There is a sense of injustice that hangs over the life of Nikola Tesla. A brilliant man, a revolutionary man, a man who held key patents in the early years of electricity. He died alone and penniless in the Hotel New Yorker in 1943.
Tesla’s worst enemies were his business partners and business rivals. Rival Thomas Edison wanted to pretend to the world that Tesla’s AC (as opposed to Edison’s DC) power was dangerous. So Edison sent his minions out to electrocute animals to prove it. This led to Edison’s minions to invent the electric chair.
Partner Westinghouse had faith in Tesla and built the first hydro-electric power plant at Niagara Falls 1891-96. But he eventually screwed Tesla out of the money.
Actually, apparently Tesla shredded the contract he’d arranged with Westinghouse when Westinghouse asked him to renegotiate the terms. Maybe, in fact, Tesla was his own worst enemy.
The thing about Niagara Falls is the endless, endless rushing water. It mesmerises me. I could stand here for days, staring at it. This is my first visit and I never want to leave.
I finally tear myself away and walk around Goat Island. I feel changed, having seen the power and beauty of Niagara Falls. I walk over to the statue of Tesla donated by the communist Yugoslavian government in 1976. It’s the most famous work of Yugoslavian/Croatian sculptor Frano Krsinic. Over the decades, rain has streaked Tesla’s face giving him an incongruous mix of facial tattoos and tears.
This—Niagara Falls—is the site of Tesla’s greatest success. He lit the city of Buffalo thirty-something miles away. But he was forgotten for so many years. Today we all know his name. Tesla. We may not know what he did, but we know he was the one we ought never to have forgotten about.