Nikola Tesla was born to Serbian parents in what is now modern-day Croatia. Undoubtedly a genius of a man, he was educated in such places as the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz, Austria, earning top grades. He had an eidetic memory, and spoke 8 languages. But along the way, his heart became ensnared in gambling to such a degree that he lost vast sums, putting himself in financial ruin. Nevertheless, Tesla did finally make it to France, where he began in 1882 working for the Continental Edison Company, transferring to New York City in 1884 to work for Edison himself.
After a falling out with Edison over an alleged broken promise of a $50,000 reward for his improvements to Edison’s motors and generators (Edison reportedly gave him an insulting $10 raise instead), he left to form his own companies, one of which was the Tesla Electric Company – formed with the backing of an attorney and a director of Western Union. Tesla’s inventions, patents, experiments, etc. gained him much wealth, and included such things as pioneering the use of AC current practically, X-ray experimentation, and radio technology (he lost a patent battle with Marconi in 1904). He made many other scientific contributions, and many more are rumored – though some have not yet been substantiated.
During his glory years, he lived in lavish hotels and celebrated his birthdays by throwing lavish parties to which he invited the press to announce his inventions and experiments – often making what some considered to be wild claims. Tesla had some disturbing views on what he termed “human pity” working against the “ruthless workings of nature,” which compelled him to support “selected breeding” and eugenics. But puzzlingly, some historians have described him as a “humanist!” But the genius innovator-turned-high-roller (who had sold his AC patents) died impoverished at age 84 in his hotel room.
Tesla was wealthy, but his vast intellect was just as much a part of his wealth (and indeed, probably more important to his own mind). But he died alone, broke, and no better off for any of it. Proverbs 18:11-12 read as follows:
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
and like a high wall in his imagination.
Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
but humility comes before honor
The “high wall” of Tesla’s wealth and intelligence provided him no advantage in the end, nor did his pride. He had tried in vain to lay up his treasures on earth. It reminds us, of course, of the parable Jesus told of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21 (part of which follows below) that tells of a man intent on accumulating wealth and making plans for using it, in which God tells the man:
“Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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