Nikola Tesla – Original Geek

Day 245 of Colourisation Project – January 7

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

Born in 1856, in what is now Croatia, Nikola Tesla, inventor and physicist is considered one of the world’s greatest minds; an eccentric futurist and a pioneer in many fields, without whose inventions and discoveries, we would be living insanely different lives.

According to Life Magazine’s special issue of September, 1997, Tesla is among the 100 most famous people of the last 1,000 years

Nikola Tesla

Photographer: Napoleon Sarony  –  Nikola Tesla 1895 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

Among his discoveries are the alternating current (AC) electricity supply system, regarded one of the ten greatest discoveries of all time; the Tesla Coil widely used today in electronic equipment; the fluorescent light, the laser beam, wireless communications, wireless transmission of electrical energy, remote control, robotics, Tesla’s turbines and vertical take off aircraft.

Tesla had hundreds of other ideas and inventions that remain unreleased. His registration of over 700 patents worldwide give an indication of the scope of his revolutionary ideas. He foresaw interplanetary communications and satellites.  His vision included exploration of solar energy and the power of the sea. A true visionary he was way ahead of his contemporaries in the field of scientific development.

Not only was Tesla a brilliant inventor and engineer, he was also a hyper polyglot, fluent in 8 different languages: Serbo-Croatian, English, Czech, German, French, Hungarian, Italian and Latin.

From childhood, Tesla had extraordinary powers of visualization and an exceptional photographic memory. He was known to memorize books and images. Consequently, Tesla rarely made drawings of his inventions, instead he worked from mental images stored in his head. His uncanny ability to visualize in three dimensions meant he could fully construct his inventions in his mind before committing them to paper.      

Loved by the American press and highly regarded by the scientific community, Tesla was the original super star geek. A lifelong bachelor he led a somewhat isolated existence, preferring to devote himself to his work and to science.

Curiously, Tesla an aversion that no-one has been able to explain. He could not stand the sight of pearls. He would even refuse to speak to women wearing them. Tesla had his own particular sense of style and aesthetics. He wore white gloves to dinner every night and prided himself on being a ‘dapper dresser.’

Neurologist, Oliver Sacks suggests that Tesla may have been a high functioning autistic, an autistic savant.  Tesla avoided touch, was celibate all his life, had a sensitivity to light and sound, and exhibited compulsive behaviour; he had a fixation on the number three and would only stay in hotel rooms with room numbers divisible by three, he divided his food into neat groups of three, he was regimented in his daily activities, he would walk around the block four times before entering a building. He squished his toes one hundred times on each foot every night, claiming that it stimulated his brain cells. He was meticulous in his grooming and clothing. As a teenager he survived a near-fatal bout of cholera, which might account for his excessive hygiene habits.

Nikola Tesla died in his sleep on this day, January 7, 1943, at the age of 86, in New York City— in room 3327 of the Hotel New Yorker, where he had lived for the last ten years of his life.

Over 2000 people attended his state funeral. His body was cremated and his ashes were interned in a golden sphere, Tesla’s favorite shape, on permanent display at the Tesla Museum in Belgrade along with his death mask.


“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 one 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.”   –  Nikola Tesla

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