Nikola Tesla and the Two Sides of Budapest

Budapest is the capital of Hungary. It also played a key role in Nikola Tesla’s greatest discovery and in the development of modern technology. There are two sides to Budapest, and I got to explore both of them a few years ago.

Spanning the banks of the beautiful and broad Danube River, the second longest river in Europe, Budapest used to be two cities (or three, depending on how you count). Buda, on the western bank, is the former capital of the Kingdom of Hungary. Sitting high on the hill is the Buda Castle and the Citadel.

Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary

On the opposite, eastern, bank is Pest. Mostly flat (compared to the hilly Buda), its most prominent feature is the newer Parliament Building, though you might think it looks more like some sort of sprawling cathedral. It remains the largest building in all of Hungary, and the tallest in Budapest. And yes, it was rainy during my entire visit.

Parliament, Budapest, Hungary

Buda and Pest were merged into the single city of Budapest in 1873. Nine years later, Nikola Tesla had moved to Budapest expecting to take a job working for Alexander Graham Bell’s new telephone company. The job turned out to be nonexistent, but Tesla was able to find work at the Central Telegraph Office, where he soon found himself sinking into a profound depression. It was during one of his episodic visions he discovered the principles that led to his most famous invention – the alternating current polyphase system of electricity. You can read more about that in this excerpt from my Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity book.

Budapest offers other interests to science travelers like myself. It houses the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, eighteen different Universities, Roman spas, and of course the beautiful Danube River itself.

During my time in Europe I was able to see several of the places that Nikola Tesla spent time, including Budapest, Austria, Strasbourg, Slovenia, Prague, London, and Paris. Still on my list to see are Belgrade and Lika. I look forward to that adventure.

David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity and the e-book Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time. He is currently writing a book on Thomas Edison.

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