When at last he seemed to 
have reached his full height — six-feet-two — she found her voice. 

"You are Mr. Tesla?" she asked. 

"Yes, Madame." 

"Mr. Edison will see you now. Excuse me," she added as she 
preceded him into the inner office and stepped aside to allow 
Nikola to enter. 

Edison looked up toward the point in space where he ex- 

110 



pected to meet the Tesla boy's eyes. Instead, he found himself 
staring at the second button of Nikola's flowered vest. As he 
raised his eyes, the expression of incredulous amazement on his 
face was exactly what his wife had hoped for. She clapped a 
hand to her mouth, but did not quite succeed in stifling a 
giggle; Her husband drew his heavy eyebrows together in a 
deep, fierce frown as he glared at her for an instant. She closed 
the door quickly behind her, and Edison, still frowning, said 
gruffly: 

"Sit down, Nicholas, sit down." 

"Thank you, sir," Nikola said as he pulled a chair a little 
closer to the desk and sat. "The name is Tesla, sir. Nikola 
Tesla." 

"That's quite a letter you sent in to me," Edison said. 
"Batchellor thinks highly of your work." 

"He has seen what I can do." 

"Hm. Yes. What else have you done — besides putting those 
governor gimmicks on some of Continental's dynamos?" 

"I have perfected an alternating current, polyphase 
power " 

"Alternating current!" 

"Yes, sir. I should like to explain- 



"Oh no you don't, Nicholasl Not to me, you won't. Fooling 
around with alternating current's just a waste of time. No- 
body'll ever use it. Too dangerous! An alternating<urrent high- 
voltage wire gets loose, it could kill a man as- quick as a bolt 
of lightning. Direct current's safe. Can't develop more'n one 
hundred and ten volts. Working on alternating current's a 
complete waste of time." 

"I disagree, Mr. Edison, and I think I can convince you -" 

"Not me, not mel Uh-uh. Time's too valuable. If you want a 
job around here, you'd best forget all about alternating cur- 
rent." 

"I can't do that, Mr. Edison." 

"You do want a job here?" 

Ill 



"Yes, sir." 

For a long moment the two men sat looking at each other in 
silence, each waiting for the other to break the deadlock. 

Edison did not like what he saw. Most applicants for jobs 
held him in considerable awe. They stammered and blushed 
in their efforts to convince him of their willingness to work as 
an assistant to the Master. The young man across the desk from 
him, on the other hand, seemed self-assured to the point of 
arrogance. Edison did not want to hire him. And yet he had to 
admit to himself, there were very, very few young men around 
who knew anything about electrical engineering. The blushers 
and the stammerers had not turned out too well, in spite of 
their eagerness and the deference they paid him. Then, too, if 
Edison disregarded Batchellor's letter and sent this young man 
packing, one of his competitors would grab him — and possibly 
make Edison look like a fool. He decided that it would be best 
to ignore his personal feeling. 

"You know that all our machines and plants are operated on 
direct current?" he asked. 

"Yes, Mr. Edison." 

"Well, Nicholas, perhaps you can show us how we can save 
thousands of dollars on them, the way you did for Continental." 

"Quite possibly, Mr. Edison." 

Edison bit his lip. "You can start right away," he said, "and 
you may as well begin calling me 'Chief— like everybody else 
around here." 

"Chief? Is there some significance " 

"Oh, you don't understand our American sense of humor," 
Edison exclaimed in exasperation. 

"I prefer to call you 'Mr. Edison,* " Nikola said, rising, "and 
to be called Tesla. May I look over the plant now?" 

Edison nodded speechlessly. He shook his shaggy head as 
if to clear it. As the door closed behind Nikola, he spoke out 
loud: "All I can say is, that boy better be as good as Batchellor 
says he is! He'd better be as good as he thinks he is or some- 

112 



body'll murder him. I'll bet he's well heeled. Nobody could be 
that cocky unless he had a lot of money in his pockets." 

Nikola had bought two new shirts, some underwear, a box 
of candy for the wife of Szigeti's cousin in appreciation of her 
hospitality. He had paid a week's rent in advance on a small 
room within two blocks of the Edison plant. Of the twenty 
dollars he had received the day before, about eight dollars re- 
mained in his new leather wallet. 



Chapter 



13 



By doing exactly what he had done in Paris for the Continental 
Edison Company, Nikola was able, after a few weeks, to come 
up with a plan whereby many thousands of dollars could be 
saved, both in the construction and in the operation of the 
Edison dynamos and motors. Edison, always interested in more 
economic operation, was intrigued by the suggestion, but not 
at all certain that it would work. 

"Take a crack at it," he finally told Nikola. "Try it. There's 
fifty thousand dollars for you in it — if it works." 

"How's the new man working out?" Mrs. Edison asked her 
husband a few days after Nikola had presented his plan. 

"Don't know yet," Edison replied. "All I can say is — I've 
had a good many hard-working assistants in the past few years, 
but Tesla takes the cake. Works from ten in the morning till 
five the next morning, seven days a week — week in, week out. 
Don't see how he does itl" 

"You're a fine one to talk, you are," Mrs. Edison exclaimed 
fondly. 

Before Nikola had time to work out and test his ideas for 

113 



increasing the efficiency of the Edison machines, he was given 
a rather spectacular opportunity to demonstrate his value and 
ability as an engineer. 

The year before Nikola came to America, Edison had in- 
stalled an up-to-the-minute lighting plant in the S.S. Oregon, 
the fastest and most luxurious passenger ship of the day. There 
had been no complaints. The Oregon had made several trips 
back and forth between New York and Southampton, and the 
electric-light system had impressed and pleased both owners 
and passengers. But now, a day before the Oregon's scheduled 
sailing, both dynamos had failed. Edison found himself in 
serious difficulty. If the sailing had to be postponed — if there 
were cancellations of reservations — the steamship company 
might well sue Edison's company for heavy damages. Even if the 
great monetary loss were to be covered by insurance, the bad 
publicity resulting from the suit would take a heavy toll on 
profits for years to come. Naturally, Edison sent his most trusted 
team of workers to the ship at once. 

They returned to explain the trouble. It would be impossible 
to remove the dynamos and install new ones; the old ones had 
to be repaired. But that could not be done without taking them 
to the shop, and that was impossible. As a last resort, Edison 
asked Nikola to go out to the ship to see if anything could be 
done. It was mid-afternoon. The Oregon was scheduled to sail 
at eleven the following morning. 

Nikola went out to take a look. The many hours he had 
spent on his long trip from Paris, watching the dynamos and 
visualizing the functioning of invisible parts, stood him in good 
stead. Within an hour Nikola had discovered the trouble — 
short circuits had caused some of the armature coils to burn out. 
He took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He didn't have 
to ask for help; the engine crew volunteered to a man. They 
worked cheerfully all through the night. By four o'clock in the 
morning both dynamos were running as smoothly as when they 
had first been installed. 

114 



Returning to the shop, Nikola heard the clock in the City 
Hall tower strike five and he saw Edison coming out of the 
office. With him was Charles Batchellor, arrived the previous 
day from Paris. After enthusiastic greetings had been ex- 
changed, Edison asked about the Oregon. 

"The ship will leave on schedule, Mr. Edison," Nikola re- 
ported. "Both dynamos are operating." 

As he went on into the office to write up his report, he heard 
Edison say, "That man's just as good as you said he was, Bat- 
chellor. In fact, he's even as good as he thinks he is!" 

In the months that followed, Nikola worked on the improve- 
ments he had discussed with Edison. He designed twenty-four 
new types of dynamos, eliminating the long-core field magnets 
and substituting the far more efficient short cores. He invented 
some automatic speed controls that were registered at the 
Washington Patent Office in the name of the Edison Company. 
The Tesla magnets and controls increased the efficiency and 
reduced the cost of operating all the Edison .dynamos then in 
use. Tests convinced Edison and his backers that Nikola had 
done everything that he had promised to accomplish. 

At the end of that week Nikola found a ten-dollar increase 
in his paycheck. Seething with anger, he wasted no time in 
seeking out Edison, whom he found in his office. Nikola held 
a crisp new ten-dollar bill in one hand, his pay envelope in the 
other. 

"Mr. Edison," he asked, "am I to understand that you wish 
me to wait ninety-six years and eight weeks for the fifty thou- 
sand dollars?" 

"Fifty thousand dollars? What fifty thousand dollars?" 

"The fifty thousand dollars you promised me if I accom- 
plished what I said I would. As you know, I have fulfilled my 
part of the agreement." 

Edison threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, Tesla, Tesla!" 

115 



he chuckled. "I told you you didn't understand the American 
sense of humor." 

Nikola stared at him, unbelieving, shocked beyond words. 
He didn't trust himself to speak. Turning, he left the office, 
crossed the waiting room, entered his own office, and took his 
jacket and hat from the hatrack behind his desk. Putting them 
on, he left his office, closing the door behind him softly but with 
a certain finality. As he crossed the waiting room on his way out, 
the stenographer typing at the secretary's desk noticed that he 
tipped his hat politely to the closed door of Edison's office. 

Edison's great and rapidly growing electrical empire had 
been built around his perfection of the incandescent electric- 
light bulb. Although, when he patented it, it had been recog- 
nized as a revolutionary idea, there was no way in which bulbs 
could be sold in sufficient quantity to be commercially profit- 
able, for the simple reason that no homes, offices, or factories 
were wired for electricity. Candles, oil lamps, and gaslight were 
the sole sources of illumination. Therefore, in order to sell 
the bulbs, cities, towns, and individual home owners had to be 
"sold" on the idea of bringing electricity to their communities 
by means of local powerhouses. Edison did not invent the 
dynamo or the generator or the transformer. He did, however, 
develop their use in bringing electricity to the people and 
enabling them to purchase the use of it as a cost within their 
means. This was completely consistent with Edison's talent. 
He had never pretended to be a scientist. His great gift lay in 
his tremendous ability to translate the discoveries of other, 
more erudite, scientists into practical, commercial terms. It was 
natural that this gift should endear him to financiers and 
backers who had hitherto regarded inventors and scientists as 
impractical dreamers. It was also natural that Edison should 
incur the envy and jealousy of those scientists from whose 
original discoveries Edison made far more money than they did. 
And, when J. P. Morgan, a towering figure in the financial 

116 



world of the period, threw his support behind Edison, he added 
to the ranks of Edison's enemies the many personal enemies 
and jealous, less successful financiers whose animosity he had 
aroused. 

When Nikola — or, as he now preferred to be called, Tesla — 
had come to America, less than a year before he had talked to 
anyone and everyone who would listen about his alternating- 
current, polyphase power system, and as a result succeeded only 
in creating the impression of being a dreamer. But there were 
very few skilled men in the field, and Nikola's miraculous 
achievement on board the Oregon as well as his improvements 
on the Edison direct-current machines had been noted by 
watchful eyes. 

When he tipped his hat in mocking farewell and walked out 
of the office of the Edison Company that spring morning in 
1885, he found to his great surprise that he was walking into 
the outstretched welcoming arms of the rivals of Edison and 
Morgan. His services were in demand; financiers vied with 
each other in offers. 

At lastl he thought. It seemed as if the long-awaited day 
had come when he could obtain financing to build the con- 
structs needed to demonstrate his elaborate system. But he soon 
discovered that none of the groups bidding for his services 
were thinking in terms of so large a sum of money. One group 
of promoters, however, presented a suggestion that seemed to 
him to be both reasonable and realistic. 

"Haven't you some other invention? One that would require 
less money to develop?" they asked. "If you do, then we could 
set up a corporation and provide the financing required. We 
would, of course, pay you generously and give you fifty per cent 
of the corporation's profits. Then, when the investors have 
received dividends and everyone is making money, it will be a 
simple matter for us to raise the larger amount that is needed 
for the big project." 

So Tesla told them about his idea for an arc lamp for street 

117 



lighting. It was a concept that had occurred to him soon after 
he had begun to work for Edison. In his mind he had fully 
worked out the details, of its operation. He had said nothing 
about it to Edison because he remembered only too well what 
had happened to him at the Continental Edison Company 
when he had spoken freely of ideas and improvements. They 
had been adopted without thanks or reward. He had not needed 
to put anything down on paper; there were no blueprints 
in existence. There could be no possible way in which the 
Edison Company might claim the idea, and it had the added 
appeal of being in direct competition with Edison's incan- 
descent bulb. The promoters accepted the suggestion joyfully. 
The new corporation was formed and Tesla was presented with 
a beautifuly engraved stock certificate entitling him to fifty 
shares of stock in the company. 

Within a year the Tesla arc light was on the market. Given 
the same amount of current, the arc light had a far greater 
"throw" than the incandescent electric bulb, and therefore was 
far better suited for street lighting and use in theaters where 
spotlights were required. The company prospered. But Tesla 
himself did not. His salary had ceased when he completed the 
work on the development of the light. He discovered too late 
that his 50 per cent interest in the company's profits did not 
entitle him to 50 per cent voting interest. Now that he had 
performed the services required of him, he was voted out of the 
company. When he tried to realize some cash by the sale of his 
engraved stock certificate, he soon learned that it was worthless. 
The company, at least according to its books, was reinvesting 
operating profits in the purchase of more materials, so it was 
obvious that no profits would be shown for several years. As 
for the company's backing him in the development of his 
alternating-current system — "Out of the question!" "Ridicu- 
lous!" "Laughable!" 

"Laughable." Was this another example of the American 
sense of humor? he wondered. He decided that there was 

118 



nothing national about this particular kind of joke. He had 
not forgotten that it seemed to be just as amusing to the French 
owners of Continental Edison. He decided that it was more 
likely the promoters' sense of humor, but it was nonetheless a 
cruel and painful joke. What made it even more difficult was 
the fact that, in order to prevent him from suing for monies 
due him, the officers of the corporation spread the word around 
that he had been fired for incompetence. None of the other 
groups that had sought his services so eagerly the year before 
would now grant him an interview. For the first time in his life 
he was unable to get a job. 

Assuming that his share of the profits from the arc light 
would surely be sufficient to take care of his modest personal 
needs, he had used his salary to purchase copper wire and other 
materials for which he thought he would be reimbursed when 
the company began to develop the alternating-current motor. 
Now he was without reserve funds. Broke, jobless, and branded 
as erratic — a trouble-maker and worse by his former colleagues 
— Nikola found himself in more desperate straits than he had 
ever before faced. His pride would not allow him to appeal to 
any relatives for help. He would not bring himself to write to 
Batchellor, who had returned to Paris. He began looking for 
work outside of his own field. He went to the little machine 
shop where, on his first day in America, he had helped the owner 
fix a broken dynamo, hoping that he might be given a job 
as a machinist or mechanic. The shop was closed, boarded up. 
A large For Sale sign was nailed to the boarding. Nikola 
turned away, disheartened. He decided to go back to his fur- 
nished room and try to sneak in without being seen by his 
landlady. He owed two weeks' rent and thought he had de- 
tected an unfriendly look in her eye when he left home that 
morning. 

When he arrived at his address, he saw her. She was standing 
on the low, three-step stoop. About to turn back in order to 
escape a set-to with her, he suddenly realized that she was not 

119 



looking in his direction. She was staring up the street and he 
looked to see what held her attention. In front of a building on 
Pearl Street, there was a long line of men extending from the 
building all the way to the corner. Nikola sauntered past his 
rooming house on the opposite side of the street and spoke to 
the last man in line. 

"What's the line-up for?" he asked. 

"Jobs," the man answered curtly. 

"What kind?" Nikola persisted. 

"They're gonna dig a ditch from here clear up into the open 
country past Forty-second Street," the man replied. "Gonna 
lay some conduit for electric cables or something. They adver- 
tised for husky men." 

"What's the pay?" 

"Two dollars a day." 

"I guess I'm husky enough," Nikola said and stepped onto 
the line. 



Chapter 



14 



The year that followed was fully as important, if not actually 
more important, in the development of both Nikola Tesla the 
man and Tesla the scientist, as any year of his life — including 
the year in Budapest. 

During the first few weeks a feeling of shame, bitterness, and 
self-pity only served to make him more fully aware of the 
stabbing pains at the backs of his legs, the steady, dull ache in 
his shoulder muscles. He thought of how shocked his mother 
would be if she knew. Or Professor Poeschl. Superman, genius, 
"star of the first magnitude" — swinging a pick ax alongside 

120 



common day laborersi Nearly twenty years of study and school- 
ing — the Real Gymnasium, the Higher Real Gymnasium, the 
institute, the university — and now twentieth assistant ditch 
digger! 

Then, imperceptibly, his thinking began to change. Little 
by little he became more aware of the men working with him, 
and one day he realized, with considerable surprise, that he was 
no longer thinking of them as "common laborers." Most of the 
men were as new to this kind of work as he. It had been a bad 
year — bad for the farmers, the businessmen, the shop owners. 
The little man who worked six feet away from him had been a 
successful stockbroker. The stock market had behaved badly; 
his clients had lost their money — none of them could afford to 
buy in a selling market. He had a wife and two children. One 
man was a farmer who owned a big spread of land on Long 
Island. Bugs had killed the potato crop. A severe windstorm 
had blown down the alfalfa. He, too, had a wife and children. 
Another was a schoolteacher. He was married and they were 
expecting their first child. He was using his summer vacation 
to add to the tiny salary he received for teaching. Perhaps there 
was no such thing as "a common laborer." 

