10 Electrifying Facts About Nikola Tesla

By Napoleon Sarony - postcard (radiographics.rsna.org), Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Nikola Tesla, who was born on this day in 1856, has long been a fascinating and enigmatic figure. While his contributions to science went underappreciated for years, his work is finally being recognized, and the compelling details of his personal life keep interest in him alive. Here are a few highlights from his intriguing life.

1. HE HAD A TREMENDOUS TALENT FOR VISUALIZING INVENTIONS—BUT WAS ALSO PRONE TO OTHER STRANGE VISIONS.

Tesla was able to visualize objects, including inventions he was building, in his head, down to the minutest detail. His method of working was pretty unorthodox compared to other inventors, as he rarely created sketches or drawings, relying instead on the power of his own imagination to work out details. Beginning in early childhood, Tesla experienced flashes of light, which were sometimes followed by inspiration or solutions to problems. These visions could sometimes take on the character of a spiritual experience, but Tesla, a man of science, discounted any such interpretation, valuing them only for their scientific benefit. 

2. HE PIONEERED MANY SIGNIFICANT MODERN INVENTIONS BEYOND ALTERNATING CURRENT.

For many, Tesla is associated with the “War of the Currents”—waged with onetime employer and later rival Thomas Edison—over the form of electricity that would become standard. Edison championed direct current, or DC, while Tesla and ally George Westinghouse fought for alternating current, or AC. AC, of course, eventually won out over DC, despite Edison’s attempts to malign Tesla’s invention by pushing the electric chair as a method of execution to show how dangerous AC was. However, Tesla also conducted pioneering work in electric light, electric motors, radio, x-ray, remote control, radar, wireless communications, and robotics, and created his famous transformer, the Tesla coil. Tesla was in many cases not properly recognized for his contributions, with other inventors receiving credit for improving on what he began. He obtained around 300 patents in his lifetime.

3. HE HAD EXTREMELY REGULAR, EVEN OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE, HABITS, AND WAS A GERMAPHOBE.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Throughout his life, Tesla displayed a formidable work ethic, keeping a regimented schedule. Some claim he slept only two hours a night. He often took his dinner at the same table at Delmonico’s in New York, and later at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. He had an all-consuming fear of germs and required a stack of 18 napkins. He was obsessed with the number three, and was prone to carrying out compulsive rituals related to three. When he was young, he would develop a fit at the sight of pearls, and couldn’t bear to touch hair.

4. HE CLAIMED TO HAVE NEARLY CREATED AN EARTHQUAKE IN MANHATTAN.

Tesla’s electro-mechanical oscillator, a steam-powered electrical generator, was developed as a possible replacement for inefficient steam engines used to turn generators, but couldn't compete with steam turbines. Tesla reportedly regaled friends with a tale in which his experiments with the oscillator at his lab at 46 East Houston Street in Manhattan set off vibrations that generated a resonance in several neighboring buildings, shaking the ground and prompting calls to police. When the machine began oscillating at the resonance frequency of his own building, Tesla surmised that he was in danger of creating an earthquake, and allegedly smashed the device with a sledgehammer. The claims—which earned the machine the nickname “Tesla’s Earthquake Machine”—were later debunked by Mythbusters (the team felt vibrations from hundreds of feet away using a re-creation of Tesla's machine, but didn't create any earthquakes).

5. HE ELECTRIFIED BUTTERFLIES AND BLEW OUT POWER STATIONS IN COLORADO.

Tesla moved his operations near Colorado Springs in 1899 in order to take advantage of the great amount of space available for experimentation and the free supply of AC power he had been offered there by the El Paso Power Company—and because he believed the thin atmosphere might be conducive to his goal of wireless power transmission. Experiments in a lab with an 80-foot tower, 142-foot metal mast, and enormous Tesla coil formed massive bolts of artificial lightning that supposedly created thunder and errant sparks 15 miles away, surprising people and frightening horses, and surrounding butterflies with halos of St. Elmo’s fire. The bolts also blew out dynamos at a local power company and caused a blackout. It’s not clear if Tesla succeeded in the wireless transmission of power, however.

