Nikola Tesla was born in the village Smiljan of Lika
County in the Austrian Empire. He was
born on July 10th, 1856. Tesla’s
father, Milutin Tesla, was a writer and an Orthodox priest who pushed for
Nikola to join him in the priesthood. Tesla’s
mother, Djuka Mandic, always made household appliances in her free time. Tesla credited his mother for his
creativeness and eidetic memory. Tesla
was not an only child, having 4 siblings.
He had his three sisters, Milka, Angelina, and Marica and his brother,
Dane. Dane died in a horseback riding
accident when Nikola was only five years old.
year later, Nikola started elementary school where he studied arithmetic and
German. In 1870, Tesla moved up north to
Karlovac so that he could start attending high school up there. While in high school, Nikola was accused by
his teachers of cheating since he was able to do integral calculus in head. Tesla
noted that his physics professor is the reason that he developed an interest in
demonstrations of electricity. He
finished high school and graduated in 1873, completing a four-year term in only
1873, he moved back to Smiljan where he contracted Cholera he was bedridden for
nine months. He was in such bad
condition that he was near death multiple times. Milutin prayed for his son and said that if
Nikola were to get better, he’d send him to the best engineering school even
though it was Milutin’s dream for Nikola to enter the priesthood. Very shortly after Milutin’s promise to his
son and God, Nikola recovered back to perfect health. In 1874, Nikola was able to avoid being drafted
into the Austro-Hungarian Army by running away to the southeast of Lika. He roamed the mountains of Tomingaj and he
said that the exposure to nature not only made him stronger physically but
mentally as well.
1875, Tesla had enrolled himself into Austrian Polytechnic located in Graz,
Austria. Nikola had a perfect first
year. He had never missed a lecture and he
received the highest that were possible to achieve. He had also passed nine exams which were
nearly double the amount of exams that were required. He even got a letter of commendation sent from
the dean of the technical faculty.
During his second year, Nikola had a disagreement with one of his
professors over the Gramme dynamo which is an electrical generator that produces direct current. The dispute was over whether or not the
commutators were necessary and when Nikola told his professor that they were in
fact not essential, the professor took offense to this. At the end of his second year, Nikola had
lost his scholarship and had fallen into a serious gambling addiction, but at
the time he did not see it as an addiction.
While in his third year, Nikola gambled away his tuition money and much
more. He later gambled it back his
losses and gave up gambling for good.
When it came time for examinations, he was unbelievably unprepared and
asked multiple times for an extension for studying, but he was denied each time. He did not receive grades for the final
semester of third year and he never graduated from university.
In 1878, Nikola left Graz and
completely disconnected himself from his family to conceal the fact that he had dropped out of
school. All of his friends had thought that
he had drowned in a nearby river. Tesla moved to Maribor where he could be by himself. In March of 1879, Milutin went to Maribor and
begged Nikola to come home, but he was unable to persuade his son. Shortly after his encounter with his father,
Nikola suffered from a nervous breakdown.
Later that month Nikola was sent home under police guard for not having
a residence permit in Maribor. In April,
Milutin died at the age of 60.
1881, Tesla moved to Budapest, Hungary to work at the Budapest Telephone
Exchange. Within only a matter of months
Tesla was given the chief electrician position.
During this time, Tesla had made many improvements to the
equipment. He also claimed to have finalized
a telephone repeater but it was never patented.
In 1882, Tesla was given a job in Paris working for the Continental
Edison Company. He gained a large amount
of practical experience in electrical engineering while working there. In 1884, Charles Batchelor, the Edison
manager of Paris was brought to New York City to oversee work that was taking
place there for the Edison Machine Works.
Batchelor requested that Tesla come along as well and in June, Tesla
moved to the United States. Just as in
Paris, Tesla’s job was to regulate installations and improve generators. One of projects that Tesla was assigned was
to develop an street lighting system that was arc-lamp based. The designs that Tesla had created were never
put into production. It is unclear why
this was the case, but it is speculated that it was due to a deal made between
Edison and an arc lighting company.
Tesla had only been working at the Edison Machine Works for a short time
of six months when he quit