The little man nearest him had a hard time digging the 
number of feet assigned to each man. As Nikola's muscles 
toughened and he found the work easier, he managed to tres- 
pass a foot or so onto the little man's territory. Nothing was 
said about it. Nikola was reminded of his first year at the 
Higher Real Gymnasium when a boy in the free-hand drawing 
class seemed headed for the lowest marks in the class. The boy 
had happened to tell Nikola that if he got the lowest rating in 
any of his classes he'd lose his scholarship. Nikola was bad at 
free-hand drawing and thoroughly disliked it. But he was not 
quite as inept as the other boy. Deliberately Nikola had drawn 
so badly that the other boy kept his scholarship. That had been 
before he had any serious idea of becoming a superman. 

The second change that occurred in his thinking came with 

121 



the sudden discovery that the rhythmic swinging of the pick no 
longer required any concentration. He found that his mind 
was clearer and more open to ideas than it had been since that 
productive year in Paris and Strasbourg. Freed of the pressure 
of mental work, his mind seemed to respond to the months 
of rest. New plans, new projects crowded into it. 

Filling the vacuum, he thought with amusement: I really 
should write to old Poeschl to tell him of the new ingredient: 
Billiards, uninteresting friends, poetry, and now ditch digging. 

He suddenly became aware of the fact that for the past 
five years his mind had been fully occupied with the defense of 
his alternating-current system. Now he allowed himself to think 
of things that he had filed away in his mental filing cabinet. It 
was at this time that he began to give serious consideration to a 
theory that had been clamoring for his attention — like a child 
tugging at his father's coattails. It was the growing conviction 
that electric current waves and sound waves were, or could 
be, related. If this were true, it would be possible to transmit 
sound through the air without wires. 

He had perfected the amplifier on his very first job for the 
telephone company in Budapest. He would have to work on 
further sensitizing the receiver, or earphone, and he would have 
to do a great deal of experimentation in order to determine the 
earth's magnetic charge. But as he thought about it day after 
day, swinging his pick in the heat of a New York summer, 
the more convinced he was that it could be done. If he was 
right, his visualization showed him that a ground wire, an 
aerial — to act as magnified ears and select the impulses trans- 
mitted to it electrically — would complete a circuit. He could 
not, without actual laboratory experiments, determine the 
manner in which the receiver would select these impulses, but 
he envisioned a complete method of broadcasting without 
wires. Once having worked it out, he put it aside and opened 
his mind to the consideration of linking electric, or electronic, 
wave-lengths with light waves. If this could be done, it would 

122 



be possible to transmit imagesl It sounded fantastic, he knew, 
and yet, had he not always been able to materalize an image, 
even of a mathematical formula written on a blackboard? A 
Frenchman named Daguerre had shown how you could throw 
an image onto a sensitized surface, such as tin, and record it 
with accuracy. A device that could break up the image into its 
component parts would be necessary. Then the light waves 
could reassemble these parts by transmission through a lens. 

The days sped by. The pickax no longer scraped and tore at 
his callused hands. He was no longer aware of its weight as he 
swung it hour after hour. The half-hour lunch periods were 
pleasant too. He found that he could talk about his ideas to the 
men as they sat munching sandwiches from their tin lunch 
boxes. What if they didn't understand? They were a far more 
polite audience than the executives at Continental Edison had 
been. They listened. They even asked questions. He found 
himself talking as he had never been able to talk before, And, 
in turn, he learned to listen as he had never listened in his 
whole life. He found that the problems of the men around 
him held his interest and that, strangely enough, considering 
their problems seemed to lighten his own. The summer was 
over before he knew it. 

It was very early on a morning in September, 1887, that the 
little man who worked six feet away from him in the ditch 
approached him as they were rolling up their jackets and plac- 
ing them in a big green locked box, before climbing down into 
the ditch. 

"I've got a favor to ask of you," the little man said shyly. 
"I've — well, I hope you won't think I've butted in where I'm 
not wanted but — well, I may as well come out with it. I've made 
an appointment with a — a sort of friend x of mine to meet you." 

"Meet me?" Nikola exclaimed. "Why?" 

"Well," the little man answered, squirming uncomfortably 
under Nikola's penetrating stare, "you see, when I had my own 
brokerage office, I knew people — well, this man, Mr. Brown, he 

123 



always had lots of money and he always liked to gamble in the 
more speculative stocks. I thought, maybe, if you'd go with me 
and talk to him, the way you talk to us during lunch hour, well, 
he might get interested ... It couldn't do any harm, could it? 
I mean, if you were to tell him about this alternating-current 
thing and what it could do toward bringing down the cost of 
living — well, I mean, what've you got to lose?" 

Nikola stared at the little man in amazement. For the first 
time in his life he felt an emotion he could not analyze. He 
felt moisture gathering in his eyes. 

"Of course, I'll go. Gladly and gratefully," he said simply. 
"When is the appointment?" 

"Tomorrow." 

"Saturday?" 

"Yes, Mr. Brown said he'd give up his usual stroll in the 
park and come to his office. He said you sounded kind of like a 
nut, but sometimes things that sounded nutty turned out better 
than things that sounded foolproof and ironclad." 

The two men walked over to the side of the ditch and the 
little man started climbing down the short ladder leading to the 
bottom. Standing on the lowest rung, he looked up at Nikola 
towering above him. 

"Just one more thing," he said. "Don't tell him anything 
about this or how we met or anything. He was my biggest 
customer. I never went to him for help when things went sour. 
I don't want him to know — he thinks I've retired." 

Nikola laughed. "Of course, I shan't tell him. We're just a 
couple of retired gentlemen-of-leisure who happened to meet 
at Sherry's and began discussing the many advantages of the 
polyphase alternating-current power system!" 

Still laughing, he ignored the ladder and sprang down into 
the ditch. "You know something?" he said. "I don't even know 
your name. We've always called you 'Mac' " 

"McCollum," the little man said. "I know that yours is 
Tesla, isn't it?" 

124 



"Nikola Tesla. I'm glad to meet you, Mr. McCollum." 
He held out his huge right hand and the little man took it, 
grinning as they formally shook hands. 

Tesla often thought that neither Shakespeare nor Goethe — 
nor, for that matter, any author whom he respected — could 
have written the scene that took place the following morning. 
It would have seemed to them too contrived, too improbable, 
and utterly unbelievable. 

Tesla and McCollum met on the sidewalk and together 
climbed the worn wooden steps of an old building to the large, 
second-floor offices of the Western Union Telegraph Company. 
There was no receptionist, or anyone in sight, but a hearty 
voice called out to them: 

"Come right in, McCollum." 

The little man led the way toward a glass-partitioned office. 
On the glass Nikola read the words, A. K. Brown, Exec. Vice- 
Pres. 

Mr. Brown listened attentively to Tesla's description of the 
difference between alternating and direct current. Then he held 
up one well-manicured hand. 

"Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Tesla," he said, "but 
there's a friend of mine I'd like to have hear this. I asked him 
to stand by for a phone call. Before I called, I wanted to get an 
idea of what it was all about." 

"And decide whether or not I was a 'nut'? Tesla asked, smil- 
ing. 

Mr. Brown grinned. "Exactly," he admitted. "Now my 
friend Werber knows a great deal more about such things than 
I do. Also, he has a great deal more liquid cash than I have, 
since he's just sold out a chain of small shops he owned. I don't 
want you to have to go over the whole thing twice." 

"Twice!" Tesla echoed. "I've been over it a thousand times 
and I'd gladly repeat it a thousand morel" Mr. Brown smiled 
and picked up the telephone. 

125 



While they were waiting for Mr. Werber, Tesla told Mr. 
Brown something of his background. When they heard footsteps 
on the stairs, Mr. Brown called out, "In here, Albert." 

The footsteps drew nearer. The door opened. Mr. Albert 
Werber stood in the doorway. He stared at Nikola in surprise. 
Tesla looked at him and gasped — the man whose dynamo he 
had fixed I Mr. Werber was the first to recover from his 
surprise. 

"Aha!" he exclaimed.. "It's my good Samaritan. You can 
stop worrying about this man's being a nut, A.K. I'm willing 
to state right now in front of witnesses that a man who can 
doctor a sick dynamo the way this man fixed mine is no nut! 
Now let's hear about this plan of yours, Tesla. What's it all 
about?" 

Tesla hesitated a moment before answering. "Forgive me 
if I do ypu a grave injustice, but it is perhaps best if I assume 
that you gentlemen understand little or nothing of the dif- 
ficulties under which Mr. Edison's present-day powerhouses 
now operate." 

"That will be no injustice, Mr. Tesla," Mr. Brown replied, 
smiling. "At least insofar as I am concerned. I could hardly 
know less." 

The others nodded and echoed Mr. Brown's protestations of 
innocence and Tesla smiled and began his explanation. 

"Electricity is generated, either by water power or fire, in 
powerhouses by small dynamos. The current is distributed to 
customers through copper conductors laid in conduits under 
the streets. But a great deal of the electrical energy fed into 
the conductors does not arrive at the far end of the line because 
it is converted along the route into useless — even dangerous — 
heat by the resistance of the conductors." 

The men nodded to show that they were able to follow his 
explanation thus far, and Tesla continued: 

"Electrical energy is composed of two component parts: 
Current — or the amount of electricity — and voltage, which is 

126 



the pressure under which the current is moved. Resistance and 
heat losses affect the current regardless of the voltage. If the 
amount of current carried by a wire is doubled, the heat losses 
are quadrupled, for the loss is always the square of the increase. 
Naturally, this limits the amount of current that can be loaded 
onto the conductors." 

He paused for a moment to examine the faces of his listeners. 
They were following his every word with intense interest. 

"Just to make things a little more complicated," Tesla went 
on, "while the voltage doesn't increase or decrease the resistance 
loss, an increase in resistance loss does create a loss of voltage. 
As a result, direct current, as it's now generated in Mr. Edison's 
powerhouses, can serve only an area of approximately one 
square mile. You see what that means? It means that, to serve 
a large city, one would have to build a powerhouse every square 
mile. The little towns and villages all over this big country 
present an even greater problem. Powerhouses cost money. 
Copper wire costs money when it's bought by the milel But, 
with Mr. Edison's direct current, many powerhouses and many, 
many miles of cable are required because there's no way — with 
direct current — of stepping up or transforming an electric 
current. The voltage remains fixed. The wires can carry only 
their limited load. 

"Gentlemen, is it any wonder that people laugh when we tell 
them that electricity will one day be America's greatest source 
of light and power? 'A dream — a crazy dream!' they say, 'Elec- 
tricity will never take the place of gaslight and whale oil!' And 
the sad thing is that they are right! The farmers, the working 
people in the small towns — they will never know the wonders 
of electricity . . . not as long as people must depend on direct 
current!" 

The men looked at each other, Mr. Brown smiled. "And 
with your alternating current, Mr. Tesla, will all the world's 
problems be solved?" 

Suddenly Tesla realized that he had been preaching and 

127 



that he must have sounded very pompous to his important 
listeners. He grinned boyishly. 

"Perhaps not all of them, Mr. Brown," he admitted. "The 
world may still be troubled by a few problems, even if my 
alternating-current system is accepted. But there will be fewer 
problems. You see, I have invented transformers — which are 
simple coils of wire wound around an iron core — and they can 
be used to step up the voltage and, at the same time, reduce the 
current in direct proportion so that greater amounts of energy 
can be sent through those same wires without creating resistance 
and heat loss." 

"You mean that with your system a very small copper wire 
can carry a greater load than it could with direct current?" 
Werber asked. 

"Exactly," Tesla answered, his dark eyes shining with excite- 
ment. "It can carry a thousand times the current! That means 
it can carry great currents vast distances without great expense 
— electricity need no longer be limited to local use. It means 
that it can be freed . . ." 

Five hours later Mr. Brown persuaded his attorney to leave 
his week-end guests and come over to the office. A public 
stenographer was prevailed upon to come and take dictation, 
at double-time rates because it was Saturday. By seven o'clock 
that evening contracts had been drawn up and signed. The 
Tesla Electric Company had been formed. On Monday, fifty 
thousand dollars would be deposited in an account set up in the 
name of the new corporation. Tesla was to find a location for a 
laboratory that would meet his own needs and office space and 
demonstration rooms. It was agreed that the first monies taken 
in by the new company would be used to reimburse the two 
investors, and any others they might interest in the venture. 
After this money had been paid back, the investors would get 
50 per cent of the annual profits and Tesla would receive the 

128 



same amount. Mr. McCollum, in return for having brought the 
Tesla project to them, would receive a "finder's fee," which 
meant that he would receive a generous share of the profits 
without having to put up any money. 

When at last the papers were all signed, Mr. Werber stood 
up and stretched. "Do you realize what all this means, A.K.?" 
he asked. "It means we've got hold of the biggest thing since 
the flood." 

Tesla, more than slightly dazed by the whirlwind speed of 
the events of the past few hours, thought to himself: How can 
he — how can anyone know what it means? From ditch digger 
to officer of a corporation in less than twenty-four hours 1 Every- 
thing I've hoped for — my own lab . . . His attention suddenly 
focused on what Mr. Werber was saying. 

" and that's the trouble with the Edison dynamos. With 

direct current you can only service an area of about one square 
mile. The Edison bulbs operate on one hundred and ten volts. 
They build a powerhouse in the area they plan to service. The 
wires carry one hundred and twenty volts to compensate for 
the loss of voltage caused by the resistance in the copper con- 
ductors. So what happens? The people living a block or two 
away from the powerhouse get an excess of voltage, so their 
bulbs burn out quicker than they should. Those living at the 
mile-wide perimeter get only about ninety volts, so they com- 
plain that they don't get enough light to read by. With Tesla's 
setup, on the other hand, cables carrying one hundred thousand 
or a million volts can be led right into a powerhouse, which can 
then service an area covering hundreds of miles instead of one, 
without the loss of a single volt in transmission! I tell you, 
A.K., this man has released the sleeping giant called electricity! 
He's cut the bonds that tied it to the powerhouse. He's set it 
free!" 

The tiger, Tesla thought, the tiger I used to dream of letting 
out of its cage. The tiger that only I could tame. 



N.T.E.O. — E 



129 



The whirlwind continued on its dizzying course. On Mon- 
day morning Tesla found a building large enough to suit his 
needs. It was located on South Fifth Avenue, less than three 
blocks from Edison's headquarters. The Battle of the Titans 
was onl 

Building of the constructs got under way at once. Again, no 
blueprints were needed. Tesla recalled every dimension of each 
part for the complicated machines. It was only a matter of weeks 
before models of dynamos, motors, transformers, regulators, 
and every other unit of the elaborate polyphase alternating- 
current power plant were completed. As fast as they were fin- 
ished, the inventions were registered in the Patent Office. When 
the last one was registered, Tesla applied for a single patent that 
covered the entire operation. The Patent Office wrote stating 
that, whereas each and every one of the inventions was original, 
they could not grant one over-all patent and that they would 
issue the separate patents immediately upon receipt of the ap- 
plications. 

When announcements began to appear in the engineering 
trade journals of twenty-five patents issued in quick succession 
to a man whose name was known to only a few individuals, the 
entire electrical engineering profession was stunned. The sig- 
nificance and the simplicity of Tesla's revolutionary discoveries 
were immediately apparent. These discoveries were epoch-mak- 
ingl They would certainly create tremendous activity — a new 
field, new jobs, new opportunities for every electrical engineer. 

When Tesla received an invitation in May, 1888, to speak 
before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, he knew 
that his gift to the world for the betterment of mankind had 
been recognized. To be able to speak on a subject so dear to 
him seemed to be the opportunity he had waited for all these 
years. It was a chance to tell the whole world of the infinite 
and breath-taking possibilities of the power system that had 
now progressed from a "visualization" in his mind, and his 
mind alone, to a firm and definite reality. 

130 



The speech he wrote was simple and yet majestic. The several 
hundred engineers who packed the auditorium felt themselves 
present at an awe-inspiring moment in the history of the civil- 
ized world. At the conclusion of the lecture there was a long 
moment of complete silence. Then, as one, the entire audience 
rose to its feet to give a standing vote of confidence and pay 
homage to a man deemed by all present to be the outstanding 
inventor in the electrical field. 

And now he, Brown, and Werber were besieged by offers 
of additional financing as well as promotional plans for the 
manufacture of the new machines. Tesla knew that a great 
deal of money was to be made by the manufacture and sale of 
motors and dynamos operating on alternating current. There 
were none on the market and, unless he leased his patents, he 
was the only one permitted to make and sell them. Yet alter- 
nating current, which the engineering world had finally recog- 
nized as more powerful and less expensive than direct current, 
could not be furnished except by means of his patented ma- 
chines. In fairness to Brown and Werber and McCollum, he 
felt that he could not dismiss lightly the money-making oppor- 
tunities thus offered, but he was not interested in the manu- 
facture of machines and tools. He wanted to be free to continue 
his experiments, improve the existing machines, and develop 
new ones. He wanted, also, to devote time to training assistants 
whom he could call upon to help him develop the broadcasting 
system he had visualized while ditch digging. 

He was wrestling with this problem when he received a letter 
from an engineer named George Westinghouse. The letter 
stated that its writer had read about the speech at the Associa- 
tion meeting and had sent for a copy thereof. After reading it 
and studying its contents, the writer requested an interview 
with Mr. Tesla, and would appreciate being given an oppor- 
tunity to study the models and constructs in operation. 

