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

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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 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.


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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 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.

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

  1. 4 out of 5

    David

    Nikola Tesla was an amazing genius. He came very close to winning a Nobel Prize, jointly with Edison. Tesla was an brilliant, arrogant, eccentric character, full of energy. He made numerous fundamental scientific discoveries, and tried, to some extent, to capitalize on his discoveries through a whole host of inventions. He obtained many diverse patents, but he had little business sense, and this was exacerbated by corporations that often infringed on his patents without offering compensation. Co Nikola Tesla was an amazing genius. He came very close to winning a Nobel Prize, jointly with Edison. Tesla was an brilliant, arrogant, eccentric character, full of energy. He made numerous fundamental scientific discoveries, and tried, to some extent, to capitalize on his discoveries through a whole host of inventions. He obtained many diverse patents, but he had little business sense, and this was exacerbated by corporations that often infringed on his patents without offering compensation. Corporations (Westinghouse, RCA, AT&T, American Marconi) around the turn of the century had only profit as their motive, and honor and honesty was not given even a wink. He was more responsible for wireless communication than Marconi, but to this day people credit Marconi with the invention. On the other hand, Tesla was the quintessential "mad scientist". He was often far ahead of his time, and people did not believe his grandiose ideas and grandiose claims. The thing is, he often came through on his grandiose claims. Before issuing a patent for "teleautomation", the chief patent examiner insisted on coming to witness Tesla's invention, and saw for himself that it did work. J.P. Morgan initially invested in Tesla's "wireless" system so that ships and racing boats could be tracked while at sea. However, Tesla took the investment and proceeded to develop ever-more grand systems to transmit radio waves across the oceans, even around the world. Then, when Tesla started to claim that he was working on wireless transmission of power, Morgan actively discouraged investors. Not because Morgan doubted that Tesla would be successful--on the contrary--he knew that the "wizard" would come through on his fantastic claims. Morgan did not believe in distribution of power "for free." Toward the end of his life, Tesla made claims that he had invented a particle-beam death ray. We don't know if it was true--but it did get some attention from the FBI and other government agencies--after he died! And his eccentricity seems to be boundless--he hired people to feed pigeons in public places around New York City. My favorite story is about how, in the very earliest days of his wireless experiments in Colorado Springs, he heard three distinct "taps". Tesla attributed the taps to communications from Martians. Later he was told that Marconi had been simultaneously demonstrating to the British Navy a long-range radio transmission. Tesla, though, still held onto his claim that he was receiving messages from Mars! This book contains a wealth of detail about Tesla's life. It quotes many letters and documents written by Tesla, or to Tesla, or about him. Sometimes I felt that the book went into too much detail--it could have been considerably shorter without lessening its impact. The book contains some interesting analyses of Tesla's life, and some speculations as to why Tesla behaved as he did. The book goes into psychoanalytic speculation about reasons why Tesla became so eccentric--reasons having to do with early events in his life, when he grew up in Serbia. Tesla was the uncle of the author's father. Nevertheless, this family relationship does not seem to cloud or bias this biography. Both the good and the less-good points of Tesla's life story are included.

  2. 5 out of 5

    R.K. Gold

    3.5/5 It has been done! This biography took me so long to read! I began in summer 2016 but couldn’t get into it. Picked it back up at the start of my fall semester this year but couldn’t get into it. Picked it up again at the end of the semester and forced myself to through. All in all his was a fascinating book that did an incredible job capturing the complicated life of an American Immigrant icon. While I was reading the book I struggled with how in depth and technical it 3.5/5 It has been done! This biography took me so long to read! I began in summer 2016 but couldn’t get into it. Picked it back up at the start of my fall semester this year but couldn’t get into it. Picked it up again at the end of the semester and forced myself to through. All in all his was a fascinating book that did an incredible job capturing the complicated life of an American Immigrant icon. While I was reading the book I struggled with how in depth and technical it got with his patents and his competitor’s patents at times but once I decided “it’s okay not to retain every word” and just kept reading, these tid-bits of information no longer slowed me down and by the end of the book I was excited to learn more. It almost read like it was letting you in on a secret, at times differentiating what the world saw at a given time and what actually happened (like with all of his feuds and how for decades those who pirated his work were rewarded). What I enjoyed most about this tale was seeing how intertwined he was with the most powerful American families of all time. This was a man who worked with both JP Morgan and Jr. He was a direct rival of Edison and a pen pal of Elenor Roosevelt. I am incredibly happy to have finally finished this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This book is actually the reason I can't check out anything at the SF Public Library anymore. I took it out years ago, and by the time I started it, it was due back again. But being the lazy bastard I am, I just kept reading it because it was so engrossing, and never renewed it. Tesla was, next to Da Vinci, probably the purest and most intuitive scientific genius ever to have lived. He was also one of the most paranoid and eccentric, but really everyone knows that is a prerequisite for genius. S This book is actually the reason I can't check out anything at the SF Public Library anymore. I took it out years ago, and by the time I started it, it was due back again. But being the lazy bastard I am, I just kept reading it because it was so engrossing, and never renewed it. Tesla was, next to Da Vinci, probably the purest and most intuitive scientific genius ever to have lived. He was also one of the most paranoid and eccentric, but really everyone knows that is a prerequisite for genius. Seeing how badly Edison screwed him over, and the personal hatred Edison had for him, was shocking, not to mention the experiments Tesla did in Colorado with 'free energy', make it worthwhile. Oh, and he designed and tested all his machines in his head, so they worked perfectly the first time he built them almost always.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    Tesla is one of the most awesomest coolio scientists evah. Totally. Check out what The Oatmeal has to say: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla. And if you're writing your dissertation on Tesla and need to know whether he was in New Jersey or New York on April 19th so that you can confirm that a conversation really took place, this is the book for you. It's great at that level of documentation. On the other hand, if you want to read about how awesomely coolio Tesla was, this book may make you want to gouge your eyes out.

