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Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius | [Marc J. Seifer]

Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), credited as the inspiration for radio, robots, and even radar, has been called the patron saint of modern electricity. Based on original material and previously unavailable documents, this acclaimed book is the definitive biography of the man considered by many to be the founding father of modern electrical technology.
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Publisher's Summary

Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), credited as the inspiration for radio, robots, and even radar, has been called the patron saint of modern electricity. Based on original material and previously unavailable documents, this acclaimed book is the definitive biography of the man considered by many to be the founding father of modern electrical technology. Among Tesla's creations were the channeling of alternating current, fluorescent and neon lighting, wireless telegraphy, and the giant turbines that harnessed the power of Niagara Falls.

©1996 Marc J. Seifer (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Seifer's vivid, revelatory, exhaustively researched biography rescues pioneer inventor Nikola Tesla from cult status and restores him to his rightful place as a principal architect of the modern age." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (1230 )
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Performance
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  •  
    LongerILiveLessIKnow Pennsylvania 05-09-14
    LongerILiveLessIKnow Pennsylvania 05-09-14 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    Story
    "It's not you, it's me. Or is it?"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thomas 03-06-14
    Thomas 03-06-14
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    "Amazing Story - Too much psycho analysis!!"
    If you could sum up Wizard in three words, what would they be?

    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.


    What about Simon Prebble’s performance did you like?

    Great Narrator. Did a great job.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    memobug Silicon Valley, CA 01-23-14
    memobug Silicon Valley, CA 01-23-14 Member Since 2007
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    "Brilliance made boring"
    Would you try another book from Marc J. Seifer and/or Simon Prebble?

    No


    What could Marc J. Seifer have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    This book needed some relentless editing.


    What character would you cut from Wizard?

    this book definitely needs to be cut about 30%. I didn't finish it.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Teri GILLETTE, WY, United States 01-10-14
    Teri GILLETTE, WY, United States 01-10-14 Member Since 2013
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    "A very intriguing time to be alive, I imagine!!!"
    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 10-30-13
    andrew Reserve, LA, United States 10-30-13 Member Since 2013

    I enjoy history, biographys, and nerdy/ dorky things.

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    "Good biography, get confusing at time"
    If you could sum up Wizard in three words, what would they be?

    Intelligent, Technical, Sad


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Wizard?

    The USSR wanted him to build a death ray and Tesla said no.


    Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favorite?

    His portrayals of Edison, and JP Morgan are very good.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    How such a brilliant man, died alone, in massive debt, and only companions being his pigeons.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn sammamish, WA, United States 10-07-13
    Shawn sammamish, WA, United States 10-07-13 Member Since 2009

    I love historical fact based fiction , scifi, and apocalyptic survivalist/zombie types. That said I will listen to almost anything.

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    "Too long and not enough science"
    Would you try another book from Marc J. Seifer and/or Simon Prebble?

    No, not based upon this book. It seemed too much of the research/story was based upon bank records and personal communication to or from Tesla. There was enough there to keep going back to but I did not look forward to doing so.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    More details of the science behind his inventions and more details of the inventions.


    Did the narration match the pace of the story?

    The narration was fine.


    Did Wizard inspire you to do anything?

    Get more done in the limited lifetime we are given.


    Any additional comments?

    The book was ok, but the story was a bit long and dreary. Hearing about Teslas long struggle with poverty, legal battles and deranged life did not make for happy or compelling listening. I would have liked more details on the science and the inventions with less emphasis on the money management, personal communications and legal dramas Tesla had to deal with.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 08-12-13
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 08-12-13 Member Since 2011

    No B.S. reviews. I'll never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration.

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    "Everything you ever wanted to know about Tesla"

    This book intends to be the definitive work on the life of Nikola Tesla, and it undoubtedly succeeds. I'm glad I learned about the man through this book, although the storytelling is disjointed, since it's told in an unusual kind of non-chronological order. The overall telling is chronological, but the author jumps back and forth in time without being clear that he's doing it. It would have been simple to let the reader know that background material was being provided, but usually he just launches into the backstory without any cues. It can be quite confusing.
    Another odd aspect of the book is the exhaustive detail that's given to ancillary characters, such as those that Tesla was trying to court as investors, even though they never actually became involved in his business ventures.
    One significantly disappointing part of the book is its vagueness regarding the Supreme Court decision that upheld the precedence of some of Tesla's radio-transmission patents. There are countless references to the decision, as well as several courtroom vignettes, but no very clear specifics on what was actually decided.
    On the up side, I loved the detail regarding Tesla's famous, never-completed tower, which he constructed with funds misappropriated from J. P. Morgan. It's a sad thing for all of us that he never got the chance to fire that sucker up!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 08-10-13
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 08-10-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Prefer the car to the book"
    What was most disappointing about Marc J. Seifer’s story?

    I normally enjoy books that combine biography and with explanations of science or technology relevant to the story. I was simply not knowledgeable enough to enjoy this book, because I was not given enough explanation to understand. For example, Tesla and Edison had different ideas for the design of light bulbs, but it wasn't explained in sufficient detail for me to find interest in it.
    This is probably my fault, although I didn't find this worthy man's life in the least bit interesting. It all seemed rather dry.


    Any additional comments?

    Sorry about the silly title. (Sometimes it is hard to come up with something). But I do find those cars fascinating...

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Los Angeles, CA, United States 07-30-13
    James Los Angeles, CA, United States 07-30-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Revealing the magistracy of the wizard"
    What did you love best about Wizard?

    I think Seifer did a great job at bringing about the times of Tesla. He really was there for a period that will forever change history. I also like how he wrapped it up with the beginnings of people coming to terms with Tesla's greatness. My takeaway, this genius needed a publicist and sales guy!


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Thomas Edison, just kidding! It was Tesla of course.


    Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favorite?

    He did a great job at carrying out a 22 hour read!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    It would've been a long sitting!!!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    tonydinardo@earthlink.net Upland Ca.lifornia 06-15-13
    tonydinardo@earthlink.net Upland Ca.lifornia 06-15-13 Member Since 2013

    older listener -- enjoys books rather than california traffic. enjoys running while listening -- or is it the other way around?

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    "Amazing How Wizards Are So Impractical"
    Where does Wizard rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is a fine biography. Telling the story of a man cross-ways with time


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Nicola


    Which character – as performed by Simon Prebble – was your favorite?

    JP Morgan


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    Really fine detail and good presentation ... very enjoyable

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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