Nikola had heard of George Westinghouse. His company, the 
Westinghouse Electric Company, was the only one that had 

131 



refused to be absorbed by the ever-growing Edison empire, 
which had gobbled up all other competitors, small and large, 
and had merged them into the company now known as the 
Edison General Electric Company. Tesla wrote at once, inviting 
Mr. Westinghouse to visit the laboratory and demonstration 
rooms on South Fifth Avenue at his very earliest convenience. 

Westinghouse, always a man to act quickly, came to New 
York from Pittsburgh a few days later and, without stopping to 
check into a hotel, came directly from the station to the Tesla 
Electric Company building. Never were two men so alike 
mentally and in their ability to see into the vast panorama of 
the future, yet so completely unlike physically. Westinghouse 
was short, stocky, with a graying blonde Vandyke beard and a 
gruff, hearty voice; Tesla was tall, clean-shaven, with his dark 
hair parted in the middle and brushed back from his forehead. 
His voice was seldom raised above a quiet conversational tone. 
Each man took an instant liking to the other. It was a great treat 
for Tesla to be able to show off his machines to someone whose 
mind leaped ahead to their possibilities, without the need for 
laborious and painstaking explanations. 

Westinghouse found complete confirmation of what he had 
expected to find: a scientist of complete integrity whose inven- 
tions would inevitably be worth a fortune. He decided then 
and there that there was no point in stalling for time or fencing 
for terms. 

"I will give you one million dollars for all your alternating- 
current patents, plus royalty," he blurted out. 

A million dollars! Tesla had never dreamed of receiving so 
much money all at one time. A million dollars. He could make 
people rich and still have enough to continue his experiments. 
He was as electrified as if one of his own high-tension wires 
had touched his hand. But not in vain had he learned self- 
discipline, not in vain those hours of chess in which a glint in 
the eye would foretell a move to an alert opponent. 

132 



"If you will make the royalty one dollar per horsepower used, 
I shall accept the offer," he said. 

"A million cash, a dollar a horsepower royalty," Westing- 
house repeated. 

"That is acceptable," Tesla said quietly. 

"Sold," Westinghouse said and stuck out his hand. As Tesla 
grasped it firmly, Westinghouse added, "You will receive a 
check and a contract in a few days." 

The two men walked toward the door together. Westinghouse 
picked up his suitcase. 

"By the way," he asked, turning at the threshold, "just how 
many patents are there?" 

"There are now forty," Tesla replied. 

"I haven't done so badly," Westinghouse said, grinning 
broadly. "That's only twenty-five thousand dollars per patent. 
Not bad. Not bad at all!" 

He waved cheerfully with his free hand and strode out the 
door and down the street. 



Chapter 



15 



Upon receipt of so large a sum of money, it would have been 
understandable if Tesla, now only thirty-three, had relaxed, 
taken a vacation, or become a playboy. None of these things 
happened. He paid five hundred thousand dollars — half the 
total — to Mr. Brown and Mr. Werber, in accordance with their 
agreement, and was pleased by the thought that little Mr. 
McCollum would benefit to a handsome degree. After paying 
this obligation and reimbursing them for all monies that 
they had spent on the building of the constructs, he was left 

133 



with something less than four hundred thousand dollars. No 
mean sum I he thought— particularly when u would be aug- 
mented at the end of a year by the royalty arrangement. 

At last he was in a position to realize his dreams. He sent 
substantial sums to his mother and sisters. The balance he began 
to spend on new and expensive materials required for his 
experimentation on radio and wireless transmission. He en- 
gaged secretaries so that he might get down on paper much 
of the information that he had kept locked in his mental file, 
and he offered prizes and scholarships to promising students at 
M.I.T. and Harvard and Columbia, with the intention of 
obtaining from their number a staff of highly trained, intelli- 
gent assistants. 

He turned down without a second thought offers to lecture to 
university audiences and engineering associations both in 
America and abroad. He had no more desire to become a public 
figure than he had to become a manufacturer or a business 
tycoon. Not that he was unaware of what such recognition and 
worldly success would mean. He was no absent-minded profes- 
sor, living only in some abstract realm of science. On the con- 
trary, he was intoxicated by the idea that so many choices were 
open to him. He felt that he had come a long way toward his 
boyhood goal of disciplining his mind and body to such an ex- 
tent that he could make both do his bidding. With money and 
time it seemed to him that there was nothing to prevent his 
becoming the greatest scientist the world had ever known. 
There were so many things he knew that no one else had ever 
dreamed ofl He wanted to give all these ideas — these unborn 
brain children — to the world as quickly as possible. He was still 
a young man and a lifetime stretched before him — but it was 
only one lifetime, and there was so much to be done. 

There was the microphone and loud-speaker that he had 
worked on as a young man with the telephone company in 
Budapest. He was sure that he could perfect a means of trans- 
mitting messages without wires. He also felt that he could 

134 



develop a means of transmitting pictures, without wires, by 
use of electronic impulses. And then there was the relationship 
of electric current to light waves. He was convinced that waves 
of current could be transformed into waves of light that could 
be used for illumination far more effectively and economically 
than by Edison's incandescent bulb. 

But first of all — before he could settle down to work on any 
of the countless projects he had in mind — he felt obliged to see 
that his alternating-current system was given to the world as 
quickly as possible. Therefore, when George Westinghouse 
asked him to leave his own laboratory and come to the Westing- 
house plant in Pittsburgh to supervise the manufacture of the 
dynamos and transformers and motors needed for the practical 
application and installation of the new system, Tesla felt that 
this was an obligation that took precedence over everything 
else. 

Things did not go well in Pittsburgh. All the models and 
constructs that Tesla had demonstrated to Westinghouse in the 
laboratory had been designed to operate with a current of 60 
cycles. When he arrived at the Westinghouse plant, he dis- 
covered that the engineers in charge of the Tesla motor project 
had decided that a higher frequency of 133 cycles would pro- 
duce a greater efficiency of operation. They were wrong. He had 
spent years experimenting with varying frequencies and knew 
that, while there was a saving in the amount of iron required 
at the higher frequencies, the resultant drop in efficiency ate up 
that saving. On the other hand, he had discovered that at fre- 
quencies below 60 the efficiency increased but the cost of 
materials did too, because a great deal more iron was needed. 

Undoubtedly this difference of opinion could have been 
worked out amicably had it not been for the disparaging and 
somewhat patronizing attitude of the engineers. They antagon- 
ized Tesla by their very obvious belief that, while he was 
undoubtedly a great inventor, he was assured of his money and 
had no reason to consider as seriously as they the need for com- 

135 



mercially profitable manufacture and installation of his equip- 
ment. As weeks passed in futile and ever-more-bitter argument, 
it became evident that no decisions could or would be made 
without causing embarrassment for his friend George Westing- 
house, who was compelled to take sides; and Tesla knew that it 
would be greatly to everyone's disadvantage if he decided 
against his own engineers and foremen, who were going to have 
to do the actual work of making and selling the Tesla motors 
and dynamos. 

Having sized up the situation and found it most unsatis- 
factory, Tesla went to Westinghouse. "I've got to get back to 
my lab," he .said. "I don't think I'm really needed here and I've 
no reliable assistants in New York who can carry on there 
while I'm away." 

Westinghouse looked at him, his piercing blue eyes seeming 
to penetrate Tesla's mild-mannered bluff. 

"I think I need you, Tesla," he answered, his fingers pulling 
at his bushy beard. "Perhaps I shouldn't have asked you to 
come here without salary, Perhaps I " 

"You know it isn't that, Westinghouse," Tesla interrupted. 
"You must know that the most important thing in my life is 
the alternating-current system. I want only to get it in use as 
quickly and as economically as possible. But you have Cronson 
and Krauss and the others. They, too, want the same thing. 
I am not needed " 

It was Westinghouse's turn to interrupt. "I'll give you two 
thousand a month and a third of the net profits if you'll stay 
on and direct the work," he said with characteristic decisiveness. 

"Twenty-four thousand dollars a yearl" Tesla could hardly 
believe his ears. "You can't mean that! You'll get just as much 
of my enthusiasm and my help for nothing. It's unbelievably 
generous " 

"You'll stay?" 

"I-I can't accept the offer. It wouldn't be fair to those who 

136 



have invested in me. It wouldn't be right to keep from the 
world the other things I'm working on. I " 

"What if I were to throw in ... a laboratory of your own?" 

"My own labl It is a fabulous offer, Westinghouse! I cannot 
thank you enough for having made it. It proves that there is at 
least one other person besides myself with complete confidence 
in my ability. But the answer must still be no." 

"For heaven's sake, why?" Westinghouse exclaimed. He arose 
from the desk chair in which he'd been sitting and came around 
to Tesla. "How can you be so sure that " 

Tesla smiled down at him. 

"It wouldn't work. Believe me, it wouldn'tl For one thing, 
there would be friction " 

"Never! I'd see to it " 

"Westinghouse," Tesla interrupted, "when you buy a new 
hat, how do you go about it?" 

"Hat? What's that got to do with " 

"Humor me. This is a demonstration. How do you go 
about buying yourself a new hat?" 

"I go to a hat shop and try on hats until I find one that fits 
and " 

"Exactly! The Thomas A. Edison method! Trial and error. 
Waste of time." 

"Oh, come now," Westinghouse exclaimed impatiently, "And 
just exactly how would the great Nikola Tesla " 

Tesla laughed. "You see? I have already proved half my 
point. You are irritated because you think I am being superior. 
Well, I must always irritate people because I know my way is 
superior! For nearly thirty years I have trained my mind to do 
my bidding. It would be too bad if, by this time, it were not 
superior to those without such training. 

"You want to know how Tesla would buy a hat? I'll tell you. 
There on your desk is a steel tape measure. Without even 
closing my eyes, I visualize it held tightly around my head. In 
my mind I can see the markings on the tape — twenty-two and 

E . 137 



nineteen thirty-seconds inches. That means I could not wear a 
hat that is marked 'seven and a quarter.' I should have to get 
hat size 'seven and five-eights.' And now will you be so kind 
as to check my measurements?" 

"No!" Westinghouse exploded. "I'll not make a fool of my- 
self. You've measured your head size at some other time, al- 
though why you'd want to " 

Tesla threw back his head and laughed. 

"When I was a boy in school," he said when he could speak, 
"my teachers accused me of cheating, just as you have accused 
me now! They believed I memorized the answers in the back 
of the book. I proved my innocence. With your help I'll do it 
again. I've never used a tape-measure. Come, see if I am right." 

Sheepishly Westinghouse took the little steel tape and bent it 
around Tesla's head. "Of course, you're right," he said. "To the 
dot. You give me your word, you've never measured your head 
before or been told the dimensions?" 

"I give you my word." 

Westinghouse mumbled something in his beard. He lit a fat 
cigar and began puffing it vigorously as he paced from one 
side of his office to the other. Tesla watched him, his eyes twin- 
kling quizzically, but he said nothing. After several wall-to-wall 
round trips, Westinghouse looked up at his friend and sud- 
denly his even white teeth showed between his handle-bar 
mustaches and his beard as he grinned boyishly. 

"I get your point," he said. "That gift of yours — or trick or 
whatever it is — can be pretty all-fired annoying! Still I say, it's 
not a good enough reason to justify your refusal to " 

"Your guess is a good one. There are at least two other 
reasons," Tesla admitted. "In the first place, I can no longer 
work happily as part of an organization. My experience with 
the telegraph company in Budapest and later with the Paris 
Edison Company and again in Edison's New York plant have 
all left their mark. I'm afraid I'd soon begin to resent having 

138 



my brains picked by my boss and I'd completely forget that I 
myself was one of the bosses." 

Westinghouse nodded. "I understand that feeling. Had it my- 
self." 

"And the most important reason is that I've planned so full 
a schedule for myself. If I were here, I should feel that it was 
only right that problems of the plant would have first call upon 
my time; but I know that I want to work without interruption. 
You see, I want to try to correlate light waves with electric- 
current waves. I have a feeling that finding the answer will 
mean a great deal to the world — and not only in the field of 
illumination. Then I want to work on the improvement of the 
transmission of sound over wires. When that is accomplished, 
I wish to work on the transmission of sound without wires. 
Then images first with wires, then without. I realize how fan- 
tastic this sounds, but I know that either the very earth carries 
an electric charge or else it is an excellent conductor. In either 
case, it should be possible to use it to transmit sounds and 
images through the electrically charged air we breathe. I must 
learn of these things, Westinghouse. An exciting future lies 
before me. I am impatient to begin." 

"I think I should be, too, if I could see — even dimly and in 
the far-off fuutre — the realization of dreams like yours. I'll be 
sorry to lose you, but . . . best of luck to you." 

"Thanks," Tesla said softly. "If you should need my help on 
anything in connection with the building or operation of the 
dynamos and motors, you have only to telegraph. If necessary, 
I'll be on the next train. Nothing must stop or delay the elec- 
trification of the United States." 

The two scientists shook hands with considerable solemnity. 
Then, once again, Tesla smiled. 

"Let your men go on experimenting with the one hundred 
and thirty-three frequency they're so sure of. And if that doesn't 
work, let them go shopping for other sizes. But I'm willing to 

139 



wager a dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria that, in the end, they'll 
discover that the hat most becoming to the Tesla motor is size 
sixty!" 



Chapter 



16 



There was another reason for Tesla's leaving Pittsburgh — 
a reason he did not disclose to Westinghouse, possibly because 
he was not fully aware of it himself. He liked many things 
about the older man and they might easily have become close 
friends. In spite of the fact that his year of ditch digging had 
shown Tesla the warmth and pleasures that friendship offered, 
he still felt that the distraction would be too great a price to 
pay. Although he was a young man, he had glimpsed an il- 
limitable vision. There was endless work to be done, important 
discoveries to be made, which would benefit mankind and make 
life easier for all those who had to work for a living — and he 
regarded this as an almost sacred duty. Friendships would only 
use up his precious time, the money that he would have spent 
on entertaining could be used for the purchase of new materials 
and the hiring of assistants. 

When, on that early evening in the wooded park in Budapest, 
the vision of the rotating magnetic field had come to him, it 
had brought with it an odd sense of understanding the uni- 
verse. He had viewed the whole cosmos as a symphony of alter- 
nating current, and to Tesla it had seemed that the harmonies 
could be explained if they were considered as being played on a 
scale of electrical vibrations of many octaves. At the lower end 
of the scale was the single note — the 60-cycle-per-second alter- 
nating current. Somewhere in the higher octaves was visible 

140 



light, with its frequency of billions of cycles per second. He 
wanted to explore the region of electrical vibration that lay be- 
tween these two. If the first and most rudimentary of his dis- 
coveries could result in the magnificent polyphase alternating- 
current motor, what might not be awaiting discovery in the 
higher frequencies! He wanted to build a machine that would 
produce electrical vibrations in all frequencies. If he succeeded, 
he would be in a position to study the characteristics of each 
wave-length and make comparative deductions. 

Remembering the treatment that had been accorded him 
by the Paris Edison Company, Tesla was determined that no 
one who worked for him would be exploited. He felt that he 
had no need to pick anyone else's brain. His own had pointed 
the way to more work in the next half-century than could pos- 
sibly be accomplished by anyone with a mind less disciplined 
than his. As a result he did not hire physicists or chemists or 
mathematicians as assistants. He engaged only artisans and 
mechanics who could build or make the machines and instru- 
ments according to the specifications he gave. 

None of these "assistants" knew the nature of the project they 
were working on. They only knew the function of the particu- 
lar part on which they were working. Nor was any one of them 
ever given a blueprint to work from. Tesla supplied the neces- 
sary dimensions and specifications from the prodigious mental 
filing cabinet that he had maintained ever since his boyhood 
days in the library at Gospic. 

He had many reasons to be thankful for that filing cabinet 
at this particular time, for he very soon discovered — as many 
other great scientists were later to discover — that light waves, 
electric current, and energy were all closely interrelated. Thus, 
while he was working on the production of a heatless light, he 
might easily come upon a scientific truth pertaining to the 
transmission of sound. He never permitted this unexpected 
finding to distract him from the experiment on which he was 
concentrating. On the other hand, he did not want to lose or 

141 



forget the irrelevant information. So he "filed" it in his mind 
and could draw upon it whenever he got around to working on 
the experiment to which that particular information pertained. 

Neither the scientists of his own era nor those who succeeded 
him have been able to give an explanation for the amazing 
rapidity with which Nikola worked. Nor have they been able 
to explain how one man could have so many inventions credited 
to him. He was able to work on four or five inventions simul- 
taneously, even though they might concern fields that were 
seemingly wholly unrelated. 

One of the many projects that interested Tesla at this time 
was the production of light by a simpler, less wasteful and 
expensive method than incandescence. In order to test his 
theory he built rotary alternating-current dynamos with as 
many as three hundred eighty-four magnetic poles. With these 
he was able to generate currents up to 10,000 cycles per secondl 
Although he had engaged upon this venture with the idea of 
approximating more closely the frequency of light waves, he 
discovered incidentally that these high-frequency currents pro- 
duced even more efficient power transmission than his own very 
successful 60-cycle polyphase system. He therefore worked on 
the two parallel experiments simultaneously, both requiring a 
device that would raise and lower the voltage of the currents 
used. 