  5. 5 out of 5

    BetseaK

    This was not an easy listen. Over 22 hours dense with information, including technical descriptions of Nikola Tesla's inventions! This being said, I am glad I bought this audiobook. It covers not only Tesla's inventions and ideas but also his cultural background, his relationships with quite a number of the luminaries of the times, as well as his physical and mental health. For this reader/listener with no electrical engineering background, the descriptions of Tesla's inventions and postula This was not an easy listen. Over 22 hours dense with information, including technical descriptions of Nikola Tesla's inventions! This being said, I am glad I bought this audiobook. It covers not only Tesla's inventions and ideas but also his cultural background, his relationships with quite a number of the luminaries of the times, as well as his physical and mental health. For this reader/listener with no electrical engineering background, the descriptions of Tesla's inventions and postulated theories, most of which in his own words, were a little hard to understand, let alone evaluate. However, bearing in mind that this is not a scientific appreciation of Tesla's work but his biography, the book fulfilled my desire to know more about Tesla's achievements and why he was transformed into a mythical figure. The technical descriptions were informative enough to give the general reader/listener a fairly good insight into an array of Tesla's inventions, including both the proved and the postulated ones. Therefore, I appreciate Mr. Seifer's efforts to do Nikola Tesla justice, separating the myth built around him from historic facts, fairly pointing out where Tesla was wrong, and thus bringing Tesla's fascinating accomplishments and ideas/postulated theories into proper perspective. I liked how the book was organized. It was set chronologically, yet centered on Tesla's world wireless communication system (Wardenclyffe), involving Tesla's desire and efforts to make wireless transmission of power possible (which seems to have stuck in the throat of the electrical engineering companies battling for their share in the market). What I found both interesting and saddening were the descriptions of the competition between inventors, disputes about who was 'the first' and Tesla's struggles against patent infringements. The book renders both Tesla's virtues and his weaknesses, and I must admit that some of Tesla's quirks made me dislike him at times. In spite of it, I found the events leading to the development of radio (the Wireless) most saddening. Tesla aimed valiantly high (ahead of this time), which unfortunately led him to a blind alley and lose the battle with Marconi (though he was able to recover some money in the Courts long after Marconi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics). (view spoiler)[I digress a little, but I couldn't help but laugh at myself when I read Tesla's argument against Einstein's theory of relativity, claiming, “I hold that space cannot be curved, for the simple reason that it can have no properties. ... Of properties we can only speak when dealing with matter filling the space. To say that in the presence of large bodies space becomes curved is equivalent to stating that something can act upon nothing. I, for one, refuse to subscribe to such a view.“ Well, as I myself was inclined to refuse to subscribe to such a view, I would recommend Tesla (if he were alive) to read Galloping with Light - Einstein, Relativity, and Folklore in order to learn how to understand/interpret Einstein's Theory of Relativity and the concept of 'curved space' properly. (hide spoiler)] All in all, I congratulate Mr. Seifer on well researched and fairly even-handed biography of Nikola Tesla. While some of Tesla's postulated inventions, as described, left me wondering whether they were only the product of a brilliant dreamer (in this context, be prepared for a bit of conspiracy theories at the end of the book, regarding Tesla's 'death beam weapon'), the book as a whole succeeded to convince me that this genius deserves better recognition. As my review refers to the audio version of Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius, let me say a word or two about the narration. Simon Prebble's performance is excellent indeed. It suits the times in which Tesla lived, as well as the general mood of the book. I particularly enjoyed how Mr. Prebble voiced Tesla's personal correspondence with J.P. Morgan and others, bringing life and personality to the characters in the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rohan