6. HE WAS A SNAPPY DRESSER AND ATTRACTED THE LADIES.

By all accounts, Tesla was a striking individual. At 6 foot 2 and just over 140 pounds, he was very tall and slender, with dark, deep-set eyes. He was also a fashionable and fastidious dresser, and while he could be reclusive while deeply engaged in work, he was fascinating company when he felt like being social. Not only did he attract the friendship of famous people like Mark Twain, but he also drew the attentions of women, some of whom confessed to being “madly in love” with him. Much of Tesla’s personal life remains a mystery, however, and he never married.

7. HE DIDN’T REALLY SIT IN A ROOM SURROUNDED BY LIGHTNING BOLTS.

That famous photo of Tesla sitting on a chair in his laboratory and calmly examining his notes while tremendous bolts of lightning flash around him was likely the result of a double exposure. Yet the image, taken at his Colorado lab and used as publicity to generate capital for new projects, captures the public’s fascination with a scientist whose prowess made him seem a magician to many. 

8. HE WANTED TO ILLUMINATE THE ENTIRE EARTH, LITERALLY.

Tesla believed that his work had the potential to light the Earth’s atmosphere, banishing darkness and bringing in a new era of light. He theorized that gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere were capable of carrying high-frequency electrical currents, and successful transmission of such currents there could create a “terrestrial night light” that would make shipping lanes and airports safer and illuminate whole cities. But like most of Tesla’s loftier aims, this goal was never realized, and its possibility remains unproven. 

9. THE SECRET PURPOSE OF HIS GIANT TOWER ON LONG ISLAND WAS THE WIRELESS TRANSMISSION OF POWER.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

As the 20th century arrived, Tesla was locked in a race with Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi to be the first to transmit messages across the Atlantic Ocean. Tesla began securing funding, much of it coming from financier J.P. Morgan, to build a wireless transmission station on Long Island with a massive, 186-foot tower. The station would be called Wardenclyffe. Tesla, however, had his own agenda. He wanted to use Wardenclyffe to fulfill his long-held dream of transmitting electricity wirelessly. When Marconi beat Tesla to the punch in 1901, transmitting the letter s across the Atlantic with much more modest equipment, Tesla was forced to reveal his ulterior motives to Morgan and to beg for additional funding to complete his tower. Morgan, however, indicated that he was no longer interested in the project and pulled his support. This move, along with other factors, would ultimately spell the project’s doom. 

10. WARDENCLYFFE IS BEING TURNED INTO A MUSEUM.

Wardenclyffe fell into disrepair after the collapse of Tesla’s ambitions there and destruction of its tower in 1917. The main building, designed by architect Stanford White, remained and was alternately left abandoned or used for industrial purposes. Nonprofit group The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe began a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2012 with the goal of buying the property, and closed the deal in 2013. A plan is underway to convert the site into a Tesla museum and science education center, with work ongoing. The site is not yet open to the public, but visitors are allowed for special events, like Tesla’s birthday celebration in July. 

13 Things You Didn't Know About Sam Goody

Joe Wolf, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Joe Wolf, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Sam Goody dominated the music marketplace for decades, but after several buyouts and mergers, the once-ubiquitous retailer dwindled to a few storefronts before finally fading into mall history.

1. SAM GOODY WAS A REAL GUY.

The man who founded the ubiquitous mall chain was born Samuel Gutowitz on February 25, 1904. Friends and family dubbed him “Goody” when he was just a child; according to the The New York Times, Gutowitz eventually made the moniker his legal name.

2. INSPIRATION STRUCK AFTER GOODY ACQUIRED RECORDS FOR A CUSTOMER.

Though Goody had entrepreneurial ambitions from a young age, he wasn’t always in the music business. One of his first ventures was a toy and novelty store in lower Manhattan. In 1938, a customer stopped into his shop looking for old records of Enrico Caruso, Alma Gluck, and Paul Reimers. Goody was perplexed—“I thought [records] went out with the dodo birds,” he said—but promised to deliver for his customer. Goody recalled a stack of old 78-rpm disks in the basement of his apartment building in Washington Heights, so he went home and offered his landlord a can of beer in exchange for the pile of junk. (Over the years, Goody also said the exchange cost him three cigars.) After cleaning the records, Goody resold them for a whopping $25—and realized he was in the wrong business.

3. IN THE EARLY YEARS, SAM GOODY RAN PLENTY OF OFFBEAT PROMOTIONS.

When long-play records first hit the market, Goody courted customers by giving complementary turntables to anyone who spent more than $25. He ended up giving away 40,000 of the new-fangled devices—but in spite of the incredible cost to his company, Goody considered the promotion a success. “That meant 40,000 new customers,” he said.

