Tesla Book Summary By Margaret Cheney

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Tesla (1981), by Margret Cheney and Robert Uth, is a fascinating biography of one of history's most renowned and innovative inventors.

The book offers an intimate exploration of Nikola Tesla's life, from his battles with Thomas Edison to the often contentious debate about who invented radio communication.

Throughout this engaging narrative, readers get a glimpse into the mind of an aspect-oriented genius whose significance undulations toward science and innovation cannot be overstated.

Tesla Book

Book Name: Tesla (Man Out of Time)

Author(s): Margaret Cheney

Rating: 4.6/5

Reading Time: 22 Minutes

Categories: Book Summaries

Author Bio

When it comes to Tesla books, Margaret Cheney is a name you should definitely know.

She's one of the foremost biographers of brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla, having written works such as Tesla: Master of Lightning and co-writing the book with Robert Uth.

Cheney also penned Midnight at Mabel's, an inspiring biography on jazz singer Mabel Mercer.

With her wealth of knowledge and passion for her subjects, Cheney brings enthusiasm and expertise to each work she puts out - qualities which make her books particularly engaging.

Fans of Tesla - or any of Cheney's works - will be sure to gain a new appreciation for their topics after reading her engaging words.

Discover The Innovative Genius Of Nikola Tesla: How He Created Our Modern World And Why He Never Profited From His Work

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla is widely regarded as the inventor’s inventor.

His countless innovative ideas helped shape the modern world as we know it, making him a true pioneer in the field of electricity, radio and energy.

From wireless communication to alternating currents and solar energy, he was ahead of his time when it came to inventions – but never quite made the money he deserved from them.

Tesla’s fascinating life story included a rivalry between Edison, the development of solar technology and his contribution towards X-ray imaging, as well as tales of dangerous experiments that threatened horses!

Furthermore, his time in history was marked by The War of The Currents; a battle between Tesla’s alternating current electric system and Edison’s direct current system for domination over the industry.

These accomplishments remind us that Nikola Tesla has truly earned his place among history’s great innovators and inventors.

The Mysterious Life Of Nikola Tesla: A Vivid Imagination, Family Tragedy, And Strange Afflictions

Nikola Tesla’s eccentricities and love for science were formed early on in life.

Growing up in the Croatian village of Smiljan, Tesla inherited his mother’s photographic memory and vivid imagination, which would later help him envision his celebrated inventions.

His academic success was spurred by an unfortunate family tragedy: the death of his 12-year-old brother when he was just five.

From then on, young Nikola chose to console his parents by excelling academically.

But when he contracted cholera as a teenager, the only thing that helped him recover was the permission of his father–the Reverend Milutin Tesla–to pursue an education in engineering instead of joining the clergy.

It was around this time that strange visions and phobias began to surface and consume him.

Tesla experienced flashes of light and hallucinatory images every time his mind became excited, likely side effects from allowing himself to conjure complex inventions from within through picture perfect mental images alone.

He suffered from nearly crippling fear towards germs, women’s earrings and even pearl jewelry–a preoccupation so powerful it made him measure each meal’s cubic volume before eating it!

These unique qualities can all be traced back to the formative years of Nikola Tesla’s life, emphasizing that age-old maxim: you are what you are molded into at a young age!

Tesla’S Near-Breakdown In 1881 Leads To A Revolutionary Invention In Electrical Power

Tesla had ambitious ideas about electricity, and they would eventually take him to America.

It all started with a disagreement with his professor at the Austrian Polytechnic School, where Tesla openly criticized the direct current motors used around the world.

He knew that there was a better motor out there and he was determined to find an improved solution.

Despite his professor’s doubts, he set off on his quest.

When things got tough financially after his father passed away, Tesla had to drop out of school and find work at a telegraph office.

He experienced what would later be diagnosed as a nervous breakdown due to being overwhelmed by his incredibly acute senses.

However, this experience ended up helping him realize a revolutionary new concept: the induction motor!

This motor could create a much more efficient way of powering the world by using two or more alternating currents in order to generate electricity on a grand scale.

Recognizing Tesla’s Electrical talents, his manager from the Continental Edison Company wrote him a letter of recommendation for Thomas Edison in America – just what Tesla needed to get ahead with his innovative ideas.