    This book was long. I had my doubts about finishing this one in a month but I ended up wrapping it up in just over a week. Although, that has more to do with Tesla's character and his inventions rather than Author's writing style. Though, to be fair to the Author, he has done a decent job of making the book dramatic enough especially considering it is actually a Biography. It is clear from the book that Tesla was a Brilliant man whose ideas were well ahead of his time. At the same tim This book was long. I had my doubts about finishing this one in a month but I ended up wrapping it up in just over a week. Although, that has more to do with Tesla's character and his inventions rather than Author's writing style. Though, to be fair to the Author, he has done a decent job of making the book dramatic enough especially considering it is actually a Biography. It is clear from the book that Tesla was a Brilliant man whose ideas were well ahead of his time. At the same time, book has enough evidence and stories from his life to prove that many of those ideas were not executed to completion by Tesla. It is also clear that Tesla was no genius when it came to his social skills and financial management. This book makes you wonder what more greater inventions this great (sometimes also called mad) scientist could've done for man kind, if he had at least one of those two skills. Personally for me, the best (and partly sad) part of the book were Tesla's and J.P Morgan's exchanges. Frankly, I really do not think either J.P or Tesla were wrong in what they did. Tesla had really a lot to prove since he had no practical application of most of the claims he was making and Morgan was trying to be what he is, a Businessman. The desperation in Tesla's tone in those letters to J.P Morgan clearly presents the state of his mind in those days. In spite of that, it is commendable that Tesla's objective was more or less to bring about a Revolution in the Wireless Systems. It is even more admiring because of the fact that most of his contemporaries especially Edison, Marconi etc were bad mouthing Tesla in the scientific community and were always on the look out for ways to bring him down. Other than this, the other interesting parts were stories about Westinghouse and RCA's formation, Tesla's rivalry with Edison and Marconi, Tesla's views on Einstein's theory of relativity, World war and its impacts on US policies on Patent Infringement and many more. It is a shame that Tesla (and Edison) never won a Nobel Prize especially considering that other people who actually build their inventions using his ideas went on to get a Nobel Prize and also lived a much more financially stable life than him. Overall, I would say the book is good. Just keep in mind the fact that it is a Biography and that the Author might not be highly qualified to give you all the technical details about Tesla's inventions.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Glynn

    This was a good but difficult book. The author is intent on putting down in meticulous detail the life of this amazing character and in doing so skips around with chaotic effect. Tesla knew and interacted with many famous people of his time and it was hard keeping track of his interactions with them as the author related stories and jumped from one character to another. The author relates in detail the many inventions and ideas that Nikola Tesla advanced that were subsequently used by This was a good but difficult book. The author is intent on putting down in meticulous detail the life of this amazing character and in doing so skips around with chaotic effect. Tesla knew and interacted with many famous people of his time and it was hard keeping track of his interactions with them as the author related stories and jumped from one character to another. The author relates in detail the many inventions and ideas that Nikola Tesla advanced that were subsequently used by other inventors who gave no credit to Tesla and in fact stole his ideas. There are many instances depicted where Tesla is depicted as constantly fighting to convince the world that his ideas were stolen by other famous inventors. There are chapters which begin with one topic and then switch for no particular reason to another seemingly unrelated topic. There are things I liked about the book. I liked reading about Teslas conviction that he could communicate with Mars and how he had a vision of the world wide web and cellular communication. I was fascinated with the struggles Tesla had in the Wardenclyffe project. I liked the depiction of Teslas relationship to Katherine Underwood Johnson and would have liked a more satisfying telling of that relationship. The author simply announces at one point a list of people who died and Katherine is among this list. This is the main problem I had with this book. The organization requires better editing. Another aspect of the book that turned me off was the constant detail concerning monetary and financial problems. It seems like Tesla was constantly concerned with obtaining funding for his many inventions. I suppose this is the plight of many an inventor but I would have preferred less detailing of this (to me) boring topic. Although I struggled with this book, I did enjoy reading about this great man's life and work and would recommend this book for anyone interested in Nikola Tesla.

  8. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    This is a bit dry and very technical, but totally fascinating! Tesla’s life spanned 86 years and witnessed some amazing discoveries, many his own. He was an eccentric with an astonishing mind, living decades in NYC hotels, developing a penchant for pigeons, and was a self-described celibate. We can thank Nikola Tesla for many of our modern conveniences. And he was friends with Mark Twain which is pretty cool in my book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    J.P.

    I’m still looking for the definitive biography on Nikola Tesla because rest assured this isn’t it. The author throws non-essential information about like it was confetti. I knew from the first chapter when he starts with the history of Croatia that this would be a less than promising beginning. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better. People keep cropping up who had very little contact with or influence on Tesla. Information on his discoveries are kept to a minimum while matters of who file I’m still looking for the definitive biography on Nikola Tesla because rest assured this isn’t it. The author throws non-essential information about like it was confetti. I knew from the first chapter when he starts with the history of Croatia that this would be a less than promising beginning. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better. People keep cropping up who had very little contact with or influence on Tesla. Information on his discoveries are kept to a minimum while matters of who filed what patent and when go on ad nauseum. There’s very little real science involved. It’s amazing how many times the author strays off the subject to bring up a trivial piece of data I could’ve lived the rest of my life without knowing. I’m willing to bet that overall more of the text is not about Tesla. I wouldn’t have thought that a book about such a creative genius could be balled up to the point of practically making it unreadable. Cripes! Please, somebody write a really good biography of this man who deserves better than the treatment here.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    When I review a biography, I usually start by saying "look how awesome this guy is" and then rambling about his appearance, his style, etc. Well, look how awesome this guy is. He's like a more dashing Marcel Proust. He's got a handsome but not showy mustachio. He's got that cool oiled hair thing going on. But Tesla's coolness is more about his showmanship. He took this terrifying, new thing called electricity, stuff that comes down from the sky and explodes trees and cows, and he just sits there reading a magazi When I review a biography, I usually start by saying "look how awesome this guy is" and then rambling about his appearance, his style, etc. Well, look how awesome this guy is. He's like a more dashing Marcel Proust. He's got a handsome but not showy mustachio. He's got that cool oiled hair thing going on. But Tesla's coolness is more about his showmanship. He took this terrifying, new thing called electricity, stuff that comes down from the sky and explodes trees and cows, and he just sits there reading a magazine while it rages around him. Or he'll walk out on a stage into the midst of bolts of electricity, walking through it like it's a waterfall instead of magical death light, protected only by the cork lining his shoes. And it's not just Tesla's wacky experiments that make him so compelling. It's his personality and his history of hardships. He's a tragic figure, the Melville of science, who ran into some fame and fortune, but was ultimately condemned to a life of struggle and a death alone in a hotel room. I won't force you to read this book. But you should at least read the Wikipedia article because this dude is really interesting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Fred Hughes

