Birth of Nikola Tesla

US #2057 from the American Inventors series. (In 1891, he became an American citizen.)

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, Austrian Empire (present-day Croatia).

The fourth of five children, Tesla discovered as he attended school that he had an eidetic memory – meaning he was able to retain more information and for longer than his fellow students.  This sometimes got young Tesla in trouble as his teachers thought him to be cheating.

In 1875, Tesla attended Austrian Polytechnic, a higher-education school in Graz, Austria.  Tesla did well in his first year, but later became addicted to gambling and his success faltered.  He left the school in 1878.  In 1880, Tesla went to several lectures at Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague – he had been too late to formally enroll in the college.

US #2057 – Classic First Day Cover.

After leaving Prague, Tesla worked at a telegraph company in Budapest before moving to France in 1882 where he worked for the Continental Edison Company.  In June 1884, he immigrated to the United States, thanks to a letter Edison received from respected inventor Charles Batchelor.  Batchelor wrote, “I know two great men; one is you (Edison) and the other is this young man.”  Edison hired Tesla to work for him in New York City.  The two worked well together for about a year, but broke ties when Edison refused to pay Tesla a promised amount after he improved several of Edison’s motors and generators.

US #2057 – Fleetwood First Day Cover.

Tesla then partnered with two businessmen to create Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing.  He filed several patents, all of which he gave to the company.  However, his partners then decided they wanted to focus on just supplying electricity.  They established a new company, leaving Tesla with nothing.  To pay the bills, he reportedly worked as a ditch digger for $2 a day, though he was distraught that his talent was going to waste.

Then in 1887, Tesla met two investors who gave him the funding to create the Tesla Electric Company in Manhattan.  While working there, he developed the groundbreaking alternating current induction motor.  He so impressed the Westinghouse Company, they agreed to license the technology and pay him up front.  However, Westinghouse later convinced Tesla to sell them the patents for a single sum, which likely prevented Tesla from making a fortune.

US #230 was issued for the World’s Columbian Exposition.

In 1893, Tesla helped supply the power to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  He illuminated more light bulbs than could be found in all of Chicago.  He also entertained audiences with several spectacles, including an electric light with no wires.  Tesla would later help Westinghouse win a contract to generate electrical power at Niagara Falls, creating the first large-scale AC power plant in the world.

US #C133 from the Scenic American Landscapes series.

Despite his brilliance, Tesla endured hardships. A fire destroyed his Manhattan lab in 1895, taking with it his notes and prototypes.  And when he demonstrated wireless control of a boat, many claimed it was a hoax.  Tesla then explored the wireless transmission of electric power.  He believed he could provide wireless electricity and communication around the world.  Tesla also claimed to have plans to create a motor that ran on cosmic rays, had discovered a technique for photographing thoughts and invented peace and death rays.

US #2057 – Silk Cachet First Day Cover.

Tesla made poor financial decisions most of his life, so he spent his final years with little money.  He died on January 7, 1943, in New York City.  Tesla was a brilliant inventor, engineer, and physicist.  His experiments and research changed the world.  He developed what became our modern alternating current (AC) electricity, experimented with x-rays and radio waves, and improved many pre-existing technologies.  He held 300 patents and could speak eight languages.  Tesla developed so many important theories and advances that he is called the “Father of Physics.”

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
Share this Article


  1. Tesla was certainly the father of the ac electrical distribution system we enjoy today. I’m not sure about Father of Physics together with Galileo, Newton, Einstein.

  2. Edison stole so many ideas including the light bulb and motion pictures for which Tesla and others should been credited

  3. Tesla was a genius who unfortunately became somewhat detached from reality in his later years. People easily took advantage of him–including Edison and Westinghouse. Galileo, however, was the Father of Physics.

  4. Ones again, we see the immense jealousy on the part of those that were not
    as gifted and chosen as Tesla was, and here we have them taking his (Tesla’s)
    ideas and creative genius, and making it their own. Many ‘American’ Inventors were in fact foreigners who immigrated to the United States, either
    through their own free will, or were drawn here through incentives such as equipment, working conditions, and of course the granddaddy of the granddaddy of them all-M.O.N.E.Y, which know one says NO to.

  5. Had Tesla been a good business man, no one would have ever heard of Marconi and Edison would have been relegated to second place in history forever.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *