Recently, we quoted Tesla (or so some say*), to the effect,
The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.
Tesla arrived penniless in New York when he was 28 years old, in 1884, having been a brilliant, dedicated student (at one stage, his teachers thought overwork would kill him). He had proved his talent as an inventor and knew what he wanted to do with his life. Two days later, he began working at Thomas Edison’s Machine Works in Manhattan. He left after six months, indignant that his contribution to its arc-lighting system was not appreciated. Edison apparently regarded his employee as able but strange, once asking if he was a cannibal.
Tesla soon developed the great ideas that justly made his name. Following an epiphany in a Budapest park, he invented motors that worked on alternating electric current (AC) and he proved, in a long battle with Edison, that it was better to supply electrical energy using AC than direct current. By increasing the services that electrical utilities could offer, power supplied using AC allowed companies to increase the size of their systems and pursue economies of scale. It was mainly for these practical insights that he was given the posthumous honour of having a scientific unit named after him – experimenters measure the strengths of magnetic fields in teslas.
David Bowie played Tesla in The Prestige, capturing key aspects of his character, according to the biography reviewer:
* It does sound like the sort of thing he would say. Maybe the new biography will shed some light.