    That Tesla was a genius is a given. This book goes deeper than that and at times he does appear to be a wizard. Highly educated, fluent in 12 languages, and a prolific reader Tesla even when young would not just accept something as fact just because some authority figure told him. If it didn’t make sense he would investigate it with vigour. That was both a positive and negative attribute as once he got something in his mind to work on he would do so without appropriate rest That Tesla was a genius is a given. This book goes deeper than that and at times he does appear to be a wizard. Highly educated, fluent in 12 languages, and a prolific reader Tesla even when young would not just accept something as fact just because some authority figure told him. If it didn’t make sense he would investigate it with vigour. That was both a positive and negative attribute as once he got something in his mind to work on he would do so without appropriate rest until he collapsed. He was driven in the true sense of the word. Seifer’s research for this book must have been intensive as it comprehensive in what is included. Great mind, Great Book

  12. 5 out of 5

    Martina

    No review of mine would be complete without a little backstory, so I shall share it now. I've been acquainted with the genius of Nikola Tesla for a long, long time. Ever since I've come to the realization that we owe that man a lot, I've striven to inform myself about the man and his work. I watched documentaries, attended lectures, read publications; I was terribly angry when the recreated Tesla laboratory in the Technical museum wasn't open when I found a time slot to visit it... heh, the only No review of mine would be complete without a little backstory, so I shall share it now. I've been acquainted with the genius of Nikola Tesla for a long, long time. Ever since I've come to the realization that we owe that man a lot, I've striven to inform myself about the man and his work. I watched documentaries, attended lectures, read publications; I was terribly angry when the recreated Tesla laboratory in the Technical museum wasn't open when I found a time slot to visit it... heh, the only sin I'm guilty of is not visiting his house in Smiljan. I've even watched Prestige just to see how David Bowie had tapped into Tesla's role, for crying out loud. That all being said, I have to admit that I've expected The Wizard to be a book suitable for revision of facts I already knew about Tesla. I thought that it should be good as an introduction to Tesla's life and work, but I was a bit skeptical on what new could such a book offer to me. You can't imagine my delight when I started reading - after the chapters on Tesla's origins and childhood, which presented me with little new facts, I embarked on a very different journey. I can only imagine the time and effort it took the author to collect so many sources, and write such a unique and complete biography. Every passage, sentence or letter has a reference, so that readers can be directed to other sources, either for checking or simply finding new literature. What I also loved was the inclusion of multiple tellings of some situations in Tesla's life (for example, the two contradictory stories that depict Tesla's drive for money, or lack thereof, in his dealings with Edison). Seifer pictures Tesla's life in such minute detail, that even a person with a ready-made skeleton can make tweaks on the skeleton and start to construct tendons and joints, and completely flesh the structure out. The sheer wealth of information left me very impressed, and I was a skeptic no more. Instead, I learned so many things I didn't know prior, concerning Tesla's life and struggle. Because, let's face it, people - it was a battle with many admirable adversaries. From Edison, the people with whom Tesla had founded his first company, svindlers galore (yes, Michael Pupin and all that mendacious crowd that had preferred to simply not mention Tesla), money investors and bankers (yes, I'm talking about J.P. Morgan and the gang which squashed Tesla's dream of free energy), plagiators (yes, that is pointed towards Marconi), fires in his laboratories, to the general public (during the battle of currents and also later on in life), Tesla had had to fight his way to the top. And even though he had had his share of triumphs (1891/92. and the European tour, the fame which came in 1893/94., etc.), external factors and his own ideas seemed to work against him (after all, the ideas he had later on in life were the culprits of his pendulous fall...). Not to mention that he was in a not so grateful position of an expatriate in a new country (which he clearly felt, at least in the beginning, for he had written upon the demise of his Hungarian friend Szegeti, “I feel alienated, and it is difficult [for me to adapt to the American lifestyle].”). But in spite all that, he achieved great things of unsurpassed practical value. It would take me a whole book to list his discoveries, but let's mention the rotating magnetic field, polyphase electric system, lasers, fluorescent lights, wireless transmission and radio among the myriad other things we use in everyday life. But ultimately, Tesla's life story doesn't end up on a very optimistic note. Because, it all boils down to a man who had lots of great ideas which could have brought even more prosperity to mankind, but was barred from achieving the bulk of them by people who didn't have such altruistic interests as he had. All in all, I really liked this book. After all, it can't possibly be dull when it has such a fascinating topic! However, it wasn't flawless. The chronological structure, while logical, was perhaps one of the weaknesses of the book. I can tell that Seifer's goal was to present Tesla's life in an orderly way, but as a result of that, some chapters felt jumbled as we got to read about the different aspects of Tesla's life, consecutively. (Don't get me wrong, one of The Wizard's strengths is that it also discusses Tesla's social life, and gives proof in the form of various letters, directed either to or from Tesla, but that was tightly enmeshed in the tales of Tesla's discoveries, which made it a bit difficult for my mind to switch from topic to topic.) Another minor quibble - after the chapter Loose ends and Tesla's death, the author talks about some historical issues which perhaps were not necessary. But aside from that, the book is great and I highly recommend it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    I'm embarrassed to admit it, but before reading this book, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had pretty much bought into the new age mythology that Tesla was a mystic genius visionary who was the victim of Edison's jealous, evil industrialist thievery and sabotage. Now, after reading accounts of Tesla's embarrassing social, financial and professional missteps, his ridiculous pleading correspondences to J.P. Morgan (and other wealthy would-be benefactors), and less than half baked journal submi I'm embarrassed to admit it, but before reading this book, somewhere in the back of my mind, I had pretty much bought into the new age mythology that Tesla was a mystic genius visionary who was the victim of Edison's jealous, evil industrialist thievery and sabotage. Now, after reading accounts of Tesla's embarrassing social, financial and professional missteps, his ridiculous pleading correspondences to J.P. Morgan (and other wealthy would-be benefactors), and less than half baked journal submissions (particularly the one that interpreted a three beat radio transmission as a communication from intelligent extra terrestrials), I'm seeing Tesla in a whole new light. Rather than a victim of conspiratorial thuggery, I now see Tesla as a victim of his own chronic douchiness. Tesla was clearly decades ahead of his peers. But being "ahead of your time", contrary to hipster dogma, is not necessarily a good thing. Tesla had amazing ideas. But good ideas without good execution are about useless, where as even mediocre ideas, well executed, can at least be useful to someone. Tesla was with out a doubt, an amazing inventor. But it's hard not to feel like he could have achieved so much more if he wasn't such a dysfunctional, self sabotaging, grandiose douche bag. This book is a well done (if a little long) biography of a fascinating (to say the least) character from a fascinating time. But the real value of the book is as a cautionary tale of how unchecked cognitive biases (see: confirmation bias) and magical thinking can be the undoing of even brilliant and talented people like Tesla. Be warned; if your model of reality becomes too divorced from actual reality, you may needlessly fritter away your hard work and talent on some really ridiculous shit. Read this book, particularly if you like biographies of scientists, but if you're one of those Tesla worshipers, be prepared to deify the guy a whole lot less upon completion. Ultimately, the book renders a portrait of Tesla that is humane and realistic. Uncovering Tesla's scammy shenanigans, unexamined self delusions and outrageous foibles, while concurrently celebrating his incredible creativity and authentic brilliance. BTW: a film is in production starring (self serious, tortured) Christian Bale as Tesla. I think (brilliant, trixter, clown) Sacha Baron-Cohen would make for a better, more realistic, funner film.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    I endorse this book. If this book were a person, that person would kick Chuck Norris' ass. If this book were edible, your head would explode from the sheer ecstasy. If this book were a sound, your ears would explode--twice. I must warn you, though. If you aren't worthy, then this book will burn your hands upon contact. Only the most devote individuals have ever been known to hold this book and survive, let alone read it. In other words, this book is awesome.

