Nikola Tesla: Man of Science, Lover of Alcohol?

Nikola Tesla – Who Is This Dude??

This July 10th would have been Nikola Tesla’s 158th birthday. As a protege of Thomas Edison and a proverbial man of science, Tesla accumulated more than 275 patents during his lifetime. The most noteworthy covered a brilliant alternating-current induction motor that became a mainstay in early 20th century industrial processes, leading many to refer to Tesla as “the father of modern electricity.”

Tesla’s innovations also improved radio communication, medical radiology and power generation. He even developed a prototype jump jet and worked – unsuccessfully – on a means to wirelessly transmit electrical currents between ground-based towers. Tesla accomplished much during his 86 years, and his birthday should undoubtedly be a day of global celebration.

More Than Meets the Eye – Tesla’s Views on Alcohol and Health

Towering scientific achievements aside, Nikola Tesla was also sophisticated and worldly. Although he was a nonsmoker and avid walker who adhered to a vegetarian diet for much of his adult life, he couldn’t shake his love for one unhealthy vice: alcohol. He was particularly fond of whiskey, but fine wines and other spirits suited him fine as well.

It’s also worth noting that Tesla had no time for stimulative drinks like coffee and tea. His writings are littered with quotes to this effect:

“I myself eschew all stimulants. I also practically abstain from meat. I am convinced that within a century coffee, tea, and tobacco will be no longer in vogue,” he said in the early 20th century. “Alcohol, however, will still be used. It is not a stimulant but a veritable elixir of life.”

He also wasn’t convinced that alcohol consumption was unhealthy. When a man of science makes a pronouncement after “careful observation,” it’s important to take notice:

“People have been led to believe that alcoholic beverages cause serious injuries to mind and body, while other stimulants, as tea and coffee, are almost harmless. I know from careful observation and lifelong experience that the reverse is more nearly true.”

Nikola Tesla in his Colorado Springs laboratory

Nikola Tesla sitting in his Colorado Springs laboratory circa December 1899. Photo Credit: Dickenson V. Alley

In fact, he believed that alcohol’s benefits far outweighed any risks: “Alcohol is not a poison, nor is it a drug…[i]n small quantities, it cleans and sterilizes the alimentary channels; thereby preventing infections, and proves a beneficial stimulant to thought, speech and physical exertion.” Tesla also claimed that moderate drinkers are “as a rule, long lived and considered by life insurance companies the safest policy holders.”

Tesla’s respect for the rule of law led him to become a teetotaler during Prohibition, but this change wasn’t without tremendous sacrifice. “Only a few days of abstinence made me a very sick man,” he said, “and my health became precarious.” In a separate writing of unknown origin, he claimed: “Had I not given up [daily] whiskey during [Prohibition], I would surely live to 150 years of age.”

Tesla did not make it to the age of 150, a circumstance he would probably credit to his abstention from alcohol in the early 1900’s. He died at age 86, leaving behind a legacy that will last for generations to come. He was universally regarded as being ahead of his time and clearly had his social priorities in order :). So, let’s raise a glass (or flask) to this bold man on what would have been his 158th birthday!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIKOLA TESLA!

 

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