Cholera & A New Path

Cholera & A New Path
An image of the mountainous area of Gracac, Croatia, where young Nikola retreated for a year to recuperate from cholera.

After graduating from high school in 1873, Nikola leaves Carlstadt and returns to his family home in the city of Gospic. He immediately contracts cholera and becomes gravely ill. Near death at one point, Nikola extracts a promise from his father that changes the course of his life. He describes the incident in detail in his autobiography:

“I contracted the awful disease on the very day of my arrival and although surviving the crisis, I was confined to bed for 9 months with scarcely any ability to move. My energy was completely exhausted and for the second time I found myself at death’s door. In one of the sinking spells which was thought to be the last, my father rushed into the room. I still see his pallid face as he tried to cheer me in tones belying his assurance. ‘Perhaps,’ I said, ‘I may get well if you will let me study engineering.’ ‘You will go to the best technical institution in the world,’ he solemnly replied, and I knew that he meant it. A heavy weight was lifted from my mind but the relief would have come too late had it not been for a marvelous cure brought about through a bitter decoction of a peculiar bean. I came to life like another Lazarus to the utter amazement of everybody.”

Heartened by this promise, Nikola begins to recover and makes plans to attend university. In 1874, he goes to the mountainous area of Tomingaj near Gracac, Croatia, to recover from his bout with cholera and avoid conscription into military service. Tesla later writes of his time in Tomingaj: “My father insisted that I spend a year in healthful physical outdoor exercises to which I reluctantly consented. For most of this term I roamed in the mountains, loaded with a hunter’s outfit and a bundle of books, and this contact with nature made me stronger in body as well as in mind. I thought and planned, and conceived many ideas almost as a rule delusive.””

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