The high-frequency current transformers that Nikola de- 
signed and had his workers execute in his laboratory proved 
to be spectacularly successful. They contained no iron. They 
were air-core transformers and consisted of primary and sec- 
ondary coils. With these "Tesla coils" he found it possible to 
produce waves by the spark discharge of an induction coil and 
absorb them back from space and change them to a small spark 
at some distance from the coils. Within a matter of weeks, with 
the increased voltages he could now obtain, he could produce 
flaming discharges that leaped across the width of the labora- 
tory. 

142 



Working as he was with such tremendously high voltages, 
it was inevitable that he should encounter difficulty in insulat- 
ing his apparatus. He decided that if the apparatus itself were 
to be immersed in oil and all air kept from the coils, the entire 
machine would be heat- and fire-resistant. This minor experi- 
ment, engaged in only because he did not want to be delayed 
in his major experiment, resulted in the method of insulation 
that was adopted by scientists and electricians everywhere. Tesla 
never thought of patenting it, nor did he ever derive any in- 
come from it though it proved to be of tremendous commercial 
value. 

For the first time in his life, Tesla was free to work as he had 
for so long imagined himself working. Freed from financial 
worries and from all distracting personality differences, bis 
mind worked as smoothly and quickly as any of the pieces of 
apparatus in his laboratory. Without friction-loss his ideas 
were released in a constant, uninterrupted flow. The results 
were almost beyond belief. There was no such thing as the 
impossible. What seemed impossible became a challenge to be 
tackled at once. 

When, for instance, he realized that there was a limit above 
which the use of rotary generators of high-frequency currents 
was not practicable, he determined to develop a different type 
of generator. In rotary dynamos, current is generated by mov- 
ing a wire in a circle past a number of magnetic poles in suc- 
cession. Tesla decided to try moving the wire back and forth 
with an oscillating motion in front of a single magnetic pole. 
No one had ever succeeded in producing a practical, workable, 
reciprocating dynamo. A number of engineers who had tried 
declared that it was impossible. That was the only challenge 
Tesla required. He got to work on it at once. He built a six- 
cylinder engine without valves that could be operated by com- 
pressed air or steam. It was supplied .with ports — like a two- 
cycle marine engine. A rod extended from the piston through 
the cylinder head at; either end and at each end of the rods was 

143 



attached a flat coil of wire, which was caused to move back and 
forth through the field of an electromagnet by the reciprocating 
action of the piston. The magnetic field, because of its cushion- 
ing effect, served as a flywheel. 

Tesla obtained a speed of twenty thousand oscillations per 
minute with this device but — far more important — a degree 
of steadiness and constancy of operation that had never before 
been achieved. So amazingly constant was the operation of this 
"impossible" motor that Tesla suggested to his assistants and 
workers that it could well be made to serve as a time-keeper. 
He pointed out that by using synchronized motors, geared down 
to the proper extent, accurate time could be recorded wherever 
alternating current was in use. 

This suggestion undoubtedly reached at least one pair of 
alert ears, for it proved to be the foundation on which rests 
the production of electric clocks. Tesla, however, having satis- 
fied himself by achieving the "impossible," had no further 
interest in it and, of course, made no attempt to patent the 
principles evolved. Feeling that he had wasted precious time, 
he told himself that in the future he must discipline himself 
more sternly; he must learn to resist the temptation to rise to 
every challenge. There was not enough time to play games. 
Impatient with himself, he returned eagerly to his experiments, 
attempting to produce higher and ever higher voltages. He 
would permit nothing to interrupt him, he said. He worked 
with a sort of desperate intensity, allowing a scant two hours 
nightly for sleep. 

But his work along these pioneering lines was destined to be 
interrupted. Around the corner, less than two blocks away 
from his laboratory, in the offices of the Edison General Electric 
Company, concern was rapidly building into consternation, 
for Westinghouse announced that, with the castings for the 
new dynamos now completed, his company was prepared to 
deliver alternating current to cities and towns throughout the 

144 



United States. The financiers who had invested heavily in Edi- 
son's direct-current dynamos and installations realized that 
much of their company's equipment would become obsolete if 
alternating current were to be accorded general acceptance by 
the public. A meeting was called at the Edison office and a 
group of solemn-faced gentlemen gathered around the long 
conference table to discuss possible plans of action. 

Thomas Edison's gaze slowly scanned the faces of his board 
of directors. He brushed aside the unruly lock of hair that so 
often fell across his forehead, and grinned. 

"There's one thing we can do, gentlemen," he said. "It may 
sound a little melodramatic, but I think it'd work. If we're 
agreed that desperate measures are necessary " 

He looked from one to another questioningly. 

Everyone nodded. 

Tesla stood beside his table-desk in the office adjoining his 
laboratory, his long, tapering fingers drumming nervously on 
the worn surface of the desk. The bluish light cast by the ex- 
perimental fluorescent tubing that illuminated the office 
deepened the shadows under his eyes and made his long, sharp 
nose seem even longer and more pointed. His penetrating, 
black eyes gazed unseeing into space. There was something 
wrong about the letter he had just received. Some sixth sense 
warned him that there was something wrong, but his other five 
senses could not tell him what it was. He glanced once more 
at the letter. 

Dear Tesla: 

I'm writing to let you know that we have won a great 
victory. The Edison General Electric Company has capitu- 
lated I Received a letter from them about two weeks back 
asking if I'd consider allowing them to install alternating 
current Tesla equipment and if so on what terms. I was 
suspicious at first and replied cautiously that I might be 
interested if the terms were right. They came back with an 
unusually generous offer of cash payment plus royalty on 

145 



every installation job. They explained that they had an 
opportunity of obtaining a big contract somewhere in up- 
state New York and that's why they had made so large an 
offer. I've accepted. This means that you'll make millions 
on your royalty basis! You'll have enough money to found 
a Chair of Electrical Engineering at some university. You'll 
be able to do all the things you've always wanted to do. 
And, of course, the Westinghouse Company won't fare too 
badly either. I must confess I'm just as surprised as I know 
you must be. I've always supposed Tom Edison was a stub- 
born man — a determined opponent. I never thought 

Tesla allowed the letter from George Westinghouse to drop 
onto the desk top. There was something strange about it. He 
didn't like it. The situation couldn't be what it seemed to be. 
He tried to put aside his uneasiness. He went out into the 
laboratory and watched his assistants at work, but for once he 
found it difficult to concentrate. He realized that one of the 
experiments had reached a critical point. A copper wire of 
greater tensile strength was being run through the tube con- 
taining mercury. If this wire proved more effective than steel 
wire, the whole future of fluorescent lighting might be affected, 
but he could not focus his attention. 

It was not until much later, when he headed toward Old 
Tom's Steak House on Cedar Street for a quick dinner before 
returning to the lab, that he learned the answer to the question 
that had been puzzling him. 

"How about buyin' me last paper, sir, an' lettin' me go 
home?" 

Tesla looked down at the ragged urchin who had accosted 
him. He rarely bought or read a newspaper, but the little boy 
seemed so hollow-cheeked and hungry and still so cheerful that 
he reached in his pocket and drew forth a two-cent piece. 

"Good appetite," he said, handing the boy the coin. 

It didn't occur to Tesla to throw the paper away unread. 
As he waited for his steak, he opened it and glanced idly at 

146 



the first page. Suddenly he sat up straight and stared at the 
headline that seemed to shriek at him: 

SING SING PRISON TO INSTALL ELECTRIC CHAIR FOR DEATH PENALTY! 

Tesla Alternating Current to Be Used as More Lethal than 

Direct Current 
Edison General Electric Company to Make Installation 

There it wasl There was the answer to his question, the proof 
that his fears had been justified! "An installation job in upstate 
New York," Westinghouse had written! The first Tesla installa- 
tion would be used to kill. 

Forgetting about his steak, Tesla at once left the tavern, 
almost in a daze. He realized immediately how disastrous this 
announcement would be to Westinghouse and to the world. 
If Edison could create the impression in the public mind that 
alternating current, because of the higher voltages obtainable 
with it, was unsafe for family use, Westinghouse's money and 
all their plans for supplying electric light at low cost to the 
farthest and most isolated part of the United States would go 
down the drain. He must stop work on everything else. He 
would have to do something — something dramatic that would 
demonstrate to the world that alternating current was just as 
safe as direct. Without realizing it, he headed back toward 
his laboratory. 

The telephone was ringing shrilly, insistently as he inserted 
his key in the lock of his private office. He smiled grimly. That 
would be Westinghouse, he thought. He, too, had seen the 
papers. 

"We've been had, Tesla," George Westinghouse shouted as 
soon as Tesla picked up the receiver. "It's my fault. I've let 
us down. It means ruin unless " 

"I agree," the scientist answered quietly. "It spells ruin 
unless we can do something spectacular. And I have an idea. 
I'll work out a series of demonstrations showing the harmless- 

147 



ness of our current. If need be, I'll even pass it through my own 
body." 

"You'll kill yourself, manl" Westinghouse exclaimed. "What 
possible good would that do?" 

Tesla laughed. "You sound as if you agreed with Edison. 
Leave this to me. I've been turning down offers to lecture. Now 
I'll accept them. I'll give demonstrations in theaters, in con- 
cert halls. I'll speak before the American Engineering Society. 
I'll impress on the public mind that alternating current is safe." 

"If you can really work up a convincing program, Tesla, I'll 
try for an exhibit at the World's Fair in Chicago this spring. 
Can you be ready by then?" 

"Yes, I'll be ready." 

"I'll make a bid to supply the Fair with current. I'll under- 
bid everyone, even if we lose on the deal. Go to it, Tesla. We'll 
lick 'em yet!" 

Tesla went to work on the problem at once. Tackling a new 
problem, however, did not require any elaborate preparations. 
He removed neither elegant frock coat nor gaily flowered vest. 
He donned no celluloid cuffs. He simply stood, with his hand 
still resting on the cradled telephone receiver, and gazed 
fixedly at the opposite wall. He remained that way for quite 
some time as he mentally reviewed facts and data that he had 
stored away for possible future use. Gradually he began to 
visualize the kind of apparatus he would require for the demon- 
stration he had in mind. 

He was well aware that even the 110- volt home-lighting cir- 
cuit could produce a painful shock if it passed through the 
body. He also knew — as everyone knew but had not recog- 
nized as important — that light waves striking the body were 
scarcely noticeable. The electric current used in his alternating 
current motor oscillated at the rate of 60 cycles per second 
and light waves at billions per second. He concluded that some- 
where in between these two extremes there must be a point at 

148 



which electric current could pass through the human body 
without causing pain or the destruction of tissues. 

He must find that point, and not by experiment, for a wrong 
guess could prove fatal. The answer would have to come by 
drawing on the knowledge filed in the pigeon holes of his mind. 

There were two things to consider: the destruction of tissues, 
caused by the heating effect resulting from the increase of 
amperage, and the pain, which he knew was created by the 
number of alternations of the current — each alternation pro- 
ducing a single stimulus which was transmitted by the nerves 
to the brain as pain. 

Still in deep thought, he crossed over to his desk and sat 
down. Part of the answer lay in the nerves of the human body. 
He probed into the depths of his mind in an effort to recall 
what he knew about them. Then he remembered. Nerves re- 
sponded to stimuli up to a rate of 700 per second, but could not 
transmit impulses received any faster than that. In this, he 
realized, they were similar to the human ear, which cannot 
hear vibrations above a frequency of 15,000 per second, and the 
eye, which cannot see vibrations of light of a frequency higher 
than that of violet light. His high-frequency alternating-cur- 
rent dynamos had produced frequencies up to 20,000 cycles 
per second. He was beginning to see what must be done. The 
visualization was becoming clearer with each moment that he 
sat motionless at his desk. 

At 20,000 cycles per second the nerves would not register 
pain, but the amperage, which carried the tissue-destroying 
power, would be too high. Tissues would be burned away, even 
though no pain was felt. 

But if he passed these currents through his newly invented 
air-core transformers, he could increase the voltage, at the same 
time reducing the amperage proportionately. He would thus 
have a current with a frequency too high to be felt, yet with 
an amperage so low that it would inflict no damage. He had 
worked it outl He could visualize every detail of the hook-up. 

149 



It would take only a matter of days to assemble and combine 
the necessary elements needed for a demonstration. But still 
he did not move. Another and even more exciting thought had 
struck him. If he could vary the current density, as he now 
knew he could, wouldn't it be possible to pass a current 
through the body without pain — but with sufficient amperage 
to furnish internal heat without damage to the tissues? He 
almost shouted aloud as the tremendous value of the idea grew 
upon him. Neuralgia, bone diseases, perhaps even cancer, 
could be treated if reached by a heat far more penetrating than 
any that had to be applied externally! He laughed aloud. 

What had begun as a publicity stunt resulted in a benefit to 
mankind. And what better refutation of Edison's claim that 
alternating current was only suitable for killing in the electric 
chair than to show that it could be used for healing and al- 
leviating human pain? 

He stood up at last. There was much to be done, and first 
things must be done first. He would have to put out of his 
mind for the moment the working out of "diathermy" treat- 
ments. That could come later and he could present it to the 
medical profession as a gift to humanity. But now he had to 
attend to more pressing matters. He pulled the string that 
turned out the tube lights and, with a springy step, still smiling, 
walked down the long hall to his laboratory. 



Chapter 



17 



The Chicago World's Fair of 1893 was the first such event to 
be illuminated by electricity. It was called the Columbian Ex- 
position in honor of Columbus on the four hundredth anni- 

150 



versary of his discovery of America. Actually, it proved to be 
a greater tribute to Nikola Teslal Not only were the Fair 
Grounds themselves brilliantly lighted, but all of the elaborate 
and painstakingly created exhibits also were supplied with cur- 
rent by the Westinghouse Company's Tesla motors and dyna- 
mos, using only alternating current. The Edison Company was 
not represented and direct-current appliances were nowhere in 
evidence. 

All of this succeeded in attracting the attention of the scien- 
tific world to the great flexibility and variety of uses of alter- 
nating current and the polyphase motors; but what caught the 
excited attention of the general public was Tesla's own personal 
exhibit. Wearing a swallow-tail coat, embroidered vest, gray- 
striped trousers, and a tall silk hat, Tesla seemed like a giant 
ringmaster at a circus as he made his various inventions perform 
for him as if they were trained animals. Since the Fair was 
intended to honor Columbus, Tesla had modernized the feat 
of making an egg stand on end, as Columbus was supposed to 
have done in demonstrating the flatness of the world at the 
two poles. 

On a tall pedestal draped in black velvet lay an egg made of 
steel. At Tesla's command — and the simultaneous but unseen 
pressing of a switch with his toes — the egg stood on one of its 
ends and, after the slightest pause, began to revolve! At first it 
moved slowly but within seconds it was whirling like a mad 
dervish. While his audience gazed at it in fascinated wonder, 
Tesla explained to them the theory of the rotating magnetic 
field that was responsible for his "magic." 

To his own amazement Tesla discovered that, by employing 
what seemed to him childish tricks, he could arouse interest and 
enthusiasm and show the results of his years of experimentation 
in such a way that they became stimulating and vital to many 
who had thought scientific subjects dull and boring — if they 
had ever bothered to think of them at all. 

"Tesla, you're an amazing man," George Westinghouse told 

151 



him after standing at the outer edge of the crowd that had been 
watching the demonstrations in the velour-hung shed that 
housed the exhibit. "Your dignity was offended, your pride 
hurt, because my engineers — all trained men — dared to dis- 
agree with you about the most effective rate of current to 
operate your dynamos. But here you're behaving like a small 
boy charging the neighborhood kids two pins to see a 'magic 
show.' " 

Tesla grinned at him. "It's a good show, isn't it? Worth 
every bit of two pins. Just listen to them!" 

Westinghouse nodded as he listened to the comments of the 
crowd surging out one door while a new audience poured 
through an entrance on the opposite side of the large room. 

"It's like he was some god or something," a man was saying 
to his wife as they filed past Tesla and his stocky, bearded com- 
panion. 

"Thor. God of the lightning," the man's wife answered. 

"Gives you the shivers, don't it?" a young woman said, look- 
ing up at her young man appealingly. "When those tubes of 
light come on and go off " 

"The fluorescent lights are easy to figure out," the young 
man replied with an air of great superiority. "He just presses 
a button with his foot." 

"Well, you're smarter than I am. But I can't help it, I get 
a kinda creepy feeling " 

"It's the wireless that hits me that way. I put the earphones 
on and I could hear what he was whispering into that little 
transmitter in his hand. There were no wires. I looked. Why, 
if people can hear voices without wires, they'll be able to talk 
all over the world. It'll put the telephone out of business. And 
I just bought some stock in Bell Telephone " 

"Did you see him pass that current through his body?" 
another man asked his companion. "I guess the current ain't 
so dangerous after all." 

"Did you hear that?" Westinghouse exclaimed excitedly. "I 

152 



do believe it's going to work, Tesla. Your side-show is actually 
doing the trick. We're going to be all right, Tesla!" 

"Of course we are," was the calm reply. "And now the house 
is full again and I must begin." 

"I've seen it five times and I'm staying for the sixth!" 

Once more Tesla took his place in front of the audience and 
raised his hand for silence. 

"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, "I am about to give you 
a series of demonstrations that will, I hope, make clear to you 
the similarity that exists between light and sound and power. 
All three great forces operate on wave-lengths. By learning the 
relationship between these wave-lengths, we are able to turn 
on a light by electrical power or project sound without wires. 

"As we learn more, I believe that we shall be able to project 
images through the air without wires. The air around us is 
filled with unheard music. We have but to learn the frequency 
of its vibrations in order to be able to hear it. 

