NIKOLA TESLA’S WILD MONTHS IN MARIBOR

The famous inventor Nikola Tesla, while widely appreciated today, spent the last days of his life in utter poverty, as he had been underrated and undermined by a lot of his associates. This man before his time was born in Croatia to Serbian parents in 1856, and although he never formally finished his studies, he ended up with as many as 11 honorary academic titles from different schools and colleges due to his remarkable achievements in physics and electromechanics.  

Tesla, also called the genius who lit the world, is mostly known today as the man responsible for the widespread use of alternating current (AC), but is also famous as the mastermind behind many other inventions of the time. This prolific inventor apparently also wanted to share free power with the world, but realized that humanity was not ready for anything of the sort. However, this post is not dedicated so much to Tesla’s inventions or his life’s work, but rather to the brief time he spent in Slovenia

The street where Tesla lived in Maribor. Source: Ivana Bole

The street where Tesla lived in Maribor. Source: Ivana Bole

Nikola Tesla ostensibly also had a wild side. The eccentric inventor studied in Graz, Austria for 3 years, but ran into some financial troubles and bailed without telling a single person about it. He moved to the nearby Maribor, today the second largest city in Slovenia, letting his friends and family aimlessly look for him and think that he was most likely dead. 

Tesla's sketches from 1908 of a wirelessly charged car. Source: Ivana Bole

Tesla's sketches from 1908 of a wirelessly charged car. Source: Ivana Bole

Little data has been found regarding his time in Slovenia, but in 2014, a project in Maribor traced Tesla’s footsteps and tried to shed more light on the matter. The project mentions memoirs of Kosta Kulišić, Tesla’s roommate in Graz, and his writings about randomly meeting the reclusive man in a Maribor pub. After confronting his lost friend, who at the time happened to be busy at a game of cards, Kulišić reminisces about  Nikola’s response; he had a job with an engineer and was comfortably making money. Quite an interesting fact, especially considering that the Maribor Tesla project discovered that Nikola had a passion for gambling, playing cards and pool in particular.

An old photo of a pub in Maribor where Tesla was a frequent visitor. Source: Ivana Bole

An old photo of a pub in Maribor where Tesla was a frequent visitor. Source: Ivana Bole

Kulišić revealed Nikola’s whereabouts to his father, an orthodox priest, who then tried to convince his son to move back in with him and continue his studies, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Another source the Maribor Tesla project cites is Canadian author Dan Mrkich, who also traced Tesla’s footsteps and did quite a bit of his research around Maribor. He eventually found police records from 1879 of an arrest of a Nikolaus Tesla. He was arrested for not being registered at the address he was living at and was consequently deported from Maribor. 

A statue of Nikola Tesla by Ivan Meštrović. Source: Ivana Bole

A statue of Nikola Tesla by Ivan Meštrović. Source: Ivana Bole

Thus Tesla’s time in Maribor was finished. There is a lot of speculation about the supposedly wild life he led in Maribor. Most agree that he was most likely indulging in a bit of a gambling spree, but also that he did actually find work in the fields he excelled in. Nikola himself did not talk about this period of his life much, forever leaving his time in Slovenia wrapped in a sense of mystery.

The inspiration for this post came from a current exhibition held in Ljubljana’s Cankarjev dom that will continue until November. There you can get acquainted with Tesla and his work.

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