  15. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Tesla is da Vinci reincarnated! I'm certain of it RTC what an amazing man! 2017 Lenten Buddy Reading Challenge book #20

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    A little on the academic side at times, but Tesla himself is amazing enough to make up for any downsides to this book. The author does a good job of presenting the revolutionary nature of Tesla's inventions to a non-engineering audience, while also investigating the social and political reasons why he is rarely remembered for them today. Certainly better than the incoherent mess that is Margaret Cheney's TESLA: MAN OUT OF TIME.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    Nikola Tesla was without a doubt a genius when it came to electricity and engineering. Have you ever been in wonder at the electric power produced by Niagara Falls? Well, this was a product of Tesla's insights and work. The book traces nicely the trajectory of Tesla's career. We learn of his youth and his formative influences. He moved to the United States and began his work inventing devices. Early on, he came up with an electrical system--A.C.--as opposed to Thomas Edison's D.C. The Nikola Tesla was without a doubt a genius when it came to electricity and engineering. Have you ever been in wonder at the electric power produced by Niagara Falls? Well, this was a product of Tesla's insights and work. The book traces nicely the trajectory of Tesla's career. We learn of his youth and his formative influences. He moved to the United States and began his work inventing devices. Early on, he came up with an electrical system--A.C.--as opposed to Thomas Edison's D.C. The two ended up--at best--as frenemies, and often sniped with one another. The same with Guglielmo Marconi. When one considers Tesla's discoveries, it is clear that he was a major figure in his field. He gained the support of major figures, such as George Westinghouse. But, with time, he began to deliver less and less, as some of his eccentricities took center stage. At one point, he thought he was receiving signals from Mars. His eccentricity did not work in his favor. And he liked to live well. But he met with reverses. He created Wardenclyffe, an enormous effort to develop wireless communication that could cover stupefying distances. Because of his poor business model, all was lost. The book well covers his genius--and his shortcomings and stubbornness. Want to learn more about a genuine genius? Take a look at this work. It is not always the most elegantly written, but the work is still quite readable. Documentation is solid.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily Ross

