nikola tesla
Serbian-American physicist and engineer Nikola Tesla is best for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Napoleon Sarony

With Tesla electric cars always in the news, it’s easy to focus on the ‘electric’ part of it and forget whom the vehicles were named after – Serbian-American physicist and engineer Nikola Tesla.

Click start to play today’s Crossword, where you can find him in one of the clues.

Here are five interesting facts about the innovative genius:

1. He was born in a lightning storm

Born around midnight, between July 9 and 10, 1856, Tesla’s mother delivered him during an intense lightning storm. Legend has it that midway through birth, the distressed midwife wrung her hands and declared that the lightning was a bad omen. She said out loud that she was afraid the child would be a ‘child of darkness’, to which, Tesla’s mother replied: “No, he will be a child of light.”

2. Rivalry with Edison

Although many have described Tesla and American inventor Thomas Edison to be sworn enemies, according to a July 2013 report by US-based TV network PBS, their relationship is often misrepresented. Tesla worked for Edison early in his career, designing direct current generators, but quit to pursue his own project – the alternating current induction motor. Like modern-day tech innovators Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, Edison and Tesla held mutual respect. For instance, when Tesla was speaking at a conference, he noticed Edison – who didn’t want to be spotted – at the back of the auditorium, listening to the lecture. Tesla called attention to him and led the audience in giving him a standing ovation. And years later, when there were fires at Tesla’s lab, Edison provided him with a lab until he was back on his feet.

3. He had a photographic memory

Known to memorise whole books and images, Tesla had a photographic memory, an excellent imagination, and the ability to visualise in three dimensions. He was also known to be a germophobe and had excessive hygiene habits, which may have come about because of his near-fatal bout of cholera as a teenager.

4. He nearly discovered X-rays

When Tesla became friends with American writer Mark Twain in the 1890s, he would often meet with him in his lab, because Twain had a fascination with new inventions and technology. One night, Twain posed for one of the first photographs to be lit by incandescent light, in Tesla’s lab. In 1895, Tesla and the photographer Edward Ringwood Hewett invited Twain back for another photo, lit by an electrical device called a Crookes tube. Later, when Tesla looked at the resulting negative, he found it to be splotchy and thought it ruined. Only weeks later, when German scientist Wilhelm Rontigen announced his discovery of ‘X-radiation’ from Crookes tubes, Tesla released that the photo of Twain had been ruined by X-ray shadows of the camera’s metal screws.

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