"When I was a boy I dreamed of taming a tiger. Electricity 
is — or has been — a caged tiger, dangerous to those who think 
it is a household pet, but tractable and easily and safely handled 
by anyone who treats it with the respect it deserves." 

The lights dimmed and a spotlight focused on the tiny steel 
egg as Tesla explained the existence and nature of the rotating 
magnetic field and how, by means of it, alternating instead of 
direct current could be generated. 

With hardly a pause he blacked out the lights in order to 
demonstrate the varicolored tube lights, then brought them 
up to nearly full lighting as he showed what could be done 
with a single beam of light used as a circuit breaker. When a 
long shaft of brilliant white light hit a marked panel on one 
of the doors in the room, the door swung open! Then he held 
aloft a thick, solidly insulated length of cable through which 
he said would pass 1,000,000 volts of electricity. He connected 
the cable to a small dynamo and threw a switch. A spark, fully 

153 



six feet in length, leaped across the room to a polarized magnet 
on a distant bench. 

"One day," Tesla proclaimed, "man will be able to transmit 
power farther than the greatest lightning flash ever created. We 
shall be able to pierce the clouds and thus create rain. We shall 
be able to control the elements! 

"And now for the climax of this demonstration. You see 
this cable, now attached to the dynamo. I connect it to a 
generator. You will see that, when I close this switch, the cop- 
per plate which I now place on this pedestal will be melted by 
the power of the million volts striking it." 

Suiting the action to his words, he closed a knife switch in a 
wallboard at his side and the metal folded in upon itself as if 
it were candle wax instead of copper. 

"I will remove this melted copper and replace it with an 
identical plate," Tesla said. "And now I will pass these same 
million volts through my own body without pain and without 
damage to a single tissue!" 

A hush fell upon the room as the audience stared in awe at 
what seemed to them to be a moment of life-and-death sus- 
pense. Tesla held the still-connected cable tightly against his 
body. It was still pointed in the direction of the copper plate 
on its pedestal, but now the scientist stood between them. 

"Would one of you be kind enough to come up on the plat- 
form and throw the switch?" he asked his audience. 

No one obliged and, smiling, Tesla nodded to one of his 
assistants, who crossed the platform and stood silently with his 
hand held dramatically above the knife switch. In the tense 
silence Tesla nodded. The hand came down on the switch. 
Tesla took a step as if he had received a small push. The copper 
plate on its pedestal melted into a molten mass. As a gasp went 
up from the crowd, the assistant released the switch. 

"Quite painless and harmless," Tesla said placidly. "Now 
would anyone in the audience care to try it? I assure you " 

154 



"I will." A young man spoke up in a voice that squeaked with 
excitement. 

"Oh Walter, you mustn'tl" The lady with him shrieked. 
"The man is probably wearing some sort of clothes that protect 

him." 

"He wouldn't do it to people if it were dangerous," the volun- 
teer pointed out. 

"Quite true," Tesla answered and the brave young man 
stepped up on the platform and allowed the experiment to be 
repeated. There were cheers from the audience as he stepped 
down from the platform. 

"Now you can tell your friends that a million volts of alter- 
nating-current electricity have passed through your body with- 
out causing the slightest pain." 

"And don't think I won't," the young man answered with 
a grin. "Everybody I know back home is going to hear about 
this!" 

Tesla glanced at Westinghouse, who was mopping his per- 
spiring forehead, and the two friends exchanged a satisfied 
smile. This kind of demonstration would do wonders in over- 
coming the prejudice their rivals had created. 

A few days later Tesla read in one of the daily newspapers 
of a contest that had just been thrown open to the public. A 
company calling itself the Cataract Construction Company an- 
nounced that it was offering a three-thousand-dollar prize for 
the best and most practical plan for harnessing Niagara Falls. 
Tesla sought out Westinghouse at once. He was as excited as 
a little boy who had just seen an announcement of a contest in 
which the prize was a Shetland pony. 

"Look at this," he said, thrusting the newspaper at Westing- 
house. "Let's submit a plan, shall we?" 

"I don't like the looks of this, Tesla," Westinghouse objected, 
handing back the paper. "Looks to me as if somebody's trying 
to get about a hundred thousand dollars' worth of information 
for three thousand dollars. Forget it." 

155 



"I want to enter it, Westinghouse. You know, I once told 
my father I'd harness Niagara, and here is a chance to make 
good my boast. I can do it too. The total energy supply of the 
Falls is estimated at somewhere between four million and nine 
million horsepower. Think of it! No water wheel can possibly 
handle it. I've always known that. But water wheels can drive a 
dynamo and the dynamo can generate the electricity. But only 
the Tesla system can handle that big a load. You own it now. 
I can't do it without your permission. Will you let me try it, 
Westinghouse?" 

An amused smile quirked the corners of George Westing- 
house's lips. "Tell you what we'll do, Tesla. We'll wait this 
one out. No reputable electrical concern is going to compete 
in this ridiculous contest. I'll bet you any sum you name that 
no acceptable plans will be submitted. We'll wait till the con- 
test fizzles out and then we'll submit a plan with a bid for the 
contract." 

"But the article in the paper . . ." Tesla sputtered. "It says 
there that the judges of the contest offer as a hint to contestants 
that they prefer direct current to alternating. What if Edison 
General Electric " 

"They won't if we don't. Play poker, Tesla. Bluff out your 
hand. I have an idea you're not too bad at that. Remember 
that dollar-per-horsepower deal you bluffed me into?" He 
looked like a mischievous boy as he gave Tesla a friendly jab 
in the ribs. 

Time proved that Westinghouse was right. The plans sub- 
mitted in the contest proved valueless, and a year later bids 
for the project were requested from the two major companies. 
And at this time Tesla enjoyed a great personal triumph when 
his rival was forced to concede that direct current could not 
handle such a tremendous load of electricity. Before submitting 
an estimate, Edison leased from Westinghouse the right to use 
the Tesla polyphase alternating-current system. Thus both 

156 



competitors presented plans in which only Tesla equipment 
would be used. 

The satisfaction Nikola Tesla derived from the victory over 
Edison was distinctly human and understandable, but actually 
it proved to be the first chink in his superman's armor. If he 
could derive pleasure from Edison's having to "eat crow," he 
could be hurt by the opinion and actions of others. He was no 
longer the absolute scientist, living in an isolated world of 
creation and invention. Thus in his moment of greatest tri- 
umph, he allowed himself to become vulnerable, opening the 
door to the possibility of defeat. 

The contracts for the Niagara project were assigned to both 
companies. Westinghouse Electric contracted to build the 
powerhouse at Niagara Falls; Edison General Electric was 
selected to transmit the power generated. In the year 1895 
Westinghouse finished construction of the powerhouse and it 
stood, almost out of sight below the Falls, as the greatest en- 
gineering feat accomplished anywhere in the world up to that 
time. A year later Edison's company completed the transmission 
system. For the first time power was transmitted twenty-two 
miles, from Niagara Falls to Buffalo. 

When both public and engineers were given positive proof 
of the feasibility of the Tesla power system, Westinghouse was 
authorized to build seven additional generating units at the 
Falls which were so powerful that the 50,000 horsepower they 
developed was sufficient to furnish light and power to New 
York City. 

Immediately similar power stations were ordered for New 
York itself to operate its elevated railway and subways systems. 
Within a year cities all over the United States were authorizing 
the building of powerhouses for Tesla equipment. Alternating 
current was at last accepted as more economical and more 
flexible in its varied uses than direct, particularly since alter- 
nating could be transformed into direct current, whereas the 
reverse was hot true. 

157 



Engineers everywhere hailed Tesla's power system as "the 
most tremendous event in all engineering history." "Tesla," 
they agreed, "has contributed more to electrical science than 
any man up to this time!" 

During the year 1891, Tesla had often thought about his 
father and wished he were alive to witness the fulfillment of his 
son's promise to harness Niagara. Thinking of his father made 
him homesick. He wanted to return to Gospic, to see his mother 
and Marica. He decided to accept the invitations he had pre- 
viously rejected to lecture abroad. 

With customary thoroughness he prepared a different lecture 
for each engagement, each with its complete set of demon- 
strations to be performed on the lecture platform. His first 
London lecture before the Institution of Electrical Engineers 
on February 3, 1892, took the English press as well as the Eng- 
lish scientists by storm. He was scheduled to lecture first in 
Paris, then in Budapest, after which he would take a short vaca- 
tion, either at Gospic or Smiljan, wherever his mother pre- 
ferred to be. But in Paris something occurred which changed 
his plans. 

In the midst of a demonstration he happened to glance down 
toward the front row of spectators and noticed that one of the 
seats was empty. He did not think it had been empty when the 
lecture had begun. 

Someone must have become ill suddenly, he thought, and 
continued with the demonstration of the transmission of power 
by wireless electricity. But an odd feeling — possibly a subcon- 
scious reminder of a previous experience — caused him to glance 
again at that empty seat. His mother was sitting in it! He 
stared in amazement. Of course it could have been possible 
that his mother had come to Paris to surprise him, but he did 
not think it likely. He turned away, forcing himself to continue 
with the demonstration. When he looked again, the seat was 
empty. 

158 



Under a great strain of impatience and anxiety he conscien- 
tiously fulfilled his obligation to his audience by completing 
the lecture, but he did not wait to receive the praise and adula- 
tion of the scientists who crowded the passageway that led back- 
stage. He escaped through the stage door and rushed to his 
hotel where he was handed a telegram from Marica saying that 
his mother was gravely ill in Gospic. 

Trains now went directly to Gospic from Paris, and he 
caught the next one. When he arrived at his sister's home, he 
was admitted by a weeping Marica. The doctors had given up 
hope hours before. 

"She — she's just waiting for you," his sister sobbed. 

When he went into his mother's bedroom she sat up in bed 
and held out her arms to him, smiling radiantly. "What kept 
you so long?" she asked teasingly. 

He laughed and held her close to him, thinking, surely the 
doctors must be wrong. She's so alive — so vibrant! 

"Now don't tell me you didn't get my message. It worked 
when I sent for you at Prague. I know it worked this time too." 

"It worked," he assured her. "I'm beginning to believe that 
we may someday learn to transmit thoughts without words, 
without wires. One person is the transmitter, the other the re- 
ceiver. If they are attuned — on the same wave-length-i — " 

She placed two fingers gently on his lips. "That is no big 
discovery," she said, smiling in much the same way she had 
smiled when he showed her his sixteen-bug-power motor. 
"Everyone knows that! Tell me, are you getting enough to eat?" 

"Plenty, Mother." 

"You don't look it. Are you all right?" 

"I'm fine." 

"You know, I'm going to see your father soon . . ." Her face 
lit up with a smile of such radiance that he would not for one 
moment have considered contradicting her by saying that he 
did not share her belief. 

"Tell him I harnessed Niagara," Tesla said gently. ' 

159 



"Oh Nikki, he'll be so proud!" Mrs. Tesla exclaimed happily. 
"What else shall I tell him? Are you making a lot of money?" 

Tesla smiled. "I thought you'd ask that, so I figured it out on 
the train coming down. I think, according to my agreement 
with my friend Mr. Westinghouse, I think I have twelve million 
dollars due me in royalties." 

Mrs. Tesla was still smiling. "That's good," she said as if 
he had just told her he'd passed his Latin exam at school. 
"Your father will be pleased, I know. Nikki, are you sure 
you're getting enough to eat?" 



Chapter 



18 



George Westinghouse dreaded Tesla's return from abroad. 
He was in serious trouble. Business had been too good! Follow- 
ing the triumph of the Niagara Falls installation, orders and 
contracts poured in from every part of the United States and 
Canada. The individual units in the Tesla power system cost a 
great deal of money to make, and the company had to cover the 
cost of building and delivering them before the customers paid 
for them. Expansion had been too rapid and Westinghouse 
needed money. 

He went to financiers and banks and was told that before 
anyone would either invest or lend him money, he would have 
to reorganize and cut down on expenses. In every instance the 
first criticism was that he was paying Tesla far too much in 
royalties. No one would lend him a penny unless he could 
eliminate this tremendous item — which promised to amount to 
about twelve million dollars. He faced the choice of losing 

160 



everything and going into bankruptcy or trying to persuade 
Tesla to accept a small amount in full settlement of all claims 
on the Westinghouse Electric Company. 

The terms he had offered Tesla had been made in good faith. 
He was humiliated by the thought of having to welch on a 
bargain, but his potential backers were adamant. Not one to 
put off an unpleasant task, he called on Tesla the very day the 
boat docked. Bluntly, without any plea for pity, with no appeal 
made in the name of their close comradeship, Westinghouse 
stated the situation. 

The news came as a great blow to Tesla, who had counted 
on those royalties coming in for years. He had made commit- 
ments based on what he had considered sure income. Machines 
had been ordered, scholarships assigned. He had plans for the 
demonstration of the radio instruments, the building of a large 
radio transmitting station as well as a receiving station in a 
distant city; these had already used up most of his reserve and 
would require a large income for completion. He knew that 
without question he would be in trouble. He knew, too, that 
this time he could not go back to digging ditches. He would 
have to maintain all the outward signs of success if he were to 
be able to obtain financial backing elsewhere. 

All of these thoughts flashed through his mind as he stood 
staring in shocked surprise at George Westinghouse. 

"Don't stand there looking like that!" Westinghouse ex- 
claimed almost angrily. "I wouldn't blame you if you cursed 
and swore, or if you took a poke at me. But don't stand there 
reminding me of all the things we hoped to do together." 

"Did you bring your copy of the contract with you?" Tesla 
asked. 

"Yes, it's right here. But it's not a question of trying to find 
a loophole; there isn't any. I made it ironclad. You're fully 
protected." 

Instead of answering, Tesla turned and, crossing to his office 

M.T.M.— f 161 



safe, withdrew his copy of the contract from a large Manila 
envelope. 

"You were the only man with the imagination to see the 
possibilities in the alternating-current system. You were the 
only one who wanted to give it to' the world. Please hand me 
your copy." 

Tesla held out his hand and Westinghouse gave it to him. 
Placing them together, he tore both into little pieces. "You are 
the only man who should give the Tesla system to the world. 
Now you can do it," he said. 

Westinghouse stepped toward him and gripped his two arms. 
"Tesla," he said in a choked voice, "I can't say " 

Tesla smiled down at him. "My mother died while I was 
abroad," he said with apparent irrelevance. 

"Oh, I didn't know. I'm sorry." 

"Just before she died, she said something which made me 
realize that she had no idea of the meaning of twelve million 
dollars. On the way home on the ship I came to the conclusion 
that I didn't either. I can visualize twelve million horsepower 
or twelve million volts — but twelve million dollars meant 
nothing to me. So you see, you've deprived me of nothing." 

"Tesla . . ." Westinghouse began, then shook his head. "It's 
no use," he said, "I can't find words to tell you — Will you be all 
right?" 

"All right? Of course. Are you forgetting that you made me a 
millionaire? I've got this plant. I've got all my models, the 
constructs for my wireless stations; I've got a model for a new 
oscillator that will literally shake the world — all these are paid 
for. What more do I need?" 

Exactly two weeks later his laboratory on South Fifth Avenue 
caught fire during the night. The floor, with its heavy burden 
of machines and demonstrators, fell into the basement below, 
destroying every single unit. The building was completely 
gutted. Every one of Tesla's plans and models went up in the 
smoke of that disastrous fire. 

162 



Scientists everywhere, admirers — even his enemies and those 
who had opposed or belittled his work — would have under- 
stood and sympathized, had he succumbed to despair. Any man 
would be forgiven for becoming bitter or abandoning all further 
work in his chosen field after two such crushing blows. There 
were many Who, to show their appreciation of Nikola Tesla's 
great contributions to science and the advancement of knowl- 
edge, would have been glad to give him enough money so that 
he might live for years in comfortable idleness. They did not 
know Teslal 

It was as if Fate had slapped him twice across the face in a 
challenge to a duel. He could almost hear sardonic laughter 
and a voice that cried, "So, you thought you were a superman, 
did you? Well, take that and thatl Perhaps that will teach you!" 

Instead of being cowed, Tesla smiled as he listened to that 
imaginary voice and spoke aloud in answer: "I have done things 
that no man before me even dreamed were possible. My work 
has only just begun. I am a superman. I am Nikola Tesla." 

He sincerely believed that he had brought disaster upon 
himself. He had allowed himself to stray from the path he had 
set himself as a boy. He had listened to and enjoyed the 
meaningless praise of his inferiors. He had allowed his emotions 
to guide his actions. He had valued the friendship of McCollum 
and Westinghouse. He had allowed himself to be angered by 
Edison. These were small human emotions, he believed — 
unworthy of a scientist seeking Absolute Truth. Good or bad, 
friend or enemy, he should have seen them for what they were. 
They, like the fire that destroyed his plant, were merely 
triggers — like the trigger of his crossbow. 

Accepting this new challenge, Tesla began all over again. 
He readily obtained forty thousand dollars from Mr. Edward 
Dean Adams, the man who had been in charge of the Niagara 
project, rented a building at 46 East Houston Street, and 
plunged into work with more vigor than ever. 

He began to experiment with the transmission of power 

163 



through the earth. His work with high frequencies and vibra- 
tions had led him to the exciting conclusion that the earth 
might be electrically charged and, if it were not, that it could 
at least act as a conductor of mechanical power. As his first 
step in the exploration of this theory, he built a giant oscillator. 
In most motors and dynamos the ideal accomplishment is the 
complete elimination of vibration. An oscillator is exactly the 
opposite of the dynamo in this respect. The pistons and other 
moving parts are so timed as to create the maximum of 
vibration. 