    This was quite a hard read, due to its length of 22 hours and dense descriptions of Tesla's machines and devices. Having read many Tesla biographies and books before this, it almost confused me. The narrator also made this book quite hard to listen to due to his overpronunciation of the letter 's' no matter where in the word the letter was. While the majority of the information was good, I disagree with Seifer's conclusions. One being that Tesla was homosexual; Seifer's argument hinge This was quite a hard read, due to its length of 22 hours and dense descriptions of Tesla's machines and devices. Having read many Tesla biographies and books before this, it almost confused me. The narrator also made this book quite hard to listen to due to his overpronunciation of the letter 's' no matter where in the word the letter was. While the majority of the information was good, I disagree with Seifer's conclusions. One being that Tesla was homosexual; Seifer's argument hinges on the point that Tesla didn't like sex (Tesla often being accepted as asexual), but due to his mother's rejection after his brother's death, Tesla specifically rejected women. His second conclusion continues in the same vein, attributing much of Tesla's strange eccentric behaviours, including his love of pigeons and his germophobia to his brother's death while Tesla was a child. Much of Seifer's arguments were unsubstantiated and farfetched which stretched this book beyond credibility.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    3.5 really... Wizard is the extremely comprehensive biography of possibly one of the most interesting men to have ever lived, a man so cool they had to get David Bowie to play him – Nikola Tesla. Before we begin, I should probably make it clear that while I am fascinated by science and the great thinkers that practice it, my mind does not work in that way at all (I only passed my Science GCSE after my mum condensed pretty much the entire syllabus into a series of silly cartoons a f/> 3.5 really... Wizard is the extremely comprehensive biography of possibly one of the most interesting men to have ever lived, a man so cool they had to get David Bowie to play him – Nikola Tesla. Before we begin, I should probably make it clear that while I am fascinated by science and the great thinkers that practice it, my mind does not work in that way at all (I only passed my Science GCSE after my mum condensed pretty much the entire syllabus into a series of silly cartoons a few days before my exams) and so the title of this book is made even more appropriate. My only real understanding of electricity being that when I flip a switch, my lights come on (when the bulbs haven't gone), it really may as well be magic as far as I'm concerned. A genius with a talent for invention as well as for winding up his investors and a great showman whose incredible lightning spewing demonstrations would capture the public imagination before his grandiose pronouncements and appetite for self-publicity saw him later dismissed as something of a crank unable to finish a project, Tesla would invent many of the things we take for granted in the modern world whilst also contributing to many more. He would also be eternally screwed over and in debt, his work credited to and making others rich, his achievements only properly recognised long after his death. Born in Smiljan in 1856 to a gifted family (particularly his mum, who was forever inventing new household appliances for herself) and possessing a photographic memory, Tesla was already far more accomplished by the time he'd left University than most of us could hope to be in a lifetime, having taken courses in arithmetic and analytical geometry, theoretical and experimental physics, integral calculus, analytical chemistry, mineralogy, machinery construction, botany, wave theory, optics, philosophy and higher maths, and speaking 8 languages. He’d also survived several near death experiences including plunging into boiling milk, drowning under a raft, being swept over waterfall, contracting cholera, and driving himself through overwork into a nervous collapse – something he would continue to do throughout his lifetime as he subsisted on bread and milk, sleeping only a few hours a night and pouring all of his energies into his work. Moving to the US in 1884 to work for Thomas Edison’s company, Tesla would set out on his own after almost immediately receiving the first of many shaftings at Edison’s hands – being paid just $18 a day to redesign and reassemble much of the company’s equipment after having been promised $50,000. These shaftings would also continue throughout his life, and were as many and varied as his astounding array of inventions (which included an induction motor, electrical power distribution system, fluorescent and neon lights, wireless telecommunication, remote control, robotics and apparently even fricking laser beams) and came at the hands of not just Edison but the likes of Marconi, Westinghouse, Pupin, Steinmetz, JP Morgan and the US Government. Facing a publicity backlash due to Edison’s dickish publicity campaign in which he electrocuted animals with Tesla’s competing AC system, mired in patent infringements and court battles, and forever toadying up to potential investors (mostly unsuccessfully, thanks to his habit of sending long letters bemoaning his hard luck and full of emotional blackmail, while asking for way more funds having abandoned agreed plans in favour of altogether grander schemes), Tesla would become far more paranoid, bitter and reclusive over time, allowing the weirder aspects of his personality free reign. Amongst his many peculiarities were: an aversion to women's earrings and touching people’s hair, being sent into fits at the sight of pearls and fevers at the sight of a peach, insisting on living in hotels despite an almost pathological inability to pay his rent, where his mirrors must be draped and no sunlight must enter his room. And despite being a favourite of the ladies (especially of his friend’s wife, Mrs Katherine Johnson), he remained celibate – having eyes only for his work and, well, I’ll let him tell you: “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, my life had purpose." Tesla passed away at the age of 86, having outlived his pigeon, sending various secret agencies into frenzies as they tried to suppress his papers and get their hands on a rumoured death ray machine, Tesla having supposedly left a working model in a hotel basement in lieu of rent. As a reading experience, due to the staggering amount of information imparted I sometimes struggled with Wizard - especially as much of it was highly technical information. This, coupled with the authors insistence on flying off on tangents and flitting around in time, meant that I often spent entire chunks completely befuddled and bewildered. But I still learned everything I could possibly want to know about one of the most interesting people to have ever lived, so I'm not going to hold too much against it. And in case you're wondering, I'm firmly on the Tesla side of this rap battle. Too long, didn't read: Drunk History Volume 6 - Nikola Tesla **Also posted at Randomly Reading and Ranting**

