My Inventions by Nikola Tesla.

The initial reason I was drawn to Nikola Tesla's My Inventions (Moji Pronalasci) was rather weak: I liked the front cover. But, when I read a little about Tesla and what it was about it appealed all the more: this is not the kind of book I would read and science outside natural history doesn't normally attract me, so oddly enough it was that that did attract me - something new.

Nikola Tesla was an inventor who designed the alternating-current electric system and the 'Tesla coil' (among other things), yet he remains overshadowed by Thomas Edison and Guglielmo Marconi though it is said he surpassed them both. He was also incredibly eccentric and a-social (refusing, for example, to speak to women who were wearing pearls), making the opportunity to read My Inventions irresistible. It was first published in 1919 in the Electrical Experimenter magazine. It's a very short work and divided into six sections:
  1. My Early Life
  2. My First Efforts At Invention
  3. My Later Endeavors, The Discovery of the Rotating Magnetic Field
  4. The Discovery of the Tesla Coil and Transformer
  5. The Magnifying Transmitter
  6. The Art of Telautomatics
It begins,
The progressive development of man is vitally dependent on invention. It is the most important product of his creative brain. Its ultimate purpose is the complete mastery of mind over the material world, the harnessing of the forces of nature to human needs. This is the difficult task of the inventor who is often misunderstood and unrewarded. But he finds ample compensation in the pleasing exercises of his powers and in the knowledge of being one of that exceptionally privileged class without whom the race would have long ago perished in the bitter struggle against pitiless elements.
He then goes on to describe his childhood and early youth, his love of reading and of gambling, and how he mastered self-control. From there to science - an early experiment with May-bugs, using their movement to generate power (an experiment that came to a crashing end when all the bugs he had collected were eaten by another child). He then writes about the Rotating Magnetic Field, the Tesla Coil, and his other major inventions.

It's not easy to read an autobiography about a scientist when one has no background in science beyond GCSE, however what made it such a great read was Tesla's passion and his determination to be understood. He doesn't mystify his efforts in an attempt to assert his superiority over the reader as some writers are very guilty of doing: he writes simply and with a degree of joy and excitement. His love of Goethe's Faust and his inspiration from that and some other classics made it all the more fascinating. It's not an easy work to read for the non-scientist, but it could have been a great deal harder. Tesla was a wonderful writer as he was a ground-breaking inventor.

Comments

  1. i've been interested in T for a long time: i think he was right, at least partially, about the importance of inventors: the undisciplined mind careening through the world of information and knowledge has indeed led to the technological present, for better or worse... my background is in science, so i might be able to follow him if he doesn't get too detailed... tx for taking him up...

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    Replies
    1. Hope you enjoy it. It was very interesting, though there was a sad point when he talked of a weapon so powerful that by having it no one would dare use it and so bring about world peace. Would that that had have been the case.

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  2. Ooh, I'm glad to hear you liked this one! It's been on my list for a while, after I watched some documentaries about Tesla. I love that cover, too!

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    Replies
    1. It is rather cool, isn't it? I hope you enjoy it when you get to it :)

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