Thu
Jul 10 2014 6:00am

Nikola Tesla Was a Great Scientist, But a Greater Nerd

Nikola Tesla by David A. JohnsonToday marks the 158th birthday of Nikola Tesla, a man so bizarre and scientifically curious that it’s easy to imagine him figuring out a method to cheat death and live to see this year, if only Thomas Edison or his suspected OCD weren’t interfering....

Tesla brought true advancements to the fields of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and talking about death ray urban legends while tipsy at parties. And although his scientific achievements are vital to the way we live today, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that what we as fans of science fiction truly laud him for is for being a wildly imaginative outsider.

Tesla was that person imagining how to build a robot during a boring family dinner. Tesla was that person reading a book in a quiet room just off of the main party. Tesla was that person who then felt obligated to read all of that author’s books.

Imagining the scientist doing this during the late 19th century/early 20th century conjures grandiose surroundings and, given the legacy he left, ascribes a larger purpose to these anti-social behaviors. But thinking back to when we did the same things? Not so much. (There’s way more stained drywall and video game posters, for one.) But we recognize intrinsically that these two approaches to life are the same behavior, and we feel that same glittering potential in ourselves that Tesla must have acted upon. That sneaking suspicion that we’re clever enough to change the world. That we can make it cooler or better; that we can single-handedly bring the future we’ve always imagined into the present day.

When seen in that context it feels eminently correct that Tesla is the celebritized scientist that he is. Sure, he was weird, and he certainly had his fair share of bullies, but he did something with that weirdness and now our world is....

Well...I’m certainly not qualified to judge whether it’s better, but it’s certainly way more interesting. So here’s to Super Nerd Nikola Tesla. Happy birthday, sir. Mind the pigeons.

This post originally appeared July 10, 2013 on Tor.com


Chris Lough is the production manager of Tor.com and couldn’t alternate a current to save his life.

8 comments
Sandra Deakins
1. gondorlady
Yes, do mind the pigeons.....great article, thanks for this. I agree, Tesla was the best, Edison got way more credit than he deserved (the theaving/lying/bigoted), asshole. If only he (Tesla) were alive today.......so much more he could do with today's advancments. I realize I may have opened a "Pandoras' box" by writing what I just did about Edison, but there you have it........
lampwick
2. lampwick
"Celebritized"? "Celebrated," surely.

Otherwise I liked the article, though. And yes, Edison was definitely a jerk.
lampwick
3. ashes
Tesla may be asocial, but definitely not anti-social.

Otherwise I liked the article.
lampwick
5. Sayxche
Ofcourse he was a nerd, because he was the person who understood the whole universe and his only concern was the future of mankind, so he couldnt be bothered with 'regular people' problems such as money, or anything material at all. He knew his time on this planet was too precious to waste it.
And if you are really interested to read more about Tesla, there is an awesome blog with some forbidden files:
http://fbi-about-tesla.blogspot.com
lampwick
6. Louie Ferro
Knowing Tesla giving his so called "tesla radiant energy" is such an amazing fit for an individual or person. He did gave us the luxury of living this world on an easy wayin terms of energy!
lampwick
7. RobertoCX
This is a short animation on the life of Nikola Tesla: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2ZxvEoOvbY
lampwick
10. The Big Giant
A nice article. Maybe Tesla was the greatest nerd ever? The article just scratched the surface of his nerd-ness. As a kid he disassembled his father's clocks (often unable to reassemble them). He built arrow guns. He read all the books in the house. As he grew, so did his nerdum. He was indeed a very interesting man. His autobiography is full of great information about him. This website has his autobiography available:
teslasautobiography.com
Thanks,
Kevin :-)
Colin Bell
11. SchuylerH
Other birthdays today include John Wyndham, Julian May and Tor's very own David G. Hartwell.

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