  20. 5 out of 5

    Elisabeth Haljas

    A thorough book about the life of Nikola Tesla. I am happy there is this book with much research having gone into his life to get an objective view of what was going on, why possibly he was the kind of person he was, and all the external factors forging his path in life as it did.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mike Hernandez

    What I failed to realize when I started reading this book was how literal the title was. I was expecting a biography of the life of Nikola Tesla. Indeed there was a biography, however there is also a huge emphasis on The Life AND TIMES of Nikola Tesla. It seemed that every other page was filled with a bunch of extraneous nonsense that had little to no bearing on "the life" part of the book. A perfect example is that almost every event ever attended by Tesla was listed, which is fine, however the What I failed to realize when I started reading this book was how literal the title was. I was expecting a biography of the life of Nikola Tesla. Indeed there was a biography, however there is also a huge emphasis on The Life AND TIMES of Nikola Tesla. It seemed that every other page was filled with a bunch of extraneous nonsense that had little to no bearing on "the life" part of the book. A perfect example is that almost every event ever attended by Tesla was listed, which is fine, however the author deemed it pertinent to list every other person that also attended as if the reader was supposed to know who the eff any of these old school turn-of-the-century fat cats were. Another annoying feature of the book was brought up by another review I read on this site. This review pointed out that the author filled this biographical non-fiction work with phrases such as "Nikola Tesla probably [did this]" or "It is most likely Nikola Tesla [did that]". Well I can definitively say that the author most likely failed to do his homework and probably flunked out of biography writing class. What's worse, most people today don't even know who the hell Nikola Tesla even is (he gave us the AC current system, radio, remote control, and a crap ton more) and he certainly doesn't need half-assed biographies to help continue to suppress his name into obscurity. In fact, he needs a new york bestseller, which in my estimation is entirely possible. The reason I give this book 2.5 stars (yes, that's two and one half goodreads) is that the life of Tesla is so absurdly interesting that it is almost impossible to write a book that doesn't enthrall the reader. Therefore, I most likely probably give the life and even the times of Nikola Tesla 2.5 out of 5 electricities.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jason Bergman

    A fascinating look at the life of a strange and brilliant man. This is very much a warts and all approach to his life, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Tesla may have been a genius, but he was not a very practical man, and he had a deep self-destructive streak to him. There's a lot of great stuff in here, not the least of which is the appendix which examines whether or not Tesla's Wardenclyffe tower, which pretty much destroyed him financially (and mentally) could have ever been successful A fascinating look at the life of a strange and brilliant man. This is very much a warts and all approach to his life, which is a good thing, in my opinion. Tesla may have been a genius, but he was not a very practical man, and he had a deep self-destructive streak to him. There's a lot of great stuff in here, not the least of which is the appendix which examines whether or not Tesla's Wardenclyffe tower, which pretty much destroyed him financially (and mentally) could have ever been successful (probably not). Seifer's text can be a little dry, but then it also swings to unusual moments of overdramatic prose. It's a little strange. I chalk that up to Seifer recycling bits from his doctoral thesis (just a guess). In any event, it's good enough, and Tesla's life was full of enough drama that even the dry bits are pretty interesting. Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla is an excellent book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the life of one of the greatest scientific minds the world has ever known.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Linda Harkins

    After listening to 22 hours of this audiobook, I completely changed my mind about Tesla. I guess I thought he was left out of our U.S. history textbooks because he was a mystic and a misfit. Seifer points out the complexity of the man and the period in which he lived. Who would disagree with Seifer that Tesla was a genius with scant business acumen? Some of Tesla's inventions and discoveries that come rapidly to mind include wireless transmission, radio, polyphase electric system, rotating magne After listening to 22 hours of this audiobook, I completely changed my mind about Tesla. I guess I thought he was left out of our U.S. history textbooks because he was a mystic and a misfit. Seifer points out the complexity of the man and the period in which he lived. Who would disagree with Seifer that Tesla was a genius with scant business acumen? Some of Tesla's inventions and discoveries that come rapidly to mind include wireless transmission, radio, polyphase electric system, rotating magnetic fields, turbines that harness the power of Niagara Falls, speedometers, lasers, and fluorescent lights. Although brilliant and friends with J. P. Morgan and Astor, Tesla couldn't bring many of his patented inventions to fruition due to lack of funding. How interesting to learn how Tesla's rather traumatic Serbian boyhood as well as his feelings of alienation as a naturalized American citizen impacted his life's work! An illuminating work! Well worth the listening or reading time!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    Marc Seifer wrote a comprehensive biography of his underapreciated savant relative. As a handwriting analyst Marc provides his professional opinion about some of the remaining handwritten artifacts, but not often enough. I've been spoiled by Laura Hillenbrand, John Meacham, & Edmund Morris as they tend to set up a story progression thats intriguing and develops a conscious or unconscious natural reader inquiry at which point the authors more than satisfy the inquiring mind. Marc Seifer satis Marc Seifer wrote a comprehensive biography of his underapreciated savant relative. As a handwriting analyst Marc provides his professional opinion about some of the remaining handwritten artifacts, but not often enough. I've been spoiled by Laura Hillenbrand, John Meacham, & Edmund Morris as they tend to set up a story progression thats intriguing and develops a conscious or unconscious natural reader inquiry at which point the authors more than satisfy the inquiring mind. Marc Seifer satisfies but with a less natural setup and sometimes it feels academic. I learned much of Nicola Tesla from this book and it's most likely an authoritative work so I will freely encourage its visit.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Baumgartner

