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A lot of radio aficionados and scientists have heard of Nikola Tesla, but he's still far from a household name. In my own informal survey about Tesla, I found that a lot of people are more familiar with the band Tesla, than with the man himself (the band does have a brief bio of Nikola Tesla on their Web site, teslatheband.com). Of course, this article is about the man, not the band, and I think after learning more about Nikola Tesla you'll agree that, no matter how people learn about him, he certainly deserves to be more of a household name.
A lot of people flocked to see A Beautiful Mind, a fictional film/biography of Jonathan Nash, a brilliant mathematician who suffered paranoid delusions. It's unfortunate that sometimes it's the tragedy of brilliance that makes people fascinating to us, but, alas, such is the case with Nikola Tesla.
By all accounts, Tesla was a genius. Modern technology that can be traced back to Tesla ranges from x-rays to amplifiers and the AC (alternating currents) powering our electronics. Like Edwin Howard Armstrong, Tesla often found himself fighting the "powers that be" in order for his inventions and his mind to be taken seriously. Still, it wasn't until 1943, the year of his death, that the US Supreme Court recognized Tesla, not Marconi, as the inventor of radio.
During his lifetime, some of Tesla's ideas boggled the minds of his contemporaries. When he would talk about the wireless transmission of sound and images, they thought him delusional. When he hinted at the possibilities of transmitting electricity wirelessly, he was dismissed as a quack.