In early 1943 – while the Battle of Stalingrad raged thousands of miles away – US government officials explored the hotel room of a recently deceased scientist. They were looking for the plans to a weapon that could change the war. They were looking for a death ray. The death ray did not exist, but there was enough doubt that Federal officials thought it wise to assess the thousands of notes and sketches that had been made during the scientist’s lifetime. After their assessment, the notes were locked away, leading to a persistent conspiracy theory that there had been a death ray, and that the US government was covering it all up. The notes had belonged to a man who in many ways embodied the American dream, the golden age of science, and the modern image of eccentric inventor. He had been one of the most famous men not only in America, but in the world. He laid the groundwork for many of the technologies that we take for granted today and contributed to many more. In the decades that followed his death in a room of the Hotel New Yorker on January 7, 1943, the scientist has gone from virtual obscurity to international celebrity, the namesake of high powered electric sportscars and a major international airport. Today on American History Too!, we explore the life, times, and legacy of the man who supposedly invented the electrical age: Nikola Tesla.


W. Bernard Carlson, Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013)

Robert Lomas, The man who invented the twentieth century: Nikola Tesla, forgotten genius of electricity (London: Headline, 2000)

Paul Lucier, ‘The Origins of Pure and Applied Science in Gilded Age America’, Isis, 103:3 (September 2012), 527-536

Marc J. Seifer, Wizard : The life and times of Nikola Tesla ; biography of a genius (Secaucus: Carol Pub., 1996)

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