Did Nikola Tesla single-handedly start what we now know as the “open-source” movement?
Serbian-American Nikola Tesla is arguably the greatest inventor of all time. The way the tech world gushes over his legacy after 158 years, usually around his birthday, is proof of his lasting impact. Although the inventor accumulated the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars today, he died penniless and crazy, admitting that his only friend was a pigeon. What’s more, he tore up a contract that would have made him (and every one of his descendants) a billionaire. While many argue that Tesla’s move was financial suicide, a true innovator will agree that tinkering is always for the love and not the money.
Our story begins with a 28-year-old Nikola Tesla being robbed on a ship inbound for the USA. All the money his family gave him, some of his luggage, and even his ticket, were stolen. After surviving a mutiny on the boat and almost being tossed off the S.S. City of Richmond, he arrived on June 6, 1884.
Also on June 6, Vincent Van Gogh paints a study, “Woman Reeling Yarn.” More about Van Gogh later.
Tesla immigrated to the United States from Paris, left with only a letter of recommendation, four cents in American dollars and a dream -- he was going to work for Thomas Edison (a decision he would later regret). Tesla actually landed a job at Edison General Electric when he first arrived in America and accepted a salary of $18 (worth $440 today) per week and a $50,000 (worth $1 million today) bonus if he were able to improve Edison’s system of electricity based on direct current (DC) motors.
Tesla was able to fix the issue within two months of employment, but Edison refused to cough up the bonus he promised. He allegedly told Tesla, “You do not understand our American humor,” and instead offered him a raise of $10 per week. Tesla refused the offer and quit the very same day. Edison would long live to regret double-crossing Tesla.