Futurist Nikola Tesla, seen here at age 34 in 1890, is the inventor of the Tesla coil and alternating current machinery. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
上图看到的是未来主义者 尼古拉 特斯拉，在1890年，34岁的时候，他是特斯拉线圈和交流电机械的发明人。图片来自于维基共享资源。
In honor of inventor Nikola Tesla‘s 157th birthday, we’ve turned to two Tesla experts and historians to help us compile a list of interesting facts you probably never knew about the guy. The information below comes from interviews with W. Bernard Carlson, author of “Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age,” and Marc Seifer, author of “Wizard: Life and Times of Nicola Tesla.”
为了向发明家 尼古拉 特斯拉的157周年诞辰表示敬意，我们求助于2位特斯拉专家和历史学家来帮助我们编撰一些你可能从未知道的关于这个人的有趣的事件清单。下面的信息来自于对 W. Bernard Carlson的采访，他是“Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age,”这本书的作者；以及对Marc Seifer的采访，他是“Wizard: Life and Times of Nicola Tesla.”这本书的作者。
1. HE WAS BORN DURING A LIGHTNING STORM
Nikola Tesla was born around midnight, between July 9 and July 10, 1856 during a fierce lightning storm. According to family legend, midway through the birth, the midwife wrung her hands and declared the lightning a bad omen. This child will be a child of darkness, she said, to which his mother replied: “No. He will be a child of light.”
2. HE WAS REALLY FUNNY
Most people don’t know that Tesla had a terrific sense of humor, Seifer said. For example, after dining with writer and poet Rudyard Kipling, he wrote this in a correspondence to a close friend:
April 1, 1901
My dear Mrs. Johnson,
What is the matter with inkspiller Kipling? He actually dared to invite me to dine in an obscure hotel where I would be sure to get hair and cockroaches in the soup.
3. HE AND EDISON WERE RIVALS, BUT NOT SWORN ENEMIES
Many have characterized Tesla and inventor Thomas Edison as enemies (see this and this,) but Carlson says this relationship has been misrepresented. Early in his career, Tesla worked for Edison, designing direct current generators, but famously quit to pursue his own project: the alternating current induction motor. Sure, they were on different sides of the so-called “Current Wars,” with Edison pushing for direct current and Tesla for alternating current. But Carlson considers them the Steve Jobs and Bill Gates of their time: one the brilliant marketer and businessman and the other a visionary and “tech guy.”
很多人描述说特斯拉和发明家托马斯 爱迪生是敌人（看这里和这里），但是Carlson说这样的关系是被歪曲的。在他事业早期，特斯拉为爱迪生工作，设计直流发电机，但是众所周知的是，他退出去追求他自己的项目了：交流感应电机。当然，他们在所谓的“电流大战”中是不同的双方，爱迪生推动直流电，特斯拉推动交流电。但是Carlson认为他们是他们那个时代的史蒂夫 乔布斯和比尔 盖茨：一个是杰出的营销人员和商人，而另一个是有远见的并且是“技术男”。
On a rare occasion, Edison attended a conference where Tesla was speaking. Edison, hard of hearing and not wanting to be spotted, slipped into the back of the auditorium to listen to the lecture. But Tesla spotted Edison in the crowd, called attention to him and led the audience in giving him a standing ovation.
Seifer qualifies it more, saying the two had a love/hate relationship. At first Edison dismissed Tesla, but came to eventually respect him, he said.
“When there were fires at Tesla’s laboratory, Edison provided him a lab, so clearly there was some mutual respect,” Seifer said
4. HE DEVELOPED THE IDEA FOR SMARTPHONE TECHNOLOGY IN 1901
Tesla may have had a brilliant mind, but he was not as good at reducing his ideas to practice, Carlson said. In the race to develop transatlantic radio, Tesla described to his funder and business partner, J.P. Morgan, a new means of instant communication that involved gathering stock quotes and telegram messages, funneling them to his laboratory, where he would encode them and assign them each a new frequency. That frequency would be broadcast to a device that would fit in your hand, he explained. In other words, Tesla had envisioned the smart phone and wireless internet, Carlson said, adding that of all of his ideas, that was the one that stopped him in his tracks.