Not all of his promotions were music-related. Goody once purchased 400,000 silver dollars and gave them to customers who spent $15. When the promotion proved successful, he repeated it with half-dollars, buying 400,000 JFK 50-cent pieces to give to customers spending $10. Though the gimmick worked, Goody later had some regrets about the promo. “I should have kept the silver dollars and given away the business,” he said. “When the silver price jumped like never before, I could have gotten $10 million for my $500,000 purchase.”

4. HIS FLAGSHIP STORE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR 7 PERCENT OF U.S. RECORD SALES.

The unique promotions clearly worked. Goody’s flagship store on West 49th Street was constantly deluged with customers—up to 4000 a day. In 1955, business was booming to the point that the flagship location sold 7 percent of the 33 1/3-rpm disks in the entire nation, with a gross income of close to $4 million.

5. SAM GOODY PRICES WERE SO LOW THAT THEY “ROCKED” THE COMPETITION.

Not all of Goody’s promotions were gimmicks. He also managed to undercut his competition: One 1962 advertisement offered three LPs for $7.99 compared to a $13 price tag, or $4.49 per record, at Goody's competitors (in today's money, that would be a savings of $45 dollars, or $15 per LP). When Goody took an ad out in the Western edition of The New York Times advertising Bob Newhart albums for $1.89, his competitors were angry. “What does Goody pay for this product to be able to sell it for less than I can buy it?” one competitor complained to Billboard Music Week in 1962.

6. SAM GOODY SALESPEOPLE WERE INCREDIBLY KNOWLEDGEABLE.

To have a job at the Sam Goody flagship store, employees had to prove they possessed a vast knowledge of music. Being well-versed in top 40 hits wouldn’t cut it; Goody employees had encyclopedic knowledge of all things music, from opera to punk. And he paid them well to do it—according to one employee who worked there, even part-timers received medical insurance, sick pay, vacation pay, and retirement benefits.

7. GOODY SOLD OUT TO THE AMERICAN CAN COMPANY.

In 1978, Goody sold all of his stores to the American Can Company, which owned another mall-centric music store that was one of Goody’s biggest competitors: Musicland. It was under American Can leadership that Goody became a staple in shopping malls across the U.S., with store numbers ballooning to 250 nationally. Goody stayed on as a consultant with American Can for five years, earning an annual salary of just $35,000.

8. HE SOLD THE BUSINESS TO SAVE HIS FAMILY.

Sam Goody’s 26-store empire had a stellar reputation: Low prices, vast inventory, knowledgeable salespeople, $60 million in sales. So why did he cut the whole thing loose for just $5.5 million in 1978? According to Goody, he gave the company away “cheap” because of his sons, Howard and Barry. "They loved each other then and they still do," he later said. "But they competed with each other on everything and soon even the help was taking sides. I could only see them breaking it all apart. So I sold the company."

9. THE COMPANY FACED AN EARLY ANTI-PIRACY SUIT.

Music piracy wasn’t invented with Napster—illegal tapes flooded the market long before the internet made music sharing commonplace. In 1981, Sam Goody Inc. faced a lawsuit for dealing counterfeit cassette and eight-track tapes. The suit alleged that more than 100,000 illegal tapes had been sold at Sam Goody stores, resulting in lost revenue of more than $1 million for artists like Olivia Newton-John, Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, and Paul Simon. In a plea agreement, the company pled no contest and was fined $10,000 for transporting counterfeit Grease soundtracks from Queens to Minnesota.

10. BEFORE AMERICAN IDOL, THERE WAS SAM GOODY’S “BANDEMONIUM” CONTEST.

Long before celebrity judges listened to local talent for reality TV purposes, Sam Goody tapped the unsigned band market for promotional purposes. For several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sam Goody held their "Bandemonium" contest, pitting acts against each other in a battle-of-the-bands-style competition. Winners included Bobby Llama and Darwin's Waiting Room.

11. IN 2000, SAM GOODY GOT SOLD AGAIN.

The American Can Company sold Musicland and Sam Goody to Best Buy for a cool $425 million in 2000. But the relationship didn’t last long. By 2006, the stores were sold to another competitor, Trans World Entertainment. Trans World eventually converted all of the Sam Goody locations into f.y.e. stores—except for one.

