The Serbian-American Nikola Tesla was the archetypal eccentric scientist. There can be little doubting his genius: he spoke eight languages fluently, produced the first motor to run on an AC current, had around 300 patents to his name and made the breakthroughs that would make long-distance radio communications possible. As if that’s not enough, he even claimed to have developed a “superweapon” that would bring all war to an end, plus he believed himself to be on the verge of finding the âanswer to everything’. Professionally, then, he was almost without peer. And, on the personal level, he was equally as fascinating.
Tesla cut a striking figure in American society, having emigrated to the U.S. from Austria in 1884. The inventor was tall, thin and classically handsome. Unlike many scientists – Einstein for instance – Tesla was always elegantly dressed and expected the same of others. Judging by his appearance alone, you would have thought he would have never been short of company. However, for Tesla, work always came first, before even sleep and definitely before any notions of love or sex.
The engineering genius was very fastidious in his personal life. He liked to dine in the same place at exactly the same time each day, almost always preferring his own thoughts to the company of others. And, while he certainly had his fair share of female attention, he never seemed to be interested. In fact, he often asserted that any thoughts of romance or sex would hinder his creative abilities, and so he never even took any lovers let alone married. Telsa’s numerous phobias certainly didn’t help matters. He was famously afraid of pearls, and so would go out of his way to avoid any woman wearing them. Moreover, his strict personal hygiene regime and fear of germs would have made intimacy impossible, even if he had desired it in the first place.
Summing up his attitude to matters of the heart and flesh, Tesla said: “I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to successâ¦such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.” Not that he had much to compare the joy of invention to. Tesla died a virgin – a situation not unnoticed by his contemporaries – and is now widely believed to have been both asexual and also aromantic.