At T3, we’re huge fans of Nikola Tesla. After all, we named our company after him. Here are 10 facts about this underrated genius you probably didn’t know:

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

1. Threes Frame…

Tesla often walked around a block 3 times before entering a building and that he required 18 (a number divisible by 3) napkins to polish his silverware and drinking glass each night (although undiagnosed during his lifetime, several historians nowadays agree that Tesla had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder/OCD). Tesla died 3 days before his 87th birthday and alone in Room 3327 (a number divisible by 3) of the 33rd floor of the New Yorker Hotel.

2. No sleep for a brilliant mind…

Like Leonardo Da Vinci, Tesla claimed to sleep in spurts, but never over a period of more than two hours at a time. He often worked a schedule that kept him at his desk until after 3 am, then he started again just hours later. Tesla once worked for 84 hours straight. While Tesla never got what could be considered a good night’s rest, he did admit to “dozing” from time to time, and we all know how effective a power nap can be

3. He invented smartphones and “Siri” long before Steve Jobs, Apple, and Google came along…

Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not very good at applying his ideas to practice. In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla described to his financier and business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new means of instant communication that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet. “He was the first to be thinking about the information revolution in the sense of delivering information for each individual user,” one historian writes. Tesla also conceived of, but never developed technology for radar, X-rays, a particle beam “death ray” and radio astronomy.

4. Healthy living…

Tesla believed, as many modern-day health experts would agree, that a sound body encouraged a sound mind. As a result, he walked eight to 10 miles a day and was very aware of staying fit. In the evenings before bedtime, Tesla would curl his toes 100 times per foot. He believed this stimulated brain cells. Tesla even became a vegetarian in his later years, living on only milk, bread, honey, and vegetable juices, as he believed this would benefit his health.

5. Appearances matter…

Along with Tesla’s beliefs on healthy living, he was strict about his appearance and that of those who worked for him. Always meticulously dressed and groomed, Tesla understood that the world takes a man by his appearance and that a good appearance can often open doors. Tesla was so strict in these beliefs that he once fired a secretary for being overweight and repeatedly sent others home during the workday to change into more tasteful attire.

6. Too busy for love…

Tesla lived a life of celibacy, by choice. It is said that Tesla had women falling at his feet due to his brilliance, fame, good looks and periods of wealth. Tesla made the choice, believing sex would muddy his thinking and claiming that his chastity was very helpful to his scientific abilities. Later in his life, Tesla questioned if he sacrificed too much for his work in not taking a wife.

7. Animal lover…

Tesla may have chosen to stay away from women and marriage, but, he grew overly fond of a pigeon. Near the end of his life, Tesla walked to the park every day to feed the pigeons there. He began to bring injured ones into his hotel room to nurse back to health. He claimed that he had been visited by a specific injured white pigeon each day at the park. Tesla spent more than $2,000 to fix the bird’s broken wing and leg, including building a device that comfortably supported the bird so her bones could heal. Tesla is reported as saying, “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them, for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings, that was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her, and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

8. Hyper-polyglot…

Tesla spoke 8 languages – Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin – and the polyglot was more of a hyper polyglot (one who can speak more than six languages with fluency) with a high degree of proficiency. Studies abound on what makes someone able to learn multiple languages and use them fluently: One theory claims that a spike in testosterone levels before birth can increase brain asymmetry and allow for such learning. Other theories suggest that becoming a polyglot has nothing to do with such factors and is actually just about hard work and the right type of motivation, which any adult, but especially one of Tesla’s high intelligence, can apply.

9. Celebrity friends: the original “Entourage”…

Tesla often avoided social engagements, preferring the company of his work to chit-chat at dinner parties. But he did have a few close friends, many of whom were writers and also happened to be famous. Among them was Mark Twain whose word was near gold at the time, described Tesla’s induction-motor invention as “the most valuable patent since the telephone” before they became acquainted. Tesla and Twain spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s lab and elsewhere. When Tesla described his mechanical oscillator that produced alternating currents as a device that could be therapeutic, Twain even helped Tesla test it.

Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla

Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla

10. Odd odds and ends… 

Tesla always despised jewelry and did not own a single piece, considering jewelry to be wasteful and cumbersome. In his late years he seemed to focus in on pearls specifically, and in addition to hating jewelry, he began to hate round objects. In his later years, Tesla also could not bear to touch hair and did not like to shake hands.


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