Futuristic Thinking and Pop Culture Surrounding the Extraordinary Life of Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was one of the greatest scientific minds in history. He was an engineer and inventor, and many of his inventions changed the world forever. Some of his ideas and creations were never realized. Like many great scientists, he had many eccentric elements to his personality. There are a number of myths surrounding some of his work and his life.

Who Was Nikola Tesla?

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American who lived from 1856-1943. He was born in what is modern-day Croatia and immigrated to the United States in 1884 for work. He had worked in Paris for Thomas Edison’s lighting company and went on to work for a short time at Edison’s manufacturing company, Edison Machine Works, in New York City. He was an electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, physicist, and renowned inventor.

Greatest Inventions

Tesla’s greatest invention is arguably the alternating current (AC) electricity system, which is still very an important system universally used today. He also did a lot of early work with x-rays. Tesla developed the first radar system. In fact, he received around 300 patents for inventions he made around the world. Many of these were in the areas of electricity, telecommunications, and energy. Some of the records of his patents are yet to be uncovered, and some went missing.

Ideas That Were Never Created

A lot of Tesla’s ideas were very futuristic. He believed that so much was possible, and he wanted to use his knowledge of the laws of physics to see how far the human race could go. Many of his inventions were never created, and he didn’t always succeed in getting people to believe in his extreme concepts.

He tried to create an instrument to control the weather but only went as far as creating artificial lightning bolts. Many of his ideas ruffled a lot of feathers like a wireless radio transmission tower he built during the First World War that was later demolished by the authorities. There was also a “Death Ray” to use concentrated energy to effectively zap down enemies. He was also fascinated by the ideas of time travel, robotics, and anti-gravity ships.

Tesla in Popular Culture

The life and scientific contributions of Tesla have been honored in many ways by both the scientific community and the world at large. Although he is not as widely known as other great science minds, his influence is undeniable. The founders of Tesla Motors, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning, chose that name for their breakthrough electric vehicle in honor of Nikola Tesla and his work with electricity.

Pop culture has also taken to mentioning and depicting the great inventor. Board games, books, comics, and movies have all done this. Because of Tesla’s futuristic thinking, his eccentricity, and his very often wild ideas, his character has found a natural place with sci-fi writers. Sherlock Holmes and Superman are just two examples of stories were the character of Tesla was depicted.

Many of Tesla’s personal traits and his inventions are exaggerated in films. The character of Tesla is played by David Bowie in the 2006 movie, The Prestige. This hit features famous actors Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as competing magicians. Scarlet Johansson plays a magician’s assistant and spy. The movie is a great mix of magic, sci-fi, and science.

In the movie, Hugh Jackman’s character travels to America to meet Tesla. He wants to learn more about the teleportation machine he believes the inventor built for his rival. Part of Tesla’s work with electricity and his ability to create lightning bolts is shown in the movie. This is exaggerated, however, with his character going as far as mastering the science not to teleport objects but to duplicate them instead.


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