Tesla and Friends

Izvor: Source: Monograph Museum of Nikola Tesla 1952-2003

Monday, 04.09.2006.

12:53

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Tesla and Friends

Not enough is known about Tesla’s private life.  The fact is, in his autobiography he wrote mainly about his research efforts.  Nevertheless, there are traces like letters and books with dedications, which Tesla received from his friends.  Tesla fell in love with books while still a child, so he most often received them for present from friends.
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It is unusual, for example, that among friends with whom Tesla exchanged books and maintained an active correspondence there is almost no people from the area of science and engineering.  Perhaps the only true friend of this great man from scientific circles was James Dewar (1842-1923), Scottish physicist and chemist, whom Tesla met during his famous lectures at the Royal Institute in London in 1892.  Tesla and Dewar maintained a friendly correspondence, and there is a book by Maxwell in Tesla’s library, which he received as a gift from Dewar.

Unlike Dewar, who was widely respected, Tesla had among his friends people who spread a lot of controversy around themselves.  Thus, among people with whom he associated there was the princely pair Lazarović-Hrebeljanović.
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Tesla knew he was dealing with a self-proclaimed prince, because others warned him about it in their letters.  Still, the scientist probably enjoyed the company of the man, so he did not pay attention to that.

Another controversial person who was in a close, friendly relationship with Tesla was George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962), poet and journalist, originally from Munich.  Viereck was rather esteemed in his profession.  His pro-German views, however, cost him prison during World War II, despite the fact that one of his sons perished in Italy bearing the American uniform.

Among Tesla’s friends there was Arthur Lynch (1861-1934), writer of books in psychology, ethics and popular psychology.
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Another writer was a member of Tesla’s circle of friends – Samuel Clemens, i.e. Mark Twain (1835-1910). 

Although there aren’t any books by Twain in Tesla’s library, pictures made in Tesla’s laboratory clearly demonstrate that the two of them were more than contemporaries.  In the period after finishing his schooling in the Real Gymnasium, Tesla was overcome by a serious illness.  Lying in bed, he received a few volumes of contemporary literature:

“It was the first works of Mark Twain to which I owe the miraculous recovery that followed.  Twenty-five years later, when I met Mr. Clemens and when we became friends, I told him about my experience, and with astonishment I watched the great master of laughter crying.”
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There was a large number of writers around Tesla because of his friendship with Robert Underwood Johnson 1853-1937), a diplomat, poet, editor and the publisher of Century Magazine.  For him one could freely say that he was Tesla’s best friend, and his family was Tesla’s second family.  In the home of the Johnsons at 327 Lexington Avenue, Tesla was a welcome guest.  At the end of the 19th century a company made up of many famous people gathered there.

Robert Johnson greatly helped Tesla to promote his ideas by publishing his articles or articles about him in his Century Magazine. Johnson readily accepted and published Tesla’s essay  “The Problem of Increasing Human Energy,”  which he wrote after his return from Colorado Springs.

After Johnson’s retirement in 1913, difficult financial periods came to both of them, so they helped one another.  In 1925, Johnson’s wife died, and he and Tesla continued to see one another as long as their health permitted.
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Associating with the Johnsons, Tesla met another good friend – Richmond Pearson Hobson (1870-1937), a hero of the Spanish-American war.  This navy officer, later admiral, was elected congressman several times and the head of international organizations for fighting alcoholism and drug addiction. 

Hobson was the author of a book about the events surrounding the sinking of collier Merrimac in which he participated as the leader of a volunteer squad.  That book, which he received on the occasion of a wedding invitation, was found in the scientist’s personal library.  Tesla’s association with Hobson was interrupted by the admiral’s sudden death in 1937.  That same year, another Tesla’s friend died – Robert Underwood.

Marguerite Merington (1857-1951), writer, journalist and pianist, was also Nikola Tesla’s friend for many years.  He kept a very active correspondence with her all his life.  Tesla probably met her through the Johnsons.  If certain testimonies are to be believed, the great scientist cultivated special feelings toward her.

As far as the homeland is concerned, beside Jovan Jovanović Zmaj (1833-1904) whose poems he read with pleasure, and some of which, with the help of Johnson, he even published, Laza Kostić (1841-1909) and Đorđe Stanojević (1858-1921), Tesla’s most sincere friend was Paja Radosavljević (1879-1958).  One of the world-class founders of experimental pedagogy and psychology, Radosavljević served as some sort of barrier between Tesla and unwanted visitors in his later years.
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Tesla greatly admired the great sculptor Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962) and, apart from a lost portrait, he was willing to pose only to him.

“For the sake of our descendents and all the Slavic kinsmen, I wish after my death for my bust from the wondrous hand of Meštrović to remain…  I still don’t have cash, but I am ready to prepare everything in another way for your and my pleasure.  My face is still smooth, my eyes bright and I haven’t lost my hair.  Everyone wants for your deathless work to be exposed here.  Please send a telegram about your disposition and intentions.  Your admirer, Nikola Tesla.”

A few days later the answer from Meštrović came:

“With great pleasure I wish to fulfill your wish.  Money not necessary.  I am tied to Europe by contracts, I can’t go there.  Can you come visit me in Split, if you don’t send photos, I remember you extraordinarily.  Greetings from Meštrović.”

The bust, initiated with this correspondence, most likely created according to a photograph, is found today in the museum of Nikola Tesla in Belgrade.

In Tesla’s life there were many more people who left an imprint in his noble soul.  This great man brought into the lives of his friends the brightness of the Balkans that he carried inside, and surely it was an honor for them to have known such a great man as he, doubtlessly, was.

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