Lynne Kiesling

I am, and always have been, a fan of Nikola Tesla, having most recently celebrated his birthday with a post here that included a link to the video of the O.M.D. song “Tesla Girls”. Now I find out that my appreciation of Tesla makes me a hip trendsetter! Who knew?

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an entertaining and informative article on Tesla’s resurgence, with the claim that Tesla’s ideas thrive in the 21st century while his arch-nemesis Thomas Edison is “so 20th century”.

But Tesla has been rediscovered by technophiles, including Google Inc. co-founder Larry Page, who frequently cites him as an early inspiration. And Teslamania is going increasingly mainstream.

An early hint was “Tesla Girls,” a 1984 single from the British technopop band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. Performance artist Laurie Anderson has said she was fascinated by Tesla. David Bowie played a fictionalized version of him in the 2006 film “The Prestige,” alongside Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. Director Terry Gilliam described Tesla in a recent documentary film as “more of an artist than a scientist in some strange way.”

Tesla, in short, is cool.

He’s now even a character in a video game, which I guess is how you know you’ve really arrived in the 21st century! Oh, and the having an electric roadster named after you, and a line of computer chips, … geek mystique, indeed!

6 thoughts on “Tesla!!!!!!!

  1. I’m a long-term fan of Tesla, too, but I’m not quite enamored with the WSJ article. It would have you think that Tesla didn’t have many patents. In fact, Tesla even has the patent for radio in the U.S., not Marconi. [Tesla didn’t win the patent from Marconi until the 40s, I think, but his priority was legally established in the end.] But he also didn’t “create” hydro facilities, and he didn’t make a “mint” from the sale of his patents to Westinghouse. [He did have a rather large royalty on AC electricity sales, but the company reneged on it as soon as it got into trouble.]

    I’ve read a number of books on Tesla over the years, but perhaps the most sober and factual biography is “Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius” by Marc Seifer. It examines closely some of the apocryphal anecdotes that have been repeated in earlier books and that have made their way into legend. Nevertheless, the whole story is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking, and I’m glad people are learning who he was.

  2. Just reviewed the PBS video, “Electric Nation” (2002), which was part of the “Great Projects: Building of America” series. Somehow it manages to begin with Edison’s successful incandescent bulb and continues to the Pearl Street Station to Samuel Edison at Chicago and finally the TVA and rural electrification without mentioning either George Westinghouse or Nicola Tesla. Amazing.

  3. That’s the standard story line, but the real story is so much better. (I know you meant Samuel Insull. I didn’t even catch it on the first time through.)

  4. Don’t forget TESLA MOTORS and their hot all-electric roadster! Pricey, but my, what fun…..

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