With this chance happily taken, he was off to seek better opportunities in America!

Tesla’s Betrayal In America: How Edison Never Paid Him For His Inventions


Tesla and Thomas Edison had a tumultuous relationship right from the very start.

When Tesla introduced himself to Edison in his office, he presented a letter of recommendation and tried to persuade him of the advantages of switching to his alternating current motor.

To this, Edison simply replied coldly, “Spare me that nonsense.

We’re good with direct current in America.

People like it and that’s all I will stick with”.

Despite this discouraging response, Edison offered Tesla a job that same day but with a condition: If Tesla was able to rework and improve the design of any electric generators, then he would be rewarded handsomely for it – $50,000 USD!

Tesla accepted the deal and put in specially hard work into the project but upon completing the tasks assigned to him, Edison hoodwinked him by saying he was only joking about the money part – offering instead just an increase of work wage from $18 – $28 per week; Tesla felt disgraced by this conniving behavior from Edison and resigned on the spot.

Clearly, their professional relationship wasn’t meant to last given how things turned out in the end!

Tesla’S Dreams Of Innovation Come To Life Through Ac Motors At The 1893 World’S Fair

George Westinghouse was instrumental in bringing Tesla’s vision of AC electricity to the masses.

He saw the potential in Tesla’s brilliant invention and they got in business together.

This activity caught the attention of Westinghouse, a powerful businessman looking to compete with Edison.

With its use of electromagnetic induction, Tesla’s AC motors were able to do away with the grinding parts that would spark and wear down in Edison’s DC motors—an advancement that was key for wide-scale adoption of AC technology.

It all came full circle when Westinghouse underbid General Electric and secured the rights to power the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

The Fair served as an immense display of the viability and dependability of AC electricity distribution and proved to be a success.

By proving itself on such a large scale, Tesla’s invention helped change how people around the world harnessed electricity.

As much as any individual or organization, it was George Westinghouse who helped bring it into our daily lives.

Tesla’S Polyphase Ac Power System Puts Him In The International Spotlight

By 1896, Nikola Tesla had won a big victory in the War of the Currents by harnessing the power of Niagara Falls.

It all began when George Westinghouse secured the contract to build electrical generators at Niagara Falls, and Tesla was put in charge of overseeing the installation.

The project ended up being a huge success, with 15,000 horsepower running 26 miles to Buffalo.

Other nations even took notice – both the Prince of Montenegro and England’s Lord Kelvin praised Tesla’s accomplishment.

Tesla’s exceptional accomplishment became so well-known that it proved to be one of his greatest achievements and makes an incredible example for history.

Not only would his work shape America’s power landscape but it also set an example for how electricity could be used around the world.

Even Edison’s General Electric eventually had to accept Tesla’s superiority as they ended up using his patents at their second powerhouse that was installed at the site.

To this day, we still use some form ofTesla’s original polyphase AC power system which means that he truly revolutionized power generation forever.

The Power Of Innovation: Nikola Tesla’s Life-Changing Lab Experiments

Power Of Innovation

For Nikola Tesla, a disaster in his laboratory was an unthinkable setback.

This lab was a hotbed of innovation in the early 1890s, and Tesla had spent countless hours at this lab perfecting inventions which would have far-reaching implications into the future.

But fate intervened on the morning of March 13th 1895, when Tesla discovered that his cherished laboratory had burned to the ground overnight.

No one is certain exactly what caused it, but it is believed that experiments involving liquid oxygen may have been to blame for this devastation.

For Tesla, this was particularly disastrous since he had never taken out insurance for his building or its contents – leaving him and his work vulnerable to such losses.

What could have been an incredible moment of technological development instead turned into a heartbreaking setback for the inventor, who had dedicated years of research and experimentation to bring forth progress and new ideas to the world.

Tesla’S Pioneering Vision Pushes Technological Boundaries, But His Ideas Are Way Ahead Of Their Time

Tesla’s ideas were so advanced that he often had difficulty trying to find investors.

After the loss of his lab and the dissolution of his partnership with Westinghouse, Tesla needed to find money for his next big invention.

Despite the support he had received on the Niagara project, investors were hesitant to fund his ideas.

