Known as “the Wizard” for his showmanship, inventor Nikola Tesla, one of America’s first celebrity scientists at the turn of the 20th century, relied on rigorous thinking as well as imagination to perfect his inventions.
To develop an idea like the transmission of images, Tesla would imagine a new device and the world it fit in. That way, he said, he could develop the invention.
At the same time, his imagination would whip up desires and visions that persuaded investors to back the idea. Tesla competed with Edison to wire the country. He once took 250,000-volt shocks through his body to demonstrate the safety of alternating current, and he saw into the future.
“You may think me a dreamer and very far gone, if I tell you what I hope for,” he said in 1894. “But I can tell you that I look forward with absolute confidence to sending messages through the earth without any wires.”
— Adapted from Tesla: Inventor of the Electric Age, W. Bernard Carlson, Princeton University Press.