Tesla had a special iron cast made to house his new giant. 
When it was completed he attached it to a rigid steel post, which 
he drove eight feet into the earth below the floor of his new 
laboratory. When it was in place, he connected it to a motor. 
As he paused, his hand on the knife switch that would set the 
apparatus in motion, he realized that, if his theory proved 
sound, vibrations would be felt for a radius of several blocks. 

Within minutes the local firehouse, the telephone exchange, 
the police station were besieged by frantic telephone calls. 
Store windows were crashing to the pavement; flower pots were 
falling off window sills; chandeliers were swinging back and 
forth. Was there an earthquake? 

It was a harassed police captain who suddenly recalled things 
he had heard about strange goings-on at a laboratory on Houston 
Street. He pounded his desk vociferously. 

"I'll bet it's that blankety-blank so-and-so Tesla!" he shouted. 
"Lieutenant, take three men and stop him from doing whatever 
it is he's doing. Arrest him if necessary. Handcuff him. Put 
him in a strait jacket, if need be — but stop him I" 

Meanwhile Tesla was having his own troubles. Things had 
gone wrong. Whether due to faulty insulation or some other 
cause, the knife switch had "frozen." The metal of the switch 
had melted into the receiving arms, and the power could not 
be shut off. Tesla, aware that the great oscillator might easily 
cause the building to cave in, ran to an adjacent blacksmith 

164 



shop and borrowed an eleven-pound sledge. Rushing back to 
the laboratory, he used the muscles that had become trained 
in his year of ditch digging to send a volley of crashing blows 
against the thick iron housing of the machine. So loud was the 
clang of metal on metal that he did not hear the police as they 
came bursting through the open doorway. They paused on the 
threshold in amazement as the tall scientist swung his heavy 
hammer like a madman. The casing finally broke under his 
blows. They watched as he sent a last blow into the armature 
and the machine came to a halt. It was then that he looked up 
and saw them. Wiping the perspiration from his forehead, he 
waited to catch his breath before he spoke. Then he bowed 
courteously to his uninvited guests. 

"Gentlemen," he said, smiling regretfully, "I'm so sorry 
that you have arrived too late to witness my completely success- 
ful experiment." 

What the astounded policemen replied is not a matter of 
record. 

It is not surprising that his neighbors on Houston Street, 
as well as the Police Department, were considerably relieved 
when Tesla succeeded in convincing the great financier J. P. 
Morgan that his experiments required the great open spaces 
of Colorado. 

With Morgan's money Tesla built a large, bare, barnlike 
building, seventy-five feet long, almost as wide, and some 
thirty feet in height, with a partially retractable roof. Through 
the opening in the roof projected a tower more than eighty 
feet high. He planned to use this tower for the projection of 
electric current through the air. 

The months of travel and preparation seemed endless to 
Tesla who, in much the same way that he had envisioned the 
rotating magnetic field driving an armature that would produce 
alternating current, "visualized" an entirely new concept of 
electric transmission. He held the conviction that the earth 

165 



contained electricity — that it was, in fact, highly and perma- 
nently charged. If this were true, it would be possible to send 
electric power into the earth and pull it out at some distant 
point. It would revolutionize the transmission of messages. It 
would make possible the transmission of not only sounds but, 
by increasing the frequency of the electric waves, even the 
human voice — possibly even images! 

In his own mind Tesla likened the earth to a bathtub filled 
with water. If a plunger were moved up and down in a tub, 
waves would emanate from the plunger toward both ends of the 
tub, then they would be pushed back toward the center. When 
they met, they would again be sent back toward the ends and 
this would be repeated as long as the plunger was moved up 
and down. The longer the process continued, the larger grew 
the waves until they swept over both ends of the tub. 

Tesla believed that if he could pump enough electricity into 
the earth, the waves would speed to the opposite magnetic pole, 
become remagnetized, and return toward the node, or pole, 
from which they had emanated. Like the waves in the bathtub, 
they would collide with the onrushing currents being generated 
continuously, and this collision would produce such vast power 
that it would be possible to transmit the human voice on it to 
all parts of the world without wires — by the simple device of 
making a connection with the earth, thus completing the cir- 
cuit by "grounding." 

In creating his pump, or "plunger," in the Colorado labora- 
tory, Tesla installed giant coils with banks of condensers and a 
huge mast that projected through the opening in the roof. At 
the top of the mast was a copper ball three feet in circumfer- 
ence, its base in the center of a cagelike secondary coil. If 
Tesla's theory was correct, he hoped to be able to generate 
greater electrical power than had ever been dreamed of — a 
hundred thousand times greater than even he had been able to 
generate in his previous experiments with tuned motors and 
high-frequency wave-lengths. 

166 



On the third of July, 1899 — a day which Tesla later claimed 
was even more important to humanity than the one thirty 
years before, when he solved the problem of alternating-current 
motors and dynamos — the equipment was installed. Conditions 
were propitious. The air was clear and cold. Tesla asked his 
oldest assistant, Kolman Czito, who had worked for him in the 
Houston Street laboratory, if he would like to handle the 
switchboard through which the current from the powerhouse 
in Colorado Springs was brought into the building. Czito was 
honored. Both men dressed for the occasion, Czito wearing 
asbestos-lined rubber gloves and rubber-soled shoes, Tesla 
donning a frock coat and derby hat. After a careful check of all 
the apparatus to make certain that it was capable of carrying a 
tremendous load of current — Tesla wanted no repetition of the 
Houston Street experience — he gave final instructions to Czito. 

"When I say 'Now!' you will close the switch. You will hold 
it closed for exactly one second ... no longer. You will then 
open it." 

Czito nodded, struck dumb with excitement, as Tesla took 
up a position that enabled him to see the copper ball at the 
top of the mast. 

On signal, Czito jammed home the knife switch and pulled 
it out again immediately. In that instant of contact the entire 
secondary coil was framed with tiny, hairlike flames. Cracking, 
snapping noises were heard in every part of the room and from 
above came a great boom\ 

"It works!" Tesla cried. "It proves that there are stationary 
waves — like the water imprisoned in the bathtub! It proves 
that by disturbing them, changing their rhythm, we can create 
resonance as well as power! I'm going outside to watch. This 
time hold the switch till I call out to you. We'll try to let the 
colliding waves develop more power and greater resonance." 

Tesla went outside and stood a hundred feet or so from the 
barnlike building. Inside Czito stood in readiness, awaiting the 
signal. He knew that the apparatus could draw a heavy load; 

167 



but he also knew that with such a load a short circuit in the 
primary coil could prove as destructive as a volcano. 

"Now!" 

Czito jammed home the switch and jumped back, more than 
half expecting the quick flash and explosive blast of a short 
circuit. The coils began to flame with masses of fiery hair. 
Everything in the room was spewing needles of fire. There was 
the same crackling sound from above, followed by the thunder- 
ous boom — but there was no short circuit. The crackling grew 
louder and louder; the room was filled with a roar that was all 
but deafening. Czito realized that he could not hear Tesla's 
command to release the switch. He wondered what he should 
do. Tesla might be hurt . . . unconscious. 

Tesla, far from unconscious, was in a sort of ecstasy as he 
watched his theories being confirmed. His visualization became 
reality as the sparks, which at first had been only a foot long as 
they leaped from the copper ball atop the mast, grew longer and 
longer as the energy built up until they were as thick around 
as his arm and bounding a distance of over a hundred feet. 
Each was longer than the last and each was succeeded by thun- 
der that could be heard fifteen or more miles away. 

"I have created lightning!" Tesla shouted, raising his arms 
heavenward. "I have created thunder. Man can not only con- 
quer the elements, he can improve on them. He can control 
them — make them do his bidding!" 

Suddenly the manmade thunder ceased. The lightning dis- 
appeared. The long laboratory building stood silhouetted against 
the desert sky — silent and in complete darkness. 

In alarm Tesla ran toward it, calling to his assistant, "Czito, 
are you hurt? Are you all right? Czito!" 

As he rushed into the building he saw at once that Czito 
was unharmed. He was standing, dazed, before the switchboard. 
In silence he pointed at it. Tesla's eyes following the pointing 
finger, saw that both the voltmeter and ammeter were register- 
ing zero. 

168 



"Call the powerhouse!" he shouted, "They've shut off our 
power. They've no right to do that. They mustn't " 

Czito was already at the phone. Tesla took it from him. 

"This is Nikola Tesla!" he shouted. "You have cut off my 
power. You must give me back the power. You must not cut it 
off." 

"Cut it off, nothing!" a furious voice answered. "Your experi- 
ments have knocked our generator off the line. The armature 
has melted like wax; the coils are on fire. You've wrecked our 
powerhouse. It will be a hot winter when you get any power 
out there, Mister." 



Chapter 



19 



A lightning stroke consists of tremendously heavy currents, 
many thousands of amperes at millions of volts, but it lasts only 
a few millionths of a second. If supplied with current con- 
tinuously, the lightning flash would last indefinitely. 

Tesla, in his Colorado Springs laboratory, succeeded in 
pumping a steady flow of current into the earth. In an hour 
he charged the earth with several hundred times as much elec- 
trical energy as is contained in a single lightning stroke. 

In describing his work with the giant oscillator, Tesla, using 
conservative estimates of his results, stated in his article in the 
Century magazine of June, 1900: 

However extraordinary the results shown may appear, 
they are but trifling compared with those attainable by 
apparatus designed on these same principles. I have pro- 
duced electrical discharges the actual path of which, from 
end to end, was probably more than 100 feet long; but it 

169 



would not be difficult to reach lengths a hundred times as 
great. 

I have produced electrical movements occurring at the 
rate of approximately 100,000 horsepower, but rates of one, 
five or ten million horsepower are easily practicable. In 
these experiments effects were developed incomparably 
greater than ever produced by any human agencies, and 
yet these results are but an embryo of what is to be. 

Small wonder that when Nikola returned to New York he 
felt as if he had made the universe do his bidding. The world 
was just another instrument in his enormous laboratory. He had 
achieved what he had set out to do as a boy. He had made him- 
self into a superman far in advance of any scientist of his, or 
any previous era. He believed that, having learned to control 
his mind and master his will, he had gained control of his life. 
He was convinced that, if he chose, he could live to be a hun- 
dred and twenty years old! He was not yet fifty! More than half 
a lifetime lay ahead of him and he had plans for almost every 
minute of the years to come. He would develop further the 
transmission of power, without wires, through the earth. Using 
only a tiny portion of the power he had learned to transmit, he 
would develop a world wide radio broadcasting system — also 
without wires. He planned to follow this colossal plan with 
experiments on the transmission of images without wires by 
means of an electronic brush or tube. And, once having achieved 
this, he planned spending years on testing the theory of thought 
transmission, from one human mind to another. The last 
twenty or twenty-five years, he had long before decided, would 
be spent writing down all those discoveries that he had never 
bothered to have blueprinted — all the vast store of "visualiza- 
tions" that he had stored in the pigeonholes of his memory. 

One of the editors of the Century magazine, Robert Under- 
wood Johnson, who asked Tesla to write the article describing 
the results of his experiments in Colorado, was surprised to 
find, instead of a cold, scientific treatise, an article that seemed 

170 



wholly fantastic to him. It was not fantastic to Nikola Tesla, 
however. It was actually a statement of the belief he had used 
as a guide since boyhood. The article outlined the need for the 
elimination of love and friendship and other emotional distrac- 
tions from the life of the inventor who, according to Tesla, 
needed all his energy and powers of concentration for his work. 
The article further explained that through automation and 
mechanization, the individual scientist or inventor could func- 
tion as perfectly as a smooth-running machine. Mr. Johnson 
twice returned the article, requesting the author to confine 
himself to scientific, data instead of what Johnson considered 
philosophic nonsense. Tesla refused to change the content of 
the article and the harassed editor at last accepted it. It was 
hardly off the presses before Mr. Johnson and his publishers 
realized that it was creating a sensation. The idea of man being 
able to discipline himself and train his faculties to so high a 
degree that he could stimulate senses that in most mortals lay 
dormant was hailed by some readers as the greatest discovery 
of the era, and by others as the most fantastic nonsense. 

Among those who felt themselves attracted to the theory was 
J. P. Morgan. He had long been interested in Tesla and with 
good reason, for he had invested heavily in Edison's General 
Electric Company and in all Edison's direct-current appliances. 
When Tesla's polyphase motor and alternating-current dynamos 
made possible the harnessing of the great power of Niagara 
Falls, Mr. Morgan had realized that the Edison General Elec- 
tric Company would be put out of business unless some arrange- 
ment could be made with Westinghouse, who controlled the 
Tesla patents, for their rental and use by the Edison group. 

The Century magazine article was called "The Problem of 
Increasing Human Energy," and the picture Nikola presented 
of himself was fascinating to the cool, fast-thinking, level- 
headed financier. He invited Nikola to his home. The two 
became great friends. Mr. Morgan, without strings of any kind, 
gave Tesla one hundred and fifty thousand dollars with which 

171 



to start work on his pet project: a world-wide wireless broad- 
casting system. 

Tesla visualized a broadcasting station that would require 
thousands of employees. He planned to have a laboratory and 
a station from which all wave-length channels would be broad- 
cast. It was to be called Radio City and was to be housed some- 
where near New York. He knew that a hundred and fifty thou- 
sand dollars would not be enough to complete the building 
and carry out its operation, but he felt that if he could make a 
beginning he would be able to convince Morgan and others of 
the value of the project and the need for additional financial 
support. 

He was offered a two-hundred-acre tract on Long Island, 
sixty miles from New York City. Twenty acres had been cleared 
and could be the site for the power station. The expected two 
thousand employees could build homes nearby and a whole 
city could be developed. 

Sanford White, the famous designer of many churches and 
other architectural monuments throughout the country, was 
one of Tesla's friends. The scientist now disclosed to the famous 
architect his vision of an industrial "city beautiful" and sought 
his cooperation in realizing his dream. Mr. White was en- 
thusiastic about the idea and, as his contribution to Tesla's 
work, offered to underwrite the cost of designing the strange 
tower the inventor sketched, and all of the architectural work 
involved in the general plan for the city. The actual work was 
done by W. D. Crow, of East Orange, New Jersey, one of Mr. 
White's associates, who later became famous as a designer of 
hospitals and other institutional buildings. 

It was a fantastic-looking tower, with strange structural 
limitations, that Mr. Crow found himself designing. Tesla 
required a tower about 154 feet high to support at its peak a 
giant copper electrode a foot in diameter and shaped like a 
gargantuan doughnut with a tubular diameter of twenty 
feet. 

172 



The heavy equipment, the dynamos and motors, tharxesla u \ 
desired for his plant were of an unusual design not p/oftu^^ ' 
by manufacturers, and he encountered many vexatious ^J^ys, 
in securing such material. He was able to carry on a wide range 
of high-frequency current and other experiments in his new 
laboratory, but the principle project, that of setting up the 
world-wide broadcasting station, lagged. Meanwhile, he had 
a number of glass-blowers making tubes for use in transmitting 
and receiving his broadcast programs. This was a dozen years 
before DeForest invented the form of radio tube now in general 
use. 

Tesla seemed to be entirely fearless of his high-frequency 
currents of millions of volts. He had, nevertheless, the greatest 
respect for electric current in all forms, and was extremely 
careful in working on his apparatus. When working on circuits 
that might come "alive," he always worked with one hand in his 
pocket, using the other to manipulate tools. He insisted that 
all of his workers do likewise when working on the sixty-cycle 
low-frquency alternating-current circuits, whether the potential 
was 50,000 or 1 10 volts. This safeguard reduced the possibility 
of a dangerous current finding a circuit through the arms across 
the body, where there was chance that it might stop the action 
of the heart. 

Tesla at this time published a brochure on his "World Sys- 
tem" which indicates the remarkable state of advancement he 
had projected in the wireless art, now called radio, while other 
experimenters were struggling to acquire familiarity with rudi- 
mentary devices. At that time, however, his promises seemed 
fantastic. The brochure contained the following description of 
his system and his objectives: 

The World System has resulted from a combination of 
several original discoveries made by the inventor in the 
course of long continued research and experimentation. . 
It makes possible not only the instantaneous and precise 
wireless transmission of any kind of signals, messages or 

173 



characters, to all parts of the world, but also the intercon- 
nection of the existing telegraph, telephone, and other 
signal stations without any change in their present equip- 
ment. By its means, for instance, a telephone subscriber 
here may call up any other subscriber on the Globe. An 
inexpensive receiver, not bigger than a watch, will enable 
him to listen anywhere, on land or sea, to a speech delivered, 
or music played in some other place, however distant. 
These examples are cited merely to give an idea of the 
possibilities of this great scientific advance, which an- 
nihilates distance and makes that perfect conductor, the 
Earth, available for all the innumerable purposes which 
human ingenuity has found for a line wire. One far 
reaching result of this is that any device capable of being 
operated through one or more wires (at a distance obvi- 
ously restricted) can likewise be actuated, without artificial 
conductors and with the same facility and accuracy, at 
distances to which there are no limits other than those 
imposed by the physical dimensions of the Globe. Thus, 
not only will entirely new fields for commercial exploita- 
tion be opened up, by this ideal method of transmission, 
but the old ones vastly extended. 