His remote-controlled boats sparked fear in many who believed transmissions would be open to interference or interception, while newspapers openly doubted this new technology.

He also had plans to utilize solar energy and was researching a field called telegeodynamics which focused on sending messages wirelessly through the earth or detecting underground oil or mineral deposits, yet these grand plans all fell short of gaining necessary investments.

While some showed interest in Tesla’s technologies, they were far ahead of their time and there was no one willing to commit resources for them to become an everyday reality during Tesla’s lifetime.

Tesla’S Dream Of Wireless Electricity Remained Out Of Reach

Tesla’s dream of being able to power the world with wireless electricity was a goal he consistently tried to achieve throughout his adult life.

He travelled to Colorado Springs in 1899 and built what he dubbed the magnifying transmitter – essentially a huge Tesla coil that would send huge bolts of lightning up into the sky.

By experimenting with different frequencies, Tesla attempted to send massive amounts of voltage through both the Earth’s atmosphere and surface, resulting in a July 3rd, 1899 blackout of Colorado Springs when his transmitter overloaded the town’s generator.

He then returned to New York proposing to build an even larger tower, Wardenclyffe, believing it could wirelessly transport electric power around the world.

Unfortunately however, despite attempting multiple times over the next 17 years he was never successful enough to make this dream a reality.

In the end, while Tesla achieved magnificent successes in many other areas during his lifetime, his goal of transforming global communication forever eluded him – wireless transmission of energy would forever remain just out of grasp for him.

Wardenclyffe Dispute

While others were getting wealthy off of his inventions, the fall of Wardenclyffe marked a dark period for Tesla.

Though he had filed his fundamental radio patent in 1897 and was the inspiration behind Dr.Emil Girardeau’s 1934 radar technology, Tesla never put much emphasis on profiting from these accomplishments.

Guglielmo Marconi sent the first transatlantic radio communication in December 1901 which sparked several legal arguments regarding credit and rights over the invention.

Sadly, during the lengthy decades long legal battle that ensued, it was Marconi who reaped financial gains rather than Tesla whose pockets we’re quite empty for most of his life.

As he famously announced in response to Marconi’s feat; “Marconi is a good fellow.

Let him continue.

He is using 17 of my patents”

In 1916 after not being able to pay taxes for many years, having lived at Waldorf-Astoria on credit and suffering further court proceedings against him, Tesla had no choice but to hand over Wardenclyffe to be made void of all debts.

In 1917 what followed was a huge blow as his project was demolished before it could even come to full realization; leaving later generations with ideas decades ahead of its time yet impossible to realize without resources and credits unfulfilled.

Understanding The Innovative Vision Of Nikola Tesla Amidst A World In Chaos

Tesla’s final years of life were bittersweet.

Although he spent much of his time during this period with the pigeons of New York City, Tesla was still able to make some amazing accomplishments and prophetic statements about the future.

Even at age seventy-five, Tesla spoke of pocket-sized instruments that would be “amazingly simple compared with our present telephone” predicting a future with wireless printing and mobile phones.

Unfortunately, these last years were not without sadness.

At one point, a white pigeon that he had been fond of flew into his apartment and suddenly died as if a signal from beyond.

Following this event, Tesla believed that his life’s work was finished.

Tesla was even honored in his final years at his 75th birthday party with many Nobel Laureates and Albert Einstein in attendance.

Despite being celebrated by esteemed peers, Tesla held disdain for modern science stating that he was working on two things: disproving Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and creating a new source of energy unrelated to what is now considered atomic energy.

After his death in 1943, all of Tesla’s papers and belongings were confiscated by the US government’s Office of Alien Property Custodian – possibly due to rumors that he had been working on weaponized particle beam technology as another solution to end war which have never been confirmed or proven through any existing documents.

These are just some examples that show how bittersweet were the last few years of Nicola Tesla’s life until his passing at age 86 in early 1943.

Wrap Up

Nikola Tesla left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.

At the end of this book, we are reminded that he was likely the greatest inventive mind America has seen in recent history.

What’s more, his vast imagination when it comes to electricity was unparalleled by anyone else of his time.

Despite huge obstacles and difficulties standing in his way, Tesla showed us all that creativity and innovation can still grow – no matter what life throws at you.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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