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Tesla’s breakthrough moment was a walk in the park (literally) that changed history. Tesla was 26 years old and living in Budapest, where he had been struggling for months to devise a system for generating electricity using rotating magnetic fields. The effort affected his health and Tesla became ill from mental and physical exhaustion. During his recovery, he went for a walk in a Budapest park with good friend Anthony Szigety and experienced a sudden epiphany. Here is Tesla’s own account of the moment in which he envisions the solution for an alternating current system to generate electricity.
“One afternoon, which is ever present in my recollection, I was enjoying a walk with my friend in the City Park and reciting poetry. At that age I knew entire books by heart, word for word. One of these was Goethe’s ‘Faust.’ The sun was just setting and reminded me of the glorious passage:
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
A glorious dream! though now the glories fade.
Alas! the wings that lift the mind no aid Of wings to lift the body can bequeath me.
As I uttered these inspiring words the idea came like a flash of lightning and in an instant the truth was revealed. I drew with a stick on the sand the diagrams shown six years later in my address before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, and my companion understood them perfectly. The images I saw were wonderfully sharp and clear and had the solidity of metal and stone, so much so that I told him: ‘See my motor here; watch me reverse it.’ I cannot begin to describe my emotions. Pygmalion seeing his statue come to life could not have been more deeply moved. A thousand secrets of nature which I might have stumbled upon accidentally I would have given for that one which I had wrested from her against all odds and at the peril of my existence.”
Explore the inventor's most influential moments and discoveries using our interactive Tesla Timeline.
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