The Dark Side of Genius: The Rise and Fall of Inventor Nikola Tesla

A Wonderfully Gifted Child

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in present-day Croatia. His father was a priest for the Serbian Orthodox Church, while his mother took care of the family’s farm. Even from an early age, Tesla had a sort of obsessiveness about him. He could memorize and recite entire books and store entire logarithmic tables in his brain.


Nikola Tesla circa 1890. Photo by Everett Collection / Shutterstock

He picked up languages easily (Tesla spoke eight languages by the end of his life) and would work days and nights with very little sleep. But Tesla’s genius came with strings attached. The first sign of his lifelong mental illness occurred after his brother Daniel died in a riding accident. The loss hit Tesla hard, and he soon started experiencing visions and hallucinations.

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