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TESLA: MAN OUT OF TIME by Margaret Cheney June 26, 2011

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.
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This was on the new shelf, so the Lycan Librarian had no idea it was a 1981 book recently reprinted. But it hardly matters when it was written because it’s such a fascinating biography of the nineteenth-century genius Nikola Tesla. There is a great deal of information contained in this book, but I will reveal just enough to entice you into picking up it up. Tesla was born precisely at midnight between July 9th and 10th, 1856. He began inventing at age 5 when he built a small waterwheel. He lived in an imaginary world until age 17, knew over 5 languages, and his 1880s experiments and demonstrations have, to this day, never been duplicated.

Page after page tells amazing facts and accounts of Tesla’s life. He was a dreamer who would well fit in today’s world, as he envisioned a tube under the Atlantic Ocean to shoot mail between continents, which might certainly help us today considering the cost of air plane fuel. He considered people to be “meat machines,” or robots made of meat, while believing robots could be made human. Among his friends and admirers were Mark Twain, George Westinghouse, J.P Morgan, and Thomas Edison (although he and Edison eventually became rivals.) Has anyone done a Tesla graphic novel yet? I read through this book envisioning him as delightfully mad as Dr. Frankenstein

As Tesla had a pathological fear of germs and human contact, his was limited, and he was as bad with money as he was good with science, so the rewards for his genius were not as lofty as they should have been. Marconi got credit for invention of the radio, which should have been Tesla’s, and even though Nikola won the court case to claim the achievement, Marconi walked away with the Nobel Prize, and the fame and fortune associated with the accomplishment.

There is just so much in this book that Cheney, herself, borders on genius for having been able to assemble all this unique and fascinating information and set it down in 354 pages so the world might continue to be amazed by Nikola Tesla. There is also a small section of photographs not to be missed. This biography is a perfect example of fact being even stranger than fiction.

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