12. THE LAST SAM GOODY STORE CLOSED ON OCTOBER 31, 2012.

The last Sam Goody holdout, located in San Diego, shuttered its windows on Halloween 2012. According to a company exec, the single store remained partly because the giant neon signs bearing the company logo were simply not economical to replace in that particular location.

13. A "ROUGH TRADE" RECORD STORE WAS REBRANDED AS SAM GOODY IN 2015 FOR AN HBO PROJECT.

Your eyes didn't deceive you if you think you spotted a retro-looking Sam Goody store in Brooklyn in 2015. A British-based record store called Rough Trade agreed to allow a temporary redesign in order to accommodate the production of Vinyl, an HBO drama executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger.

30 Stores That Will Be Closed on Thanksgiving

iStock.com, zoom-zoom
iStock.com, zoom-zoom

In recent years, the Black Friday craze has inched further and further into Thanksgiving. With stores opening as early as 5 p.m. on Thursday, festive dinners are being overshadowed by shopping frenzies. Retailers like to point the blame at consumers—according to the National Retail Federation, almost six in 10 Americans plan to shop Thanksgiving weekend—but opening a day early also runs the risk of cannibalizing sales that could have been made on Friday. Furthermore, with stores open the day before, the idea of going shopping in the middle of the night for already picked-over merchandise seems unnecessary.

But there are still stores that allow workers to stay home and enjoy the holiday. BestBlackFriday.com keeps a running (and updated) list of which companies will not be open on Thanksgiving. 

1. DSW

Photo of DSW Shoe store
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP, Getty Images

DSW employees can kick off their (well-priced) shoes and settle in for a holiday spent with friends and family; all of the chain's stores will be closed on Thanksgiving.

2. COSTCO

costco warehouse
iStock.com, slobo

The warehouse club has always had a reputation for being good to its employees. This Thanksgiving, Costco's 200,000-plus team members will have the opportunity to spend the holiday with their families (same goes for Christmas and New Year's Day).

3. NORDSTROM

Nordstrom storefront
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Nordstrom won't be open for business on Thanksgiving, but some employees will still be coming in for work. "[F]or the past 40+ years, some of our employees work on Thanksgiving eve and into the wee hours of the morning on Thanksgiving Day to decorate our stores with our holiday trim," a company spokesperson told ThinkProgress in 2014. "This is mostly a group of employees who have volunteered to be there and some bring along relatives or friends to join in. We'll also have a small team working in our Nordstrom.com Call Centers on Thanksgiving to serve the many customers who shop online that day."

4. DILLARD'S

A Dillard's storefront
iStock.com, Lee Walters

In 2014, a Dillard's spokesperson told ThinkProgress, "We choose to remain closed on Thanksgiving in longstanding tradition of honoring of our customers' and associates' time with family."

5. BJ'S WHOLESALE CLUB

Getty Images

BJ’s Wholesale Club will be closed Thanksgiving. "Thanksgiving gives family and friends the chance to spend time together," Chris Baldwin, the company's president and CEO, said in a press release in late September. "We're committed to letting our team members enjoy the holiday, and we'll be ready bright and early for our biggest Black Friday ever."

6. BURLINGTON

A Burlington storefront
iStock.com, krblokhin

"Thanksgiving is more than turkey. Or football. Or sleeping in," the company formerly known as Burlington Coat Factory wrote in a blog post. "It’s a time to reflect. To be thankful and appreciate what we have. To celebrate and share with family and friends near and far. That’s why Burlington stores are closed on Thanksgiving Day, so our customers and associates can enjoy time with their friends and family near and far."

7. REI

REI store in Seattle
Suzi Pratt, Getty Images for REI

REI will close all of its 151 stores for both Thanksgiving and Black Friday—yet all 12,000 of the retailer's employees, including hourly workers, will be paid to embrace the company's mission of getting people outdoors. "When you look at retail today, this playbook of promotions and consumerism, it's not working," REI chief executive Jerry Stritzke told Fortune. "It feels like it's lost momentum since then."

8. SUR LA TABLE

Scott Mindeaux via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Better make sure you've got all the Thanksgiving Day kitchen appliances and tools you need before the big day; kitchenware haven Sur La Table will be closed.

9. CRATE & BARREL

Crate & Barrel storefront
iStock.com, RiverNorthPhotography

Crate & Barrel employees will be staying home on Thanksgiving this year.