    Nikola Tesla had abilities beyond that of many people, and though this book tried to present his life from all perspectives it is full of so much information pumped into so many different paragraphs that it becomes tedious. I had to take many breaks before deciding that this book is just a dry, hard read. I can usually push myself through a good book but how can one tell the story of a legend like Tesla in just one book? I'd much rather read the papers that he himself published and form my own i Nikola Tesla had abilities beyond that of many people, and though this book tried to present his life from all perspectives it is full of so much information pumped into so many different paragraphs that it becomes tedious. I had to take many breaks before deciding that this book is just a dry, hard read. I can usually push myself through a good book but how can one tell the story of a legend like Tesla in just one book? I'd much rather read the papers that he himself published and form my own idea of the man behind the myth.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Miraese

    I learned way too much to write in this box right now, Tesla was a real freak, but clearly an under-recognized founder of our modern electrical era. I had no idea.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nabila

    Spectacular...ly boring. This is such a long book, stuffed with technical information about Tesla's discoveries; which is fair enough, but the technical takes precedent over a cohesive narrative. The book follows a rigorous chronological order without attempting to try and make a story that flows. There are random insertions of history and notable people of the time; I think the intent was to provide colour and depth to the story, but they are so clumsily inserted that even if you were lucky eno Spectacular...ly boring. This is such a long book, stuffed with technical information about Tesla's discoveries; which is fair enough, but the technical takes precedent over a cohesive narrative. The book follows a rigorous chronological order without attempting to try and make a story that flows. There are random insertions of history and notable people of the time; I think the intent was to provide colour and depth to the story, but they are so clumsily inserted that even if you were lucky enough to be able to forget yourself in the book (which, good luck with that), it would drag you right back out again. Things of interest (he thought women were the superior sex! he was probably gay! he loved one pigeon more than others!) are thrown in at random with little discussion or thought. An incredibly clumsy and weird psychoanalysis of Tesla serves as an abrupt summary to the book. Oh, and the way the author writes about possible relationships Tesla might have had, made me double check that this book wasn't also from the 1890's... Reading this book felt like a punishment.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hani

    Wizard and Genius This is a comprehensive biography of Nikola Tesla who was way ahead of his time in a multitude of technological arenas and disciplines. Although envied by his contemporaries (of whom some attributed his discoveries to themselves) he continued his work for several decades under very harsh financial conditions. Recognized posthumously for his achievements, Tesla’s journey from birth to death is outlined in detail in this treatise that Marc Seifer took nearly three deca Wizard and Genius This is a comprehensive biography of Nikola Tesla who was way ahead of his time in a multitude of technological arenas and disciplines. Although envied by his contemporaries (of whom some attributed his discoveries to themselves) he continued his work for several decades under very harsh financial conditions. Recognized posthumously for his achievements, Tesla’s journey from birth to death is outlined in detail in this treatise that Marc Seifer took nearly three decades to complete. Highly recommended reading for anyone who is interested in learning about the history of that genius!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Connor Wood

    Tesla was one strange genius. I thought the book did a fantastic job showing every side of Tesla, good or bad. Or weird. And Tesla was most certainly good and weird. He single handedly invented Tesla coils, three-phase AC, induction motors, neon lighting, bladeless turbines, radio communication, remote controlling, and much much more. And often he invented these technologies seemingly out of thin air, a fresh invention, so to speak. But I am amazed that someone could have such a developed u Tesla was one strange genius. I thought the book did a fantastic job showing every side of Tesla, good or bad. Or weird. And Tesla was most certainly good and weird. He single handedly invented Tesla coils, three-phase AC, induction motors, neon lighting, bladeless turbines, radio communication, remote controlling, and much much more. And often he invented these technologies seemingly out of thin air, a fresh invention, so to speak. But I am amazed that someone could have such a developed understanding of physics in general while still wasting so much time and effort on things like death rays, communicating with life on Mars, telepathy, sending high voltages through the body for medicinal purposes (from headaches to bowel movements), high speed aircraft featuring a hot-air balloon, cosmic ray engines, thought recorders, force-fields, earthquake inducers, and too much more. And to make him even more of a mad scientist, he was unbelievably awful with money, had a super weird love life, and he would have spurious mental breakdowns. But when he needed to look the part, he could. He was just... a weirdo. A weirdo genius.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katrisa

    So, I'm glad that I read this book, but it was a bit much. There was a lot of description of Tesla's work that was a bit over my head, but I appreciated the sheer volume of Tesla's body of work. The constant searching for funding and fighting over patents was depressing. Though I sometimes got bogged down in the details, I still came away from this book with a deep appreciation for this icon of electricity. What a fascinating man!

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