Differences between two versions of Tesla's autobiography

Mario Essert, Tihomir Žilić, and Darko Žubrinić, Zagreb 2020

The aim of this web page is to compare the following two autobiographies of Nikola Tesla:

It seems that some of the sentences, appearing in The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla, have been left out from My Inventions. And vice versa, some of the sentences have been added to My Inventions which Tesla did not write. It seems to us that The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla is the book corresponding to Tesla's original text, and not My Inventions.

Here, we indicate in red color the missing sentences from My Inventions.

In Chapter 5 of The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla, the words "after a short visit to my friends in Watford, England" were removed from My Inventions. It is known that Tesla indeed visited England in 1892 and delivered an invited lecture at the Royal Society in London, entitled “Experiments with alternate current of high potential and high frequency”.

Especially striking is the value of 100,000,000 volts (one hundred million volts), appearing in Chapter 5 of The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla, which was reduced in My Inventions to 1,000,000 volts, i.e., by factor one hundred! About seven sentences below this, one can see Tesla's expression "over 100,000,000 volts" modified by Hugo Gernsback to just "4,000,000 volts".

In Chapter 6 of The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla, we can see a nice French word "aggrandisement" changed by Gernsback to "aggrandizement". Here we recall that Nikola