Last Reviewed and Updated on June 26, 2022
Nikola Tesla was one of the most brilliant minds the world has ever seen. He had countless inventions that have helped shape the world as we have it today. He was an interesting person, both in his work and in his personal life, so we are sure you are going to love these both serious and fun facts about Nikola Tesla.
1. He dropped out of school
Some speculate this was due to his gambling problems, others this was due to his obsessive behavior, where he would become so fixated with an idea he would neglect everything else. Whatever may be the case, Nikola Tesla dropped out of college near the end of his third year.
2. Nikola Tesla held 112 patents registered in the US and more in other countries
His mind was a brilliant one, with new ideas constantly popping into his head. It comes as no surprise he filed for many patents. He had over 100 patents registered in the US alone and many more in other countries (and continents).
3. He was born during a severe lightning storm
It is fitting for a man that tinkered with electricity as much as he has to be born during a lightning storm. It is believed he was born during a particularly strong one.
Also read: is the sun hotter than lightning?
4. Tesla was a germaphobe
It is believed he became a germaphobe after contracting cholera when he was a teenager. His hygiene was excessive and he would always have napkins at hand so he could clean the utensils before eating, wiping away all the germs.
He avoided shaking hands and even more so avoided touching hair.
5. He invented a remote-controlled boat
This is one of the most fun facts about Nikola Tesla – he invented a remote-controlled boat. But is it a fun fact really? Well… Tesla saw the military prospects of this invention as it would allow for conducting battles remotely. The invention didn’t get much notice in the press so it didn’t really take.
6. Mark Twain was one of his closest friends
The famous American writer Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was a good friend of Tesla. It’s interesting to note both had an interest in the works of each other, Tesla was fascinated by Twain’s writing and Twain was fascinated by technology and electricity.
Twain would be a guest in Tesla’s laboratory frequently and even took part in some experiments. Tesla would even be invited to Twain’s daughter’s wedding.
7. He was a ditch digger for a while
After arriving in New York, Tesla soon started working for Thomas Edison. After about a year he quit the company after a disagreement (Edison promised a reward for improvement of his DC dynamo designs, but didn’t deliver the reward). He decided to form his own company and was in search of backers. However, he did need money to live in the meantime so he took up a job as a ditch digger.
8. Tesla never married
He thought celibacy fueled his mind. While he never married there are some speculations he could have been romantically involved.
He was popular amongst women.
9. He had an obsession with pigeons and loved one very much
This probably takes the number one spot when it comes to weird facts about Nikola Tesla. It was a bit out of character for someone who was a germaphobe to have such fondness for pigeons. He would visit parks and feed them. A bird in trouble? He would nurture it back to health.
He would also feed the pigeons from the window of his hotel room. One faithful day, a white injured pigeon appeared. Tesla nurtured the bird, the female bird, to health and the pigeon would return frequently.
This quote from Tesla will best describe the relationship he developed with said bird;
“I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light gray tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”
When the pigeon died, Tesla was heartbroken.
10. He was supposed to study to become a priest
How different the world would have been. After he graduated from high school, on his parents’ wishes, he was supposed to study to become a priest.
When he was sick with cholera (he was very ill), he and his father agreed he can study anything he wants as long as he gets better. Tesla recovered and his father kept his word.
11. He had a “War of Currents” with Thomas Edison
In short, Edison developed direct current (DC) and Tesla believed that alternating current (AC) was better and easier to use. Edison didn’t want to lose the royalties he was earning from his patents so he began a campaign to discredit AC. He would spread misinformation about the dangers of AC, he would even electrocute an elephant (as well as other animals) with AC to prove his point.
In the end, AC won and even General Electric, a company operated by Edison, switched to using AC.
12. From poor, to rich and poor again?
While he grew up in a home that was financially OK, when he arrived in America in 1884 he only had 4 cents on him, which would equal about a dollar and 20 cents today (2022). Not a lot of money at all. Even his relatively early years in America weren’t without financial issues.
Once Tesla started getting benefactors, inventing things, and selling his patents he earned a fortune. He could easily become one of the richest men and he had more than enough money to pursue his interest and operate his lab.
He spent most of his money on research and it often yielded no results. His popularity and interest from the public decreased over time and so did his wealth. He would struggle to pay his bills for the hotel rooms he was living in.
13. Tesla was obsessed with the number 3
Because why not. He would wash his hand 3 times or would walk around the building 3 times before entering it.
14. He had a fear of pearls
As well as other round objects, earrings in particular. The fear of gems, pearls, and jewelry has a name: kosmemophobia and it may be what he suffered from.
15. He became a vegetarian
Over the course of his life, he would remove meat from his diet, followed by removing fish and becoming a vegetarian.
He wrote: “It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact.”
16. He never won a Nobel Prize (he was nominated though)
This could very well be one of the most surprising facts about Nikola Tesla. One would think that a man with such a brilliant mind would win a Nobel prize in his life, but interestingly enough he never did. He was nominated for a Nobel prize in 1937 but was not awarded one.
17. He thought he won the Nobel prize
In 1915 the New York Times suggested that the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics that year would be Tesla and Edison. Tesla took this suggestion very seriously and declared that this award was an acknowledgment of his work. The report by NY Times proved to be false and Tesla wasn’t very gracious about it.