As my book on Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity slowly took shape, the question was begged – Who is Nikola Tesla? Of course, you’ll have to buy the book to find out all the interesting history of the man, but here’s a teaser to get you started. Nikola begins his life, and his brother loses his life.
Born in the small village of Smiljan in what was then the Austrian Empire but now is part of present day Croatia, Tesla was born “precisely at midnight” as July 9th rolled into July 10th in 1856. This led to some uncertainty as to what date his birthday should be celebrated, but in practice his birthdays rarely were celebrated much at all, at least until his later years when he was world famous. Then his birthdays became celebrated affairs complete with press coverage. But that was much later. For now the young Nikola lived the rather mundane life of the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest.
The fourth of five children, Nikola became the only male heir after the rather mysterious death of his older brother, Danilo. As Tesla later tells it, Danilo met his end at the hands, or rather the hoofs, of the family horse. The horse itself had actually been a favorite of the Tesla family as it had supposedly “saved my father’s life under remarkable circumstances.” A “magnificent” Arabian breed, Telsa relates the story:
“My father had been called one winter night to perform an urgent duty and while crossing the mountains, infested by wolves, the horse became frightened and ran away, throwing him violently to the ground. It arrived home bleeding and exhausted, but after the alarm was sounded immediately dashed off again, returning to the spot, and before the searching party were far on the way they were met by my father, who had recovered consciousness and remounted, not realizing he had been lying in the snow for several hours.”
And so his father was saved by the horse. Brother Danilo was not so lucky. Again according to Tesla, “this horse was responsible for my brother’s injuries from which he died.” Worse yet, young Nikola “witnessed the tragic scene” and the “visual impression of it has lost none of its force” over the 50+ years that had elapsed.
Others suggest that Nikola may not have been such an innocent bystander.
David J. Kent is the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, now available. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (both Fall River Press). He has also written two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.
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