The World System is based on the application of the 
following important inventions and discoveries: 

1. The Tesla Transformer. This apparatus is, in the 
production of electrical vibrations, as revolutionary as 
gunpowder was in warfare. Currents many times stronger 
than any ever generated in the usual ways, and sparks over 
100 feet long have been produced by the inventor with an 
instrument of this kind. 

2. The Magnifying Transmitter. This is Tesla's best 
invention — a peculiar transformer specially adapted to 
excite the Earth, which is in the transmission of electrical 
energy what the telescope is in astronomical observation. 
By the use of this marvelous device he has already set up 
electrical movements of greater intensity than those of 
lightning and passed a current, sufficient to light more 
than 200 incandescent lamps, around the Globe. 

3. The Tesla Wireless System. This system comprises a 
number of improvements and is the only means known for 
transmitting economically electrical energy to a distance 
without wires. Careful tests and measurements in connec* 

174 



tion with an experimental station of great activity, erected 
by the inventor in Colorado, have demonstrated that power 
in any desired amount can be conveyed clear across the 
Globe if necessary, with a loss not exceeding a few per 
cent. 

4. The Art of Individualization. This invention of 
Tesla is to primitive tuning what refined language is to 
unarticulated expression. It makes possible the transmis- 
sion of signals or messages absolutely secret and exclusive 
both in active and passive aspect, that is, non-interfering 
as well as non-interferable. Each signal is like an individual 
of unmistakable identity and there is virtually no limit to 
the number of stations or instruments that can be simul- 
taneously operated without the slightest mutual disturb- 
ance. 

5. The Terrestrial Stationary Waves. This wonderful 
discovery, popularly explained, means that the Earth js 
responsive to electrical vibrations of definite pitch just as 
a tuning fork to certain waves of sound. These particular 
electrical vibrations, capable of powerfully exciting the 
Globe, lend themselves to innumerable uses of great im- 
portance commercially and in many other respects. 

The first World System power plant can be put in opera- 
tion in nine months. With this power plant it will be 
practical to attain electrical activities up to ten million 
horsepower and it is designed to serve for as many tech- 
nical achievements as are possible without undue expense. 
Among these the following may be mentioned: 

1. Interconnection of the existing telegraph exchanges 
of offices all over the World; 

2. Establishment of a secret and non-interferable gov- 
ernment telegraph service; 

3. Interconnection of all the present telephone ex- 
changes or offices all over the Globe; 

4. Universal distribution of general news, by telegraph 
or telephone, in connection with the Press; 

5. Establishment of a World System of intelligence 
transmission for exclusive private use; 

6. Interconnection and operation of all stock tickers 
of the world; 

7. Establishment of a world system of musical distribu- 
tion, etc.; 

175 



8. Universal registration of time by cheap clocks in- 
dicating the time with astronomical precision and requir- 
ing no attention whatever; 

9. Facsimile transmission of typed or handwritten char- 
acters, letters, checks, etc.; 

10. Establishment of a universal marine service enabling 
navigators of all ships to steer perfectly without compass, 
to determine the exact location, hour and speed, to prevent 
collisions and disasters, etc.; 

11. Inauguration of a system of world printing on land 
and sea; 

12. Reproduction anywhere in the world of photo- 
graphic pictures and all kinds of drawings or records. 

Thus, more than forty years ago, Tesla planned to inaugurate 
every feature of modern radio, and several facilities which have 
not yet been developed. He was to continue, for another twenty 
years, to be the only "wireless" inventor who had yet visualized 
a broadcasting service. 

While at work on his Wardencliff radio-broadcasting plant, 
Tesla was also evolving plans for establishing his world power 
station at Niagara Falls. 

The Niagara Falls plant was never built; and difficulties were 
encountered at the Wardencliff plant in securing not only 
desired equipment but also finances. 

Tesla's greatest oversight was that he neglected to invent, 
so to speak, a device for making the unlimited quantities of 
money that were necessary to develop his other inventions. As 
we have seen, he was utterly lacking in that aspect of personality 
which makes possible the securing of financial returns directly 
from inventions. An individual with his ability could have 
made millions out of each of a number of Tesla's minor inven- 
tions. If he had taken the trouble, for example, to collect 
annual royalties on twenty or more different kinds of devices 
put out by as many manufacturers employing his Tesla coil 
for medical treatments, he would have had ample income to 
finance his World Wireless System. 

176 



His mind, however, was too fully occupied with fascinating 
scientific problems. He had, at times, nearly a score of highly 
skilled workmen constantly employed in his laboratory develop- 
ing the electrical inventions he was continuing to make at a 
rapid rate. Armed guards were always stationed around the 
laboratory to prevent spying on his inventions. His payroll was 
heavy, his bank balance dangerously low, but he was so im- 
mersed in his experimental work that he continuously put off 
the task of making an effort to repair finances. He soon found 
himself facing judgments obtained by creditors on accounts 
upon which he could not make payments. He was forced, in 
1905, to close the Wardencliff laboratory. 

The fantastic tower in front of the laboratory was never 
completed. The doughnut-shaped copper electrode was never 
built because Tesla changed his mind and decided to have a 
copper hemisphere a hundred feet in diameter and fifty feet 
high built on top of the 154-feet cone-shaped tower. A skeleton 
framework for holding the hemispherical plates was built, but 
the copper sheeting was never applied to it. The 300-horse- 
power dynamos and the apparatus for operating the broadcast- 
ing station were eventually removed by the engineering firm 
that installed them but had never received payment. 

Tesla opened an office at 165 Broadway, New York City, 
where for a while he tried to contrive some means for reviving 
his project. Thomas Fortune Ryan, the well-known financier, 
and H. O. Havemeyer, the leading sugar refiner, aided him with 
contributions of ten thousand and five thousand dollars respec- 
tively. Instead of using these to open another laboratory, he 
applied them to paying off the debts on his defunct World 
Wireless System. He paid off every penny due to every creditor. 

When it became apparent that Tesla was in financial dif- 
ficulties, many who had assumed that Morgan was financially 
involved as an investor in his project were disillusioned. When 
specific inquiries revealed that the great financier held no 
interest whatever in the enterprise, the rumor went around 

177 



that Morgan had withdrawn his support; and when no reason 
for such action could be learned, the rumor expanded to carry 
the story that Tesla's system was impracticable. Tesla made no 
effort to combat the growing rumors. As a matter of fact, 
Morgan continued to make generous personal contributions to 
Tesla almost up to the time of his own death; and his son did 
so to a lesser extent for a short time. 

If Tesla could have tolerated a business manager, and had 
placed the development of his patents in the hands of a business- 
man, he could have established as early as 1896 a practical 
ship-to-shore, and probably a transoceanic wireless service; and 
these would have given him a monopoly in this field. He was 
asked to rig up a wireless set on a boat to report the progress 
of the international yacht race for Lloyd's of London in 1896, 
but he refused the offer, which was a lucrative one, on the 
grounds that he would not demonstrate his system publicly on 
less than a world-wide basis because it could be confused with 
the amateurish efforts being made by other experimenters. If 
he had accepted this offer — and he could have met the require- 
ments without the least technical difficulty — he undoubtedly 
would have found his interests diverted to some extent into a 
profitable commercial channel that might have made a vast, 
and favorable, change in the second half of his life. 

Tesla, however, could not be bothered with minor, even 
though profitable, projects. The superman, the man magnificent, 
was too strong in him. The man who had put industry on an 
electrical-power basis, the man who had set the earth in vibra- 
tion, could not fill a minor role of carrying messages for hire. 
He would function in his major capacity or not at all. 

George Scherff, who was engaged by Tesla as bookkeeper and 
secretary when he opened his Houston Street laboratory, was a 
practical individual. He managed, as far as was humanly pos- 
sible, to keep the inventor disentangled in his contacts with 
the business world. The more he knew Tesla, the better he liked 
him; and the more respect he had for his genius and his ability 

178 



as an inventor, the more he became conscious of the fact thai 
this genius was totally lacking in business ability, 

Scherff was understandably distressed by a situation in which 
an enterprise was continuously spending money but never re 
ceiving any. Scherff wanted Tesla to work out plans for deriving 
an income from his inventions. Each new development that 
Tesla produced was studied by Scherff and made the basis foi 
a plan for manufacture and sale of a device. Tesla uniformly 
rejected all the suggestions. "This is all small-time stuff," he 
would reply. "I cannot be bothered with it." 

Even when it was pointed out to him that many manu- 
facturers were using his Tesla coils, selling great numbers oi 
them and making plenty of money out of them, his interest 
could not be aroused to enter this profitable field; nor would 
he permit Scherff to arrange to have a side-line setup which 
could be conducted without interfering with his research. Nor 
could he be induced to bring suits to protect his invention and 
seek to make the manufacturers pay him royalties. He admitted, 
however, "If the manufacturers paid me twenty-five cents on 
each coil they sold I would be a wealthy man." 

Scherff can look back today, as he sits on the porch of his 
Westchester home, and decide, through a retrospect of fifty 
years, that Tesla's plan was basically sound — with the Radio 
Corporation of America, its extensive manufacturing facilities, 
its world-wide communication system, its tremendous capital 
system and earnings, as evidence in support of the claim. 

Scherff remained with Tesla until the Wardencliff laboratory 
closed. He then established a lucrative connection with the 
Union Sulphur Company but he still continued, without taking 
compensation, to give Tesla one day a week of his time and 
keep his business affairs disentangled as far as possible. Tesla 
was meticulously careful about paying everyone who performed 
any service for him, but this was counterbalanced by an amaz- 
ing faculty for contracting bills without waiting to see if he 
had funds on hand to meet them. Money was an annoying 

179 



anchor that always seemed to be dragging and hindering his 
research activities — something that was too mundane to merit 
the time and attention he should be giving to more important 
things. 



Chapter 



20 



As usual there was not enough money. 

The next years found Tesla deeply immersed in a series of 
experiments. The pressure he had put upon himself as a young 
man at Gratz was nothing compared to the way he drove him- 
self now. Theories, ideas, inventions, come in rapid succession. 
More than two hundred patents were issued to him, and the 
scientific world reeled under the impact of this incredible 
avalanche — all having their origin in the mind of one man. 

Whatever money came in was spent before it reached him. 
He always needed new tools, new equipment. Often the things 
he required had never been thought of and he had to buy the 
materials and make them. J. P. Morgan gave him money; John 
Jacob Astor gave him money; so did whole hosts of unknown 
investors. Most of them got their money back with interest. 
But none of it stayed in Tesla's increasingly threadbare pockets. 

Each time a new invention was perfected, either Julius Czito, 
son of Kolman who had been with him in Colorado, who was 
now his first assistant, or George Scherff, his loyal secretary- 
bookkeeper, would plead with him to commercialize it. 

"At least work out some royalty arrangement, Mr. Tesla! 
Hardware stores all over the country are selling your coils, your 
light tubes." 

"That is small potatoes," Tesla would reply. "That is for 

180 



pygmies. I am a giant. I must give all these things to the world 
before I die. Who knows when that will be? I must hurry." 

"But . . ." 

"No but's. And don't worry. We'll make millions, not 
pennies! The time for you to worry is when I can no longer 
get the money to pay your salary." 

But when that day did come, they had long since ceased to 
waste time in worry. They just went on working without 
salary. 

Tesla was not interested in making money on his discoveries. 
He wanted only to be free — and to have enough money — to 
proceed along the lines he had planned for himself, developing 
and refining and improving the discoveries he had made at 
Houston Street or in Colorado. Ordinarily, his only concern 
was his ability to present to mankind as many ways as possible 
of making life simpler and more beautiful. There are only three 
known instances of his taking exception to praise being ac- 
corded to someone who in his opinion was unworthy. 

As a matter of fact, when Tesla's associates called his atten- 
tion to the fact that Dr. Galileo Ferraris, an Italian physicist, 
had announced the discovery of the rotating magnetic field and 
had given demonstrations in both Italy and England of his 
experiments particularly as they aplied to light waves, Tesla 
had been amused. 

"You made the same discovery more than fifteen years ago! 
Why don't you deny this man's claim publicly?" Czito asked. 

"Why embarrass the man?" Tesla replied. "He probably 
needs to impress the English in order to obtain backing for 
further experiments. He has come upon his discovery honestly 
through his own work. He has copied nothing of mine. There- 
fore he has stolen nothing from me. Why should he not have the 
honor — if there is honor connected with such a discovery?" 

But later, when Tesla made a second lecture trip abroad 
and discovered that to the English, according to English news- 
papers, he was merely an imitator of Ferraris, attempting to 

181 



detract from the Italian's fame, he became indignant and force- 
fully denied that he was in any sense an imitator. He was able 
to document his claims so completely that the English news- 
papers were compelled to print a somewhat grudging and un- 
gracious retraction. 

Although there was nothing personal in his feeling, Tesla 
resented Albert Einstein. In 1905, when still in his middle 
twenties, young Einstein had published an article in the Prague 
Annals of Physics announcing his famous E = mc 2 formula, 
which indicated that there was energy in matter. Ever since 
Tesla's boyhood when he had told his father, with all the 
positiveness of youth, that he did not believe in a life after 
death or the existence of spirit in dust or energy in matter, he 
had believed that energy could be created only by live or living 
organisms or matter. He had energized the earth in Colorado. 
He did not believe that it had contained energy before he 
pumped electrons into it. To admit the truth of Einstein's 
theory would have been to proclaim his own error. Humanly 
and quite understandably, he shut his ears and mind against 
those who hailed the new theory of relativity. 

"I have pumped millions of electrons into the earth. I have 
produced streams of atoms. Never has one been 'smashed.' 
Never has one created an explosion!" 

There was another reason for his refusal to believe in the 
theory of relativity. It claimed that all truth was relative, de- 
pendent upon the point of view of the observer. Nikola Tesla 
believed that there was an Absolute Truth in a mechanized 
universe in which man could be developed into the perfect 
machine if he could succeed in eliminating emotional distrac- 
tions from his life. He was determined to ignore the possibility 
of error in this thinking. He had spent the greater part of his 
life in an attempt to prove his own theory. 

The third exception to Tesla's general attitude of mild dis- 
interest where other scientist's were concerned, was Thomas 
Alva Edison. To Tesla, Edison was a fumbling trial-and-error 

182 



man instead of a scientist. As far as Tesla was concerned, Edi- 
son's lack of formal education did not indicate the Yankee 
git-up-and-git spirit that served to endear Edison to the public. 
On the contrary, it eliminated him from Tesla's mind as de- 
serving of the name of "scientist." Tesla could not forget that 
he himself had spent nearly twenty years in the Normal School, 
the Real Gymnasium, the Higher Real Gymnasium, the Poly- 
technic Institute, and the University of Prague. Nor could he 
overlook the fact that Edison did not attempt to evolve prin- 
ciples or discover new theories as inventors, in Tesla's mind, 
were compelled to do. Edison merely devised ways of com- 
mercializing and marketing products based on discoveries made 
by others. He never denied that there was a great need for men 
who could find practical means of applying discoveries and 
theoretical knowledge, but Tesla felt that such men should 
not be called scientists or inventors. 

So strongly did he feel about this that when, in 1912, the 
Nobel Prize was offered to him and Edison jointly, Tesla refused 
to be thus linked with the man who had once betrayed him, 
and refused to accept the prize or the desperately needed twenty 
thousand dollars that would have accompanied it. The prize 
was thus denied to Edison too, and it was awarded to a little- 
known physicist named Niles Gustav Dalen for his work on 
illumination by gas. 

In 1917 Tesla was informed that he was to be the guest of 
honor at a dinner given by the American Institute of Electrical 
Engineers on which occasion he was to receive the Edison Merit 
of Achievement medal. He refused. 

"Every time the institute awards an Edison medal," he said, 
"Edison is glorified more than the recipient. If I had the money 
to spend for such nonsense, I would gladly pay to have a Tesla 
medal awarded to Mr. Edison." 

He was, however, prevailed upon to accept the honor by a 
colleague whom he greatly respected — Mr. B. A. Behrend. But 
when the guests were seated at their tables in the large banquet 

183 



hall in the Engineers' Club on West 39th Street, there was no 
sign of Tesla. Behrend, thinking he might have been delayed 
at his office or laboratory, telephoned Czito. 

"No, he's not here, Mr. Behrend," Czito answered. "Have 
you looked in Bryant Park?" 

"Bryant Parkl" Behrend exclaimed. "You mean the little 
park behind the New York Public Library? What would he be 
doing there?" 

Czito was embarrassed. "He often feeds the pigeons," was his 
reply. 

Behrend rushed out of the club, ran the two blocks, and in- 
deed found Tesla engaged in feeding the pigeons. 

"No one else feeds them," he explained to the astonished 
Behrend. "They have come to count on me. I don't want to dis- 
appoint them." 

He cast the last handful of birdseed to the ground and fol- 
lowed Behrend meekly to the dinner. 

Money and timel There was never enough of either. He con- 
tinued to draw on seemingly inexhaustible reservoirs of energy 
to drive himself to more work and greater effort. He shut love 
and friendship out of his life. He succeeded in making himself 
a super-robot. 

He lived in solitary splendor at the Waldorf-Astoria — always 
dining alone at the same table in the corner — until his unpaid 
bill reached such proportions that he was asked to leave. 