特斯拉也许拥有了才华横溢的智慧，但是他不太善于将想法变为现实，Carlson说。在开发大西洋无线电的竞赛中，特斯拉向他的投资者及商业伙伴 J.P.Morgan 描述：一种新的既能收集股票行情，又能收集到电报信息的方法，把他们领到他的实验室，他将给他们编码，并给他们每个人都分配一个新的频率（注：这种方式就是基于标量波的共振方式通信）。频率将会广播到与你们手中相匹配的设备，他解释说。换句话说，特斯拉已经设想了智能手机和无线网，Carlson说。加上他所有的主意，那是其中一个停止了他前进的脚步。
This tesla coil snuffed out the power in Colorado Springs when this photo was taken. Photo by Dickenson V. Alley, photographer at the Century Magazines via Wikimedia Commons.
“He was the first to be thinking about the information revolution in the sense of delivering information for each individual user,” Carlson said.
He also conceived of, but never developed technology for radar, X-rays, a particle beam “death ray” and radio astronomy.
5. ‘HE SHOOK THE POOP OUT OF MARK TWAIN’
One famous legend surrounding the eccentric Tesla was that he had an earthquake machine in his Manhattan laboratory that shook his building and nearly brought down the neighborhood during experiments.
Tesla’s device wasn’t actually an earthquake machine, Carlson said, but a high frequency oscillator. A piston set underneath a platform in the laboratory shook violently as it moved, another experiment in more efficient electricity.
It didn’t bring the block to ruins, Carlson said, but it did “shake the poop out of Mark Twain.” Twain was known for having digestive problems, so Tesla, who knew Twain through their gentlemen’s club, invited him over. He instructed Twain to stand on the platform while he flipped on the oscillator. After about 90 seconds, Twain jumped off the platform and ran for the facilities.
6. HE HAD FAMOUS FRIENDS
People aren’t aware that he was close friends with conservationist John Muir, Seifer said. Muir, one of the founders of the Sierra Club, loved that Tesla’s hydroelectric power system was a clean energy system. It runs on waterfalls, which Tesla referred to as “running on the wheelwork of nature.” Also among his friends: financiers Henry Clay Frick and Thomas Fortune Ryan. “He lived in the Waldorf Astoria, at the height of the gilded age,” Seifer said, adding that his fame later in life lessened.
人们没有意识到，他和自然资源保护者 John Muir 是密友，Seifer说。Muir，是Sierra俱乐部的创始人之一，深爱着特斯拉的水电能源系统，那是一种清洁能源系统。它在瀑布上运行，特斯拉称其为“运行在大自然的转轮上”。还有在他的朋友中：金融家 Henry Clay Frick和 Thomas Fortune Ryan。“在黄金年龄段，他住在Waldorf Astoria。”Seifer说，后来他的名声逐渐没落了。
7. PEARLS DROVE HIM CRAZY
Tesla could not stand the sight of pearls, to the extent that he refused to speak to women wearing them. When his secretary wore pearl jewelry, he sent her home for the day. No one knows why he had such an aversion, but Tesla had a very particular sense of style and aesthetics, Carlson said, and believed that in order to be successful, one needed to look successful. He wore white gloves to dinner every night and prided himself on being a “dapper dresser.”
Every photograph of Tesla, he said, is very carefully constructed to captuzije his “good side.”
8. HE HAD A PHOTOGRAPHIC MEMORY AND A FEAR OF GERMS
Tesla had what’s known as a photographic memory. He was known to memorize books and images and stockpile visions for inventions in his head. He also had a powerful imagination and the ability to visualize in three dimensions, which he used to control the terrifying vivid nightmares he suffered from as a child. It’s in part what makes him such a mystical and eccentric character in popular culture, Carlson said. He was also known for having excessive hygiene habits, born out of a near-fatal bout of cholera as a teenager.
Jenny Marder contributed to this report.