10. JO-ANN FABRICS AND CRAFTS

Jo-Ann Fabrics storefront
iStock.com, RiverNorthPhotography

Your arts and crafts projects will have to wait until Friday: Being closed on Thanksgiving has been a long-held tradition for Jo-Ann's stores.

11. T.J. MAXX

Getty Images

"We feel so strongly about our employees spending Thanksgiving with their families," T.J. Maxx and Marshalls spokeswoman Doreen Thompson said in 2013. "And we don't anticipate this changing in the future."

12. MARSHALLS

Getty Images

Marshalls, like T.J. Maxx, is owned by TJX and will therefore also be closed.

13. PIER 1 IMPORTS

Getty Images

For the past couple of years, Pier 1 Imports has decided to stay closed for the holiday.

14. PUBLIX

Getty Images

You'll have to buy your last-minute Thanksgiving fixings somewhere other than Publix.

15. SIERRA TRADING POST

iStock

“As in past years, Sierra Trading Post stores will be closed on Thanksgiving so our associates can enjoy the holiday with family and friends,” a company spokesperson said.

16. BARNES & NOBLE

Getty Images

Barnes & Noble wants its employees to enjoy the holiday with their families (then curl up with a good book).

17. SAM'S CLUB

Getty Images

Sam's Club is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.

18. IKEA

IKEA storefront
iStock.com, TonyBaggett

If you’re craving Swedish meatballs instead of turkey (or, you know, you really need an ottoman), you’ll have to wait it out. Most IKEA locations in the U.S. will be closed on Thanksgiving so employees can spend time with family and friends.

19. THE HOME DEPOT

Getty Images

The Home Depot stays closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

20. PATAGONIA

Patagonia store window
iStock.com, electravk

In 2014, when asked why Patagonia stores close on Thanksgiving, a spokesperson responded, “It’s a holiday—we’re closed!”

21. STAPLES 

Getty Images

It wasn't until 2015 that Staples decided to close its stores on Turkey Day. “We want our customers and associates to enjoy Thanksgiving their own way,” former company president Demos Parneros said in a press release at the time of the announcement.

22. PETSMART

PetSmart storefront
iStock.com, J. Michael Jones

Better make sure you've got enough catnip and dog treats to last the day; PetSmart will be closed.

23. LOWE'S

Getty Images

The home improvement giant gives its employees Thanksgiving Day off to spend with their families. 

24. GUITAR CENTER

Getty Images

The musical instrument retailer will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. The rocking will recommence on Friday morning.

25. MALL OF AMERICA

Mall of America sign out front
iStock.com, Wolterk

By closing its doors on Thanksgiving, the Mall of America has brought a bit of excitement back to Black Friday. "The energy has been extremely high," director of public relations Dan Jasper told CNBC in 2016. "It's a completely different vibe than the past few years."

26. THE CONTAINER STORE

The Container Store storefront
iStock.com, Nicolas McComber

In 2015, The Container Store posted a statement on its blog explaining why they choose to close on Thanksgiving Day: "We love seeing all of our customers—don’t get us wrong! But we feel it’s more important for all of our employees to be able to spend this holiday with their families, in order to recharge and renew and come back to work ready to take on the holiday season!"

27. NEIMAN MARCUS

Neiman Marcus storefront
iStock.com, RiverNorthPhotography

The luxury department store will be closed for Thanksgiving. But if you're so inclined, you can order a Thanksgiving dinner for 12 from them for a cool $495.

28. PETCO

Petco storefront
iStock.com, Miosotis Jade
PETCO employees will be spending the holiday home with their own pets this year.

29. OUTDOOR RESEARCH

iStock

In 2016, the outdoor apparel and gear company said it would be joining REI in its #OptOutside initiative, and will be closed on both Thanksgiving and Black Friday. They're repeating the newfound tradition again this year.

30. OFFICE DEPOT

Office Depot storefront
iStock.com, clearstockconcepts

"As we evaluated our store hours for this holiday and weighed the business and personal considerations, we decided it was best to provide our associates with the day off to spend time with family and friends by closing our retail stores on Thanksgiving Day," Office Depot's former COO Troy Rice said in a 2016 press release. They're doing the same this year as well.

This is just a fraction of the list of stores deciding to stay closed on Thanksgiving. Check out of the full list on BestBlackFriday.com

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER