Nikola Tesla was a man of genius and mystery. He came to America as a young man with dreams of transforming the world through his inventions. He worked obsessively on a variety of projects throughout his life and was a stubborn defender of each of his ideas. The system of electricity used in the world today was a result of his work in the 1800s. Tesla was reclusive in parts of his life and eventually driven to madness in his later years. His rivalry with inventor Thomas Edison became legendary. His ideas were ahead of his time. Overall, Tesla’s work revolutionized the world.

Zone in on the facts about the man who electrified the world:

1. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) was a physicist and inventor whose work transformed the use of electricity.

2. Tesla was born in what is now Croatia and immigrated to the United States in hopes of working with famed inventor Thomas Edison.

3. Tesla eventually resigned from Edison Labs after bitter disagreements over his alternating current system with Edison, who feared the system was not safe and preferred the system of direct current electricity in spite of direct current’s limited transmission distance.

4. He developed the system of alternating current electricity in the 1880s (which later business partner and investor George Westinghouse marketed as the Tesla Polyphase System) which could transmit electricity over long distances and is the basis for modern electrical systems used in homes and businesses.

5. Tesla attempted to design a process to transmit electricity through the air without wires to make it available for the whole world but could never capitalize on the concept.

6. As early as 1893, Tesla discussed the possibility of radio communications and even cellular phones, decades before either became a reality.

7. In 1928, Tesla designed an early tilt-rotor aircraft, a simple biplane capable of taking off vertically like helicopter and flying like a regular plane once aloft.

8. Tesla reportedly had a photographic memory, spoke eight languages, and had more than 200 patents for his various inventions.

9. In physics, a Tesla is a unit of magnetic intensity, named in his honor.

— Dr. Bridges is a professor of history and geography living in Arkansas. He can be contacted at