He moved to the St. Regis Hotel and from there went to the 
Pennsylvania, the Governor Clinton, and finally the New 
Yorker. If he had ever stopped to wonder why he was never 
prosecuted, since it is a felony to leave a hotel without paying 
the bill, he would have been amazed and grieved to learn that 
Behrend or Morgan or Astor or McCollum who had run the 
fifty thousand dollars he had received as a "finder's fee" into a 
great fortune, followed Tesla's trail from hotel to hotel, quietly 
picking up the bill*. 

Tesla never saw any of these men any more, there was never 

184 



enough time. Always there was too hiuch work to be done. Once 
in a great while, when he was sitting in the park after a day of 
untiring work, he would remember some of them. Once in a 
while he would think of McCollum, and it would seem to him 
that he saw in his eyes the same look that had once haunted him 
when he had left his dog, Keno — a look of hurt, a plea not to be 
deserted. But he dismissed the thought. Pigeons didn't ask for 
affection. They only expected to be fed. 

He continued to work and to file patent after patent. The 
basic requirements of a radar screen, the fundamental prin- 
ciples on which the guided missile is operated, the lethal beam 
of electronic energy that could destroy a metal object at a 
distance of three miles — these and other inventions testified to 
the many discoveries that he had made earlier and filed away in 
his memory for development in his later years. Then, suddenly, 
the activity ceased. 

In 1942 some of his laboratory assistants and others whom 
he had trained told him of mysterious offers being held out to 
them to work in greatest secrecy on some new project at various 
places in the United States. The world was again at war and it 
was evident to Tesla that these offers had something to do with 
America's war effort. His former students were loyal to him and 
had complete faith in his allegiance to the United States of 
which he was now a citizen, and the cause of freedom. They 
knew that Hitler had taken over Yugoslavia, which was the 
present name for what had once been Croatia and Serbia where 
he had been born. He learned that Einstein's theories had been 
confirmed. Energy could be released from matter. An atom 
bomb was being developed so powerful that it could completely 
destroy a whole city. 

It was not only the fact that he was proven wrong that affected 
Tesla. It was the fact that all of man's science seemed to be 
turned toward destruction instead of for the betterment of 
humanity. This and other questions began to torment him. 
Had he been wrong to forego love and friendship for perfection 

185 



in a science that would destroy the world? Had those dolts in 
the audience at the World's Fair who claimed that there was 
something supernatural, something evil, about electricity — 
had they been right all along? Had he been tragically wrong in 
thinking that he could control the unleashed tiger? These were 
questions he could not answer. For the first time since his boy- 
hood he found himself unable to summon up the answers. Was 
there nothing else left for Nikola Tesla to do? 

That last question he could answer. There was one alterna- 
tive. There was something' else that he could do. He could 
prove — to himself at least — that he was still the superman, 
that he could still control the functioning of his spirit and his 
body. He was in the best of health. There was no reason to 
suppose that he would not live a great many years more, ex- 
actly as he had planned. Unless he should change that plan. He 
could will himself to stop living. If his will were still the master 
of his body, then he was still undefeatedl 

On the night of January 6, 1943, New York was lashed by one 
of the most severe electrical storms it had ever seen. George 
Scherff , working late that evening, heard shouts from the private 
office. Alarmed, he ran in and discovered Tesla standing at the 
window, his fists raised high above his head as he shouted: 

"I have made better lightning than that!" 

As Scherff hurried toward his employer, the great scientist 
suddenly clutched his heart and collapsed on the couch beside 
the window. Scherff went to the phone to summon a doctor, but 
a voice from the couch stopped him. "Put down the phone, 
George. It was just a spasm. I shall be quite all right." 

Overriding his assistant's pleas, Tesla put on his topcoat, 
wrapped his silk scarf about his neck, and started for home. On 
the way he stopped to order food for the pigeons, to be picked 
up in the morning. 

No one picked up the order. That day no one came to Bryant 
Park to feed the pigeons. The hotel maid, entering the great 
man's room on the morning of January 8, discovered the reason. 



186 



-;/ 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



BY NIKOLA TESLA: 

Experiments with Alternating Currents of High Potential 
and High Frequency, McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, 
New York, 1904. 

"Light — and Other High Frequency Phenomena," National 
Electric Light Association, New York, 1893. 

"My Inventions," Electrical Experimenter, January-June, 
October, 1919. 



ABOUT NIKOLA TESLA: 

Fleming, A. P. M. Nikola Tesla. Institution of Electrical En- 
gineers, London, November 25, 1943. 

Martin, Thomas Commerford. "The Inventions, Researches 
and Writing of Nikola Tesla." The Electrical Engineer, 
London, 1894. 

Massie, Walter W. and Charles R. Underbill. Wireless Telegra- 
phy and Telephony Popularity Explained (with special 
article by Nikola Tesla). D. Van Nostrand Company, New 
York, 1908. 

O'Neill, John J. Prodigal Genius. Ives Washburn, Inc., New 
York, 1944. 

Tesla Society. Bibliography, Dr. Nikola Tesla. Minneapolis, 
1954. 

187 



Index 



Adams, Edward Dean, 163 

alternating current, polyphase, Tesla's 
early theory of, 71-74, 78; invents 
rotating magnetic field, 90-92; is un- 
able to get backing in Europe for his 
system, 97-102; builds models, 99- 
100; is unable to interest Edison, 
111; company formed to produce, 
128; twenty-five patents issued for, 
ISO; recognized by engineering 
world, 131; sells to Westinghouse, 
132-33; demonstrates harmlessness of, 
153-54 

America, Americans, 9, 45, 87, 101-06, 

114, 117, 119, 134, 151 
American Engineering Society, 148 
American Institute of Electrical En- 
gineers, 130-31, 183 

amplifier, Tesla's invention of, for tele- 
phone, 88-89 
Annals of Physics, 182 
arc light, Tesla's invention of, 117-19 
Astor, John Jacob, 180 
atom bomb, 185 
Austria, 54 

BatcheUor, Charles, 101-02, 110, 112, 

115, 119 
Bauxin, Mayor, 100 
Behrend, B. A., 183-84 
Bell, Alexander Graham, 87 
billiards, 68, 79, 89 
Bismarck, Chancellor, 9 
Bogue, Lucy, 110 

Boulevard Saint Michel, Tesla finds 

apartment on, 97 
Brancovic, Colonel, 38, 44, 47, 52, 60, 

61, 63 
Brancovic, Sarah, 38, 44, 46-47, 52, 60, 

63 



British Empire, 9 

Broadway, 107 

Brown, A. K... 123-31, 133 

Bryant Park, 184, 186 

Budapest, Hungary, Tesla secures 1 job 

in, 87-88; 97. 99 
Budapest Park, 89, 140 
Budapest Telephone Company, 89, 93 
Buffalo, New York, 157 

Canada, 160 

Carlstadt, Tesla attends school at, 38, 
43, 48, 53 

Cataract Construction Company, 155 

Central Telegraph Office, 88 

Century magazine, 169-71 

chess, 79 

Chicago, Illinois, 148, 150 

cholera, 60, 63-64 

Civil War, 9 

clocks, electric, 144 

coils, Tesla, 142, 179 

Colorado, 165, 170, 175, 180, 182 

Colorado Springs, 167, 169 

Columbia University, Tesla gives schol- 
arships to, 134 

Columbian Exposition, 150-54 

Columbus, Christopher, world's fair in 
honor of, 150-51 

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's 
Court, A, 66, 68 

Continental Edison Company, 97-102, 
110, 113, 118, 138, 141 

Croatia, 9, 185 

Crow, W. D., 172 

Czito, Julius, 180, 184 

Czito, Rolman, 167-69, 180 

Daguerre, 123 

Dalen, Niles Gustav, 183 



189 



De Forest, Lee, 173 

diathermy treatments, Tesla's work on, 
150 

direct current, Edison's system, expla- 
nation of, 126-27, 129 

Droushka, Mr., 77 

dynamo, reciprocating, Tesla's inven- 
tion of, 143-44 

earth, electrically charged, by Tesla, 

164-69, 175 
East Orange, New Jersey, 172 
Edison Company, 101-02, 113, 115, 117- 

18 
Edison General Electric Company, 132, 

144-47, 151, 156-57, 171 
Edison Merit of Achievement, Tesla's 

refusal of, 183 
Edison, Thomas Alva, 45, 98, 101, 109- 

14, 115-18, 126-27, 129, 130, 132. 137, 

145-47, 156-57, 182-83 
Edison, Mrs. 109-11, 113 
Einstein, Albert, 181, 185 
electric chair, Tesla alternating-current 

system used for, 147 
electric-light bulb, incandescent, 116, 

118, 129, 135 
electronic energy, beam of, 185 
Engineers' Club, 184 
England, 9, 158, 181-82 
Europe, 87, 103, 158 

Ferraris, Dr. Galileo, 181-82 
fluorescent lighting, Tesla's work on, 

146; 152-53 
France, 71, 97 

Germany, 9 

global transportation system, Tesla's 

idea of, 48-49 
Goethe, 89 

Gospic, 21-37, 55, 60, 63, 81, 82, 158-59 
Governor Clinton Hotel, 184 
Gramme machine, the, 70-71 
Gratz, Austria, 54, 69, 93, 180 
gravity, 73 
Graditsch, Professor, 37 

Harvard University, Tesla gives schol- 
arships to, 134 
Havemeyer, H. O., 177 



high-frequency currents, 142-43; harm- 
less when passed through body, 148> 
54; heating effects of, 150 

Higher Real Gymnasium, 38, 44-46, 48, 
54, 121 

Hitler. 185 

Hungary, 87 

Institution of Electrical Engineers, 158 
inventions, Tesla's, blow-gun, 20; pop- 
gun, 20; bug-powered motor, 27; 
crossbows, 32-34; telephone repeater, 
88; rotating magnetic field for alter- 
nating current, 90-92, 99-100; for 
Edison, 115; arc light, 117-18; trans- 
formers, 128; others relating to al- 
ternating current, 130; high-fre- 
quency current transformers, 142; 
Tesla coils, 142; reciprocating dyna- 
mo, 143-44; terrestrial stationary 
waves, 164-67; radio tubes, 173; more 
than 200 patients issued him, 180, 
185 
Italy, 181 

Johnson, Robert Underwood, 170-71 

Keno, 10-11, 12-15, 16-19, 37, 42-43, 
53-54 

Letz Military Academy, 56 

Lika, province of, 9 

Lloyd's of London, 178 

London, England, 158 

Long Island, site of Tesla's Radio City, 
172 

lightning, created by Tesla, 168 

loudspeaker, for telephone, Tesla's in- 
vention of, 88 

McCollum, Mr., 121, 123-29, 131, 133 
Maribor, Austria, 76, 78, 87 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

(M.I.T.), Tesla gives scholarships to, 

134 
Morgan, J. P., 116-17, 165, 171-72, 177- 

78, 180 

New York City, 101, 103, 106, 113, 114, 

132, 157, 163, 177, 184 
New York Public Library, 184 



190 



New York State, 146 

New Yorker Hotel, 184 

Niagara Falls, 67; harnessing of, 155- 

57, 176 
Nobel Prize, Tesla's refusal of, 183 
Normal School, 26 

Old Tom's Steak House, 146 

Oregon, SS., Tesla repairs dynamos on, 

114-15 
oscillator, giant, Tesla's work with, 

164-70 

Paris, France, 71. 97, 99, 100-02. 104. 

113, 119, 1S8, 141, 158 
Patent Office, 115, 130 
Pennsylvania Hotel, 184 
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 132, 135 
Poeschl, Professor, 70-77, 78, 93-95 
polyphase alternating current. See al- 
ternating current 
Polytechnic Institute, 54, 69 T 74, 93 
Prague, Austria, 77, 79, 81. 159 
Prague University, 76, 78-79 
"Problem of Increasing Human Energy, 
The," 171 

radar screen, 185 

radio, 88, Tesla's system, 122, 173-76 
Radio City, Tesla's plans for, 172 
Radio Corporation of America, 179 
Real Gymnasium, 28-30, 34, 36 
reciprocating dynamo, Tesla's inven- 
tion of, 143-44 
Rdchsbahn, Dr., 65 
relativity, theory of. Tesla's reaction 

to, 182 
rotating magnetic field, Tesla's inven- 
tion of, 90-92, 99-100; 151 
Ryan, Thomas Fortune, 177 

St. Regis Hotel, 184 

Scherff, George, 178-79, 180, 186 

Serbia, 9, 26, 185 

Shakespeare, 89 

Sing Sing Prison, electric chair installed 

at, 147 
Smiljan, town of, 9, IS, 20. 62, 88, 103, 

158 
Southampton, England, 114 



stationary waves, in earth, proved by 

Tesla, 167, 175 
Strasbourg, 99-101 
Suez Canal, 9 
superman, Tesla's efforts to become, 

35-36, 43-44, 45-46, 47, 53-54. 59. 

63-64. 69. 79, 140, 144, 163, 170t71. 

178, 184 
Szigeti, 89-93. 97, 107 

telephone, Bell's invention of, 87; Tes- 
la's invention of amplifier for, 88 
television. See transmission of images 
terrestrial stationary waves, 164-67, 175 
Tesla, Angelina (sister), 10-11, 36, 43 
Tesla, Dane (brother), 9-14, 17. 19. 20, 

28. 32, 36, 43, 86 
Tesla, Djouka (mother), 10, 15-17, 20, 
24. 27-28, 30, 36, 38, 42, 46, 53, 63, 
68, 79-80, 84-86, 88, 103, 158-60 
Tesla Electric Company, 128-32 
Tesla, Marka (sister), 10, 12-13, 43, 53, 

159 
Tesla, Milka (sister), 10, 36 
Tesla, Reverend Milutin (father), 9-10, 
12. 16, 17-19, 20-22, 29-30, 31, 36, 38, 
39-44. 46, 53, 54-58, 59-60, 63-64, 65, 
67-68, 70. 79-81, 84-87 
Tesla, Nikola, childhood and youth, 
9 ft; his family, 9-10; death of 
brother, 12; early experiments and 
inventions, 16, 20, 26-27, 34-35; early 
schooling, 26, 28, 36; has ability to 
visualize and memorize, 29-30, 33, 68, 
78, 80-81, 91, 137, 141-42; works as 
librarian, 36, 38-39; attends college, 
44-46, 48, 59; decides to be electrical 
engineer, 51; is ill with cholera, 63- 
64; attends Polytechnic Institute, 69- 
74; studies at Prague University, 78- 
79; death of father, 87; gets job in 
Budapest, 88; invents amplifier, 88; 
his routing magnetic field theory, 
90-92; arrives in Paris, 97; employed 
by Continental Edison Company, 97; 
unable to get backing, 97-100; is 
robbed, 104; arrives in New York, 
106; earns twenty dollars, 108-09; his 
meeting with Edison, 111; employed 
by Edison Company, 113; improves 



191 



Tola, Nikola (cont'd) 
Edison equipment, 115; leaves Edi- 
son, 116; invents arc light, 117-19; 
digs ditches, 120-23; forms Tesla 
Electric Company, 128; builds models 
in New York City laboratory, 130; 
lectures, 130-31; his system recog- 
nized by engineering world, 131; his 
meeting with Westinghouse, 132; de- 
scription of, 132, 145; sells system to 
Westinghouse, 132-33; gives scholar- 
ships, 134; hires assistants, 141; de- 
signs transformers, 142-43; invents 
reciprocating dynamo, 143-44; dem- 
onstrates harmlessness of high-fre- 
quency currents, 151-54; harnesses 
Niagara Falls, 157; lectures abroad, 
158-59; death of mother, 160; his 
laboratory burned, 162; borrows 
money, 163; sets earth in vibration, 
164-65; builds laboratory in Col- 
orado, 165; proves earth contains 
stationary waves, 167; creates light- 
ning and thunder, 168; writes maga- 
zine articles, 169-71; receives finan- 
cial aid, 171; builds broadcasting 
plant, 172; his World System, 173- 
76; is in financial difficulties, 177; 
more than 200 patents issued him, 
180; does not believe Einstein's the- 
ory, 182; refuses Nobel Prize, 183; 
death of, 186 
thought transmission, 159, 170 
thunder, created by Tesla, 168 
transformers, for alternating current, 

128; high-frequency, 142 
transmission of images, Tesla's theory 
of, 122-23, 153, 170 



transmission of sound, without wires, 
Tesla's theory of, 122-23, 152, 158, 
170 

Trixie, 9-11 

tubes, radio, 173 

Twain, Mark, 66 

Union Sulphur Company, 179 
United States, 139, 144-45, 147, 157, 
160, 185 

Victoria, Queen, 9 

Von FUrstenburg, Alfred, 27-28 

Von FUrstenburg, Countess, 21-22, 29, 

67, 83 
Von FUrstenburg, General Count, 23- 

25, 67 

Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, 184 

Wardendiff, Long Island, 172, 176-77, 
179 

Wentzlas, Mark, 12-14 

Wentzlas, Mrs., 12-14, 18, 86 

Werber, Albert, 107-09, 125-31, 133 

Western Union Telegraph Company, 
125 

Westinghouse Electric Company, 131, 
135, 146, 151, 157, 160 

Westinghouse, George, 131-33, 135-40, 
145-48, 151-53, 155-56, 160-62 

White, Sanford, 172 

Wilhelm, Kaiser, 99 

wireless broadcasting system, world- 
wide, Tesla's plans for, 172-76 

World System, 173-76 

World War II, 185 

World's Fair, of 1893, 148, 150-54 

Yugoslavia, 185 



,) 



192