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5 Fascinating Facts About Nikola Tesla


The Croatian-born inventor contributed to the development of the alternating-current electrical system.
The Croatian-born inventor contributed to the development of the alternating-current electrical system.

Croatian-born inventor Nikola Tesla, who died on Jan. 7, 1943, contributed to the development of the alternating-current electrical system. He also discovered the rotating magnetic field, which is the basis of most AC machinery. Read on for a few factoids on one of the founders of the modern electric utility industry.

  1. He was born during a lightning storm.

    Nikola Tesla was born in the wee hours of July 10, 1856, during a fierce lightning storm. According to family legend, midway through the birth, the midwife declared the lightning a bad omen. “This child will be a child of darkness!” she lamented. Tesla’s mother swiftly replied: “No. He will be a child of light.”

  2. Cholera saved him from the priesthood. 

    Tesla’s father wanted him to enter the priesthood as a profession, while the boy loved physics and calculus. As a teenager, Tesla contracted cholera. He was bedridden for nine months, near death multiple times. Despairing, Tesla's father promised to send him to engineering school if he recovered from the illness.

  3. He lit up the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

    Tesla and the Westinghouse Corporation won the bid to illuminate the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, the first all-electric fair in history. On opening night, President Grover Cleveland pushed a button. Instantly, more than a hundred thousand incandescent lamps bathed the fairground's neoclassical buildings in light.

    The lights outlining every building and walkway created the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted and the first large-scale test of alternating current. The fair consumed three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago.

  4. He may have invented the Death Star. 

    In his later years, Tesla claimed to have perfected what he called a "death beam." Upon his death in 1943, family members noticed that some of Tesla’s technical papers and notebooks were missing. It was later discovered that U.S. government agencies had obtained some of Tesla’s work and possessions. During the next nine years, the research changed hands within the American government several times. In 1952, Tesla's papers and possessions were released and returned to Belgrade, Yugoslavia, where a museum was created in his honor.

  5. You can walk in his footsteps.

    The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe was built on the site of his last remaining laboratory in Shoreham, NY. It offers virtual and live programming for people of all ages. Its mission is to "embrace his bold spirit of invention, provide innovative learning experiences, foster the advancement of new technologies, and preserve his legacy in the Tesla Museum."

Shocked yet? If not, you can see some live demonstrations of Tesla coils right in Entergy’s service territory.

The Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs, Arkansas, houses the most powerful conical Tesla coil in the world (a whopping 1.5 million volts)! In addition, the Museum of Discovery in Little Rock, Arkansas, is home to a huge musical bi-polar Tesla coil. This coil creates 250,000 volts of viewable electricity. By modulating the frequency of the lightning the coil produces, museum educators can play well-known songs on the device.

Both museums, which inspire our communities with the wonders of science, are grantees of Entergy.

Learn more about Nikola Tesla’s life and work.

Nicole Bradshaw
Manager, Digital and Social Media