Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla by Marc Seifer

2020, book #5: “Have you ever read the book of Job? If you put my mind in place of his body, you will find my sufferings accurately described. I have put all the money I could scrape together into this plant, and with $50,000 it is completed.” — Nikola Tesla

Finished on January 24, 2020

I saw this book as one of the available audiobooks on sale and thought that Tesla would be someone I would particularly enjoy learning a lot more about. Wow, was he ever interesting. This book was great in the way that it was organized. The chapters were split up by time period so most of it was chronological yet, the author did a great job interweaving everything together and emphasizing the cause and effect of various decisions that Tesla made.

Intense activity for 15 years. Wow. This man had a work ethic and a passion that I have NEVER seen up close. There are not many people who can work consistently and repeatedly for years and years and years. He produced AC units how rapidly? As rapidly as they could be constructed. Crazy crazy. The man just worked and he got the job done over and over and over again. From this part of the book forward, I was hooked and entirely interested in not only all that Tesla did but also how he was so successful as an inventor. I had a little background knowledge that Benjamin Franklin was the better business mind and actually “stole” or copied many of Tesla’s ideas and wanted to learn more about that also.

Tesla produced AC units as rapidly as they could be constructed. 3 complete systems, single phase, 2 phase, and 3 phase currents. Experiments on 4 phase and 6 phase currents as well. First patent for an AC Dynamo filed by Tesla Electric Company on April 30, 1887. With a newly formed partnership, he adopted a nonstop schedule of intense activity for 15 years that frightened those around him. He regularly pushed himself until he collapsed.

Nothing more interesting to him, and nobody more masterful than him to understand these subjects at the time. Those are the keys, aren’t they? Mastery and passion.

Tesla shared that the driving force of his motivation was that he didn’t believe there was a more interesting study than that of alternating current. The energy takes the many forms of heat, light, mechanical energy, and even chemical affinity. In their striving, he states he has discovered hours of untold pleasure and have directed energies towards the benefit of mankind.

This is a tough understanding for me also. I know who I can become and I’m learning more and more about who God has created for me to be. With that in mind, I must realize the pluses and minuses of all decisions. I can work 18 hours a day every day for years, why not, I’m built that way. But, is that the best use of my time? I need to build relationships, I need to be known, others can unlock doors that I could unlock on my own. In my mind, there is a fine line between working and working and working and also doing things that enable the work to be easier. I believe that God wants us to do both. I’m being reminded regularly that God can do more in a moment than any of us can in a lifetime. Regardless, God created me for a reason and every waking moment should be spent honoring Him, that’s why we’re on earth.

Tesla became a US citizen at the end of the 19th century and he was able to now file patents in his name. As he was now being sought after by more reporters, he began to see in a conscious sense his blatant desire for recognition. Every hour or moment not spent on inventions was time spent away from his purpose. Even eating and sleeping, he did only the minimum.

Wow. NO compensation? I went through this part with the understanding that Tesla had such a deep passion for his work that the paycheck or the financial incentive was not a driving factor for him at any point in his life. But wow, it really seems like Westinghouse exploited Tesla’s desire to help the world for their financial gain.

Tesla had a contract with Westinghouse for the patents but it was millions of dollars less than the actual value. Westinghouse and GE were going to be benefiting from the inventions of Tesla. Yet, he would not receive any compensation from the use within all subsidiaries. Also when electric subway trains implemented Tesla motors and system but he would again not be receiving any compensation.

This is disgusting to me. His investor stopped supporting him after he realized that Tesla did not want to financially profit from his projects and work. I mean I can see why some people would want to do that but still… it is just terrible to me. There could have been such an incredible positive impact on the world but JP Morgan wanted to make a profit…

Tesla’s support for his electrical system and infrastructure was cut off after his investor (JP Morgan) was made aware of his plan. Nikola Tesla wanted to provide free electrical power to everyone. The author wrote that Tesla had made a bargain with the wrong king.

Wow. And at the time that I finished this part of the book, Job was part of my morning readings. It’s crazy to me that Tesla felt such deep levels of pain and suffering. Especially at a point in time where Tesla felt he was so close to accomplishing his objective… Morgan pulled out. I can’t believe it and I hope that in the future I will never act in a similar manner.

April 2, 1904: Tesla wrote to Morgan, “Have you ever read the book of Job? If you put my mind in place of his body, you will find my sufferings accurately described. I have put all the money I could scrape together into this plant, and with $50,000 it is completed.”

I admire the awareness that Tesla had. He knew exactly what he was involved in and why and shared that with all people openly. It was interesting to see all the people that sought out Tesla and wanted to have an interaction or partnership with him.

John Hayes Hammond Junior proposed a partnership with Tesla. He viewed Tesla and Bell as mentors and offered to create a Tesla Hammond combination. Tesla would be glad to enter a partnership for telematics. Tesla was certain to mention he already has partnerships with his wireless inventions and wireless power transmission business.

Truly alone. Wow. The effects that this had on him were wild to see. It was sad to see the negative impacts from the withdrawals he underwent after his friends departed on a lengthy trip. Tesla felt alone and attacked. But beyond that, he seemed to lose himself in the regimens that he created and the things that he did to protect himself.

In the early 1920s, Tesla’s friends spent time in Europe. Tesla was truly alone. He tried to keep life in perspective and transform the world while he continued to feel abandoned by the world he helped create largely because of the public scrutiny he faced. He sought to contain his anger through his continued effort to transform the world. This took its toll on him and “caused an already eccentric individual to exaggerate his already strange ways.”

He became more fanatical about cleanliness and spent more time walking the streets after hours. He would circle his block three times before entering the St Regis and avoid stepping on cracks. He also turned away from eating solids altogether and wrote solely in the less definite pencil while spending much more time feeding pigeons.

100% agree. After going through this 20 hour audiobook, I agree completely. There was no one like Tesla, especially not in modern history. The world’s greatest inventor hands down. The number of patents, inventions, and creations that he pushed forward are unthinkable. Not only that, but the impact and result of all that he did is still being seen and felt today and that’s sometimes incomprehensible for me. I had to listen to certain parts of this book over and over and over just because they were that unbelievable to me.

“If you mean the man who really invented, in other words, originated and discovered — not merely improved what had already been invented by others, then without a shade of doubt, Nikola Tesla is the world’s greatest inventor, not only at present, but in all history.” — Hugo Gernsback

What a signal for him. He was a strange man with many of his quirky behaviors yet, he had a connection with himself and his work that is unparalleled by many. It was interesting to hear the impact that an individual pigeon had on his life yet very cool to see he recognized fulfillment and completion of his work. Tesla is someone I would have loved to know personally, there are many questions I believe that he would have unique perspectives on and very different outlooks compared to what many accept as the status quo. All in all, this book was wonderful and I have a greater admiration and respect for the incredible work that Nikola Tesla did throughout his life.

Tesla saw his beloved pigeon standing on his desk as he was lying in bed in the dark solving problems as usual. He felt the pigeon wanted to tell him that she was dying. Tesla says that in that moment he knew his life’s work was finished — something went out of his life. Tesla died a few months later in 1943 at 86 years old.

I gave this book a 3.5/5

Join my weekly newsletter to see all of my writing here.

Read this article on Medium.com

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published