Nikola Tesla: anecdotes

A young inventor

``The child began when only a few years of age to make original inventions. When he was five, he built a small waterwheel quite unlike those he had seen in the countryside. It was smooth, without paddles, yet it spun evenly in the current. Years later he was to recall this fact when designing his unique bladeless turbine.

But some of his other experiments were less successful. Once he perched on the roof of the barn, clutching the family umbrella and hyperventilating on the fresh mountain breeze until his body felt light and the dizziness in his head convinced him he could fly. Plunging to earth, he lay unconcious and was carried off to bed by his mother.

His sixteen-bug-power motor was, likewise, not an unqualified success. This was a light contrivance made of splinters forming a windmill, with a spindle and pulley attached to live June bugs. When the glued insects beat their wings, as they did desperately, the bug-power engine prepared to take off. This line of research was forever abandoned however when a young friend dropped by who fancied the taste of June bugs. Noticing a jarful standing near, he began cramming them into his mouth. The youthful inventor threw up.''

Adopted from "Tesla: Man out of time", by Margaret Cheney, 1981.

Serbian Poetry

``Another anecdote about the inventor is told by the Reverend Stijacic. On his first trip to America as a young writer for the Serbian Federation, Stijacic had been surprised to find in the Chicago Public Library, a book of poems, the author of which was the popular Serbian poet, Zmaj-Jovan. The translator was Nikola Tesla. Later, when Stijacic was taken by Dr. Rado to meet the inventor in his offices on the twentieth floor of the Metropolitan Tower, he said, "Mr. Tesla, I did not know that you were interested in poetry."

A look of wry amusement shone in the inventor's eyes. "There are many of us Serbs who sing," he said, "but there is nobody to listen to us."''

Adopted from "Tesla: man out of time", by Margaret Cheney, 1981.


``I had two old aunts with wrinkled faces, one of them having two teeth protruding like the tusks of an elephant which she buried in my cheek every time she kissed me. Nothing would scare me more than the prospect of being hugged by these as affectionate as unattractive relatives. It happened that while being carried in my mother's arms they asked me who was the prettier of the two. After examining their faces intently, I answered thoughtfully, pointing to one of them, "This here is not as ugly as the other."''

Nikola Tesla, "My Inventions: the autobiography of Nikola Tesla", Hart Bros., 1982. Originally appeared in the Electrical experimenter magazine in 1919.

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