Tends to drag on with too many excruciating details.
Don't know yet. Still listening to the 21 hours of the book.
I feel this book could have been condensed into about half the length to be more compelling to a reader unless one wishes to be enlightened to EVERY PAINFUL DETAIL of his biography.
This was a very long book, rather longer than my usual audiobook undertakings. It covered anything and everything you could think of relative to the life of the great inventor and overambitious thinker who most people have never heard of despite the numerous technological advances he made which we rely upon today. I had heard of him previously numerous times, via both fact and fiction. For one, I have studied physics, and if nothing else, he has a unit of measurement named after him. Second, I grew up near Colorado Springs and the sites where he did his experiments at Pike's Peak. My fictional knowledge of him came from the movie The Prestige and the tv series Warehouse 13, both of which drew on his advanced technological work and mad-scientist/wizard persona. I break my review up here based on the three parts which audible parsed, just for more ease.
Part one covered his childhood through 1894, when he was really starting to make it big, and so far so good. The intro on the history of his homeland and culture was a bit tedious and beyond my interest, and I have never learned about the goings on of those empires and people's before, so it was hard to keep track of unfamiliar and alike-sounding names and unknown regions on a map. But there were interesting stories of his family, his days growing up and at university; he had quite the series of trials trying to support himself, even once in America. I began to root for him to get his first footholds and recognition then, but already saw the signs of his faults (i.e. major lack of fiscal responsibility, and poor contract making) which I foresaw hurting him more and more as he went. I hadn't realized he spent a short time actually working for Edison before their philosophies clashed... which lead into the discussion of the major AC vs DC argument and professional competition between Edison and Westinghouse. I knew there had been one, but had not nearly a clue to what extent and cause... Seems to me Westinghouse had better business sense and foresight while Edison just had better PR. Anyway, the section on the Chicago Worlds Fair was great, painted a magical picture of all of the fantastic new technologies and extravagance of the era. Now onto more of his work in New York on wireless communication and harnessing the power of Niagara Falls.
Part 2 has went from a high to taking a terrible turn. Great research and progress and then a fire took out the lab. I loved hearing about his work in Colorado Springs. The lightning storm sounded incredible (though I don't recall anything quite of that magnitude while I lived by Pike's Peak). I had such high hopes once he got financial backing from Morgan, but it seems to me he sealed his own fate by squandering- no, not exactly squandering, but re-appropriating the funds towards loftier goals which they could not reach, rather than producing the promised tangible results. I can easily see why Morgan was displeased. I think if Tesla had perhaps done as arranged, and made commercial advances with his oscillators and lamps from the get-go that would have opened the door for his further development of the telegraphy station... Both by those proceeds and the continued confidence of investors. As it was he just dug himself into a hole. Which lead to withheld further investments, strained relations and a deeper hole. And not to mention the rest of the field making their little advances by pirating his work. So many blows... This five year span just saw things go further and further downhill for him financially, with a finally of his friend's murder and his own mental collapse. Sad. I think some of his ideas really would have revolutionized things, as he said, had he been but able to implement them then. Oh, and why he seems to adverse to paying rent to anyone, and consequently finds himself further in debt is beyond me...
The final section took me longer to finish reading... primarily because it was kind of depressing. Tesla had such over-ambition and no way to fund it. His investors all left or didn't have interest in his preferred projects, what successes he did have were pirated and any proceeds lost to competitors and litigation costs, and to top it off several of his friends and past associates passed away in the '20s. And he still seemed to think very little of failing to pay rent. Self-destructive to say the least. I was intrigued by the mysteries of his last several years, the death ray project, and supposed relationships with characters leading up to and during the world war that may lead to questions of his allegiance. And I really don't understand the whole pigeon obsession, especially in someone so health-conscious. It is unfortunate, and only too believable that someone of his genius and caliber was by turns disbelieved and then shut down and buried by his contemporary scientific and industrial societies. Just to think, how much further advanced could technology have become that much sooner, if only he'd been taken seriously and his work recognized earlier. I am glad he was eventually recognized in some ways, even if most have been posthumous, and his eccentric character and 'mad scientist' persona live on in our culture, even if most of the general population are ignorant of his significant contributions to the power generation and communication systems we still use today, not to mention his work in aeronautics and even early AI. I didn't care so much for some of the psychological analysis speculated in later chapters, though I've never cared much for Freudian theory in any context. And I'm not sure why people seem to be so curious or astounded by his apparent/declared asexuality/celibacy. For a man with so much scientific ambition, whose work constituted his whole life and whose habits hardly left room for a companion let alone a romantic one, I am not at all surprised that such a person never entered into the picture. And if any kind of friend or helper did manifest (such as his Wycliffe foreman or the young man in his later years who helped him), they were very much under-appreciated and overworked in their services.
The narration was perfect for a biography. Adapted appropriate alternate voices for quotes and correspondence, keeping those individuals distinct and consistent, so I could always tell if it was in Tesla's narrative or a phrase from a letter from the Johnson's etc, separate from the general text. Simon Vance has a lovely tone, and expert execution, so that even non-fiction is does not come off sounding dry.
Sad that such a life is not more generally known nor his genius more widely celebrated.
You can tell who I am by my reading, or can you?
If the goal of a biography is to create the mood of the times and the life of a person, Tesla's time and life was very boring. This is a highly detailed book, that cites many actual facts, and tries to describe all Tesla's inventions. You can have a glimpse of the style by the very long title. The author is also a clear fan of Tesla, this may prevents him from creating a certain distance from the character. After reading Mr. Isaacson's wonderful bios of Jobs and Einstein, I may be expecting too much. I think we are still lacking a good Tesla's biography, and the character deserves it. I confess I could not go though all the book, and stopped after its half. May be a missed the best part, probably not.
I would look with caution at Seifer's other works given the plodding style with which he approached this fascinating inventor's life.
I listened with great interest to the first half of Tesla's career, but in the latter stretch I gave up eventually because there seemed to be too little editing happening as to what was really significant or interesting, and what was really just stuff that, you know, had happened.
I echo some of the other commenters' views that mentioned the amount of unfiltered detail in the latter parts of the book. It became less than gripping in the latter half.
My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.
Nikola Tesla is a true genius. What an awesome mind at inventing the foundation of modern ways that we live. Listening to the "Wizard" was really interesting. I could not get enough with all of Tesla's inventions and the society that he lived in. I should had listened to Marc J. Seifer's biography on Nikola Tesla a lot sooner. I grasp to information like this. I never heard about Tesla, the inventor before I bought this book.
If I were magically transported back to ancient Egypt, I’d be nothing but a crazy prophet – able to describe modern technological marvels, but not sure how any of it works. Indeed, I don’t really understand what electricity is, how it is generated, or transferred from point to point.
Maybe that helps explain why I didn’t seem to appreciate the a-ha behind many of Tesla’s break-through ideas. For example, I didn’t really understand the apparently brilliant and elegant solution that Tesla’s AC power generation was. I recently had the opposite experience listening to the Emperor of All Maladies, another history of science book (about the history of cancer treatment). While I similarly lacked the technical understanding, Emperor of All Maladies made clear to me how researchers had been stumped and why breakthroughs were breakthroughs. So maybe the problem isn’t mine, but Wizard’s.
Tesla had many technological ideas that never gained a foothold, e.g. using the Earth itself as an electrical conductor, and many ideas that seemed outlandish, e.g., his idea for an earthquake causing machine. But Wizard often didn’t help me understand whether the idea was viable. The audiobook ends with two short appendices that discuss a disagreement among experts as to the viability of two such ideas. That was fascinating. I wish there had been more interspersed throughout.
My negativity aside, the book did capture my imagination. As wizards like Tesla were unlocking these new technologies, the 1890s/1900s were a strange time. Everything suddenly seemed possible; the line blurred between science and magic; and it was difficult to tell scientist from con-artist.
Today, much of Tesla’s vision of the future has been realized. Many of the technologies he dreamed of have been thoroughly developed and interwoven into the everyday. So much so, that we don’t understand how much of it works despite our utter reliance on it. In some funny way, then, perhaps my lack of comprehension is a tribute to how deeply Tesla’s visions of future technologies have been fulfilled.
It's a great tale of Nikola and gives many insights to his life I never knew about. But the last hour or two of the book had way too much psycho analysis from the writer. It should have been left out.
Great Narrator. Did a great job.
This book needed some relentless editing.
this book definitely needs to be cut about 30%. I didn't finish it.
Somehow this book manages to make an interesting character seem boring. Patent disputes, details about the generator, commutators and brushes. Tesla shines as a young engineer. Tesla goes into business for himself. Tesla works too hard. Tesla amazes people with high voltage. Tesla gets invited to parties. Tesla doesn't get due credit for inventions.
If you love Steam Punk, you'll love Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla : Biography of a Genius by: Marc Seifer.
Because I am homeschooling my girls, I am always listening to historical books. Soon the girls will be studying electricity. This book will be on their list of reads.
I did not realize how controversial inventions and inventors were throughout the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. Individuals were celebrities. The government, corporations and individuals were making deals and breaking deals in a race to the end. It was a dog-it-dog world. A very intriguing time to be alive, I imagine! I think my girls will appreciate the tech we live with daily more after reading this book.
I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.
Intelligent, Technical, Sad
The USSR wanted him to build a death ray and Tesla said no.
His portrayals of Edison, and JP Morgan are very good.
How such a brilliant man, died alone, in massive debt, and only companions being his pigeons.
This book is very good in detailing Tesla's life. However, the book gets very technical at times and can be difficult to follow. How Tesla was influenced by and how he influenced some of the greatest people of his time (JP Morgan, Thomas Edison, ect) is worth reading.