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
"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)
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.
I love historical fact based fiction , scifi, and apocalyptic survivalist/zombie types. That said I will listen to almost anything.
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.
More details of the science behind his inventions and more details of the inventions.
The narration was fine.
Get more done in the limited lifetime we are given.
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.
No B.S. reviews. I'll never soft-pedal bad writing or inept narration.
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!
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.
Sorry about the silly title. (Sometimes it is hard to come up with something). But I do find those cars fascinating...
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!
Thomas Edison, just kidding! It was Tesla of course.
He did a great job at carrying out a 22 hour read!
It would've been a long sitting!!!
older listener -- enjoys books rather than california traffic. enjoys running while listening -- or is it the other way around?
This is a fine biography. Telling the story of a man cross-ways with time
Really fine detail and good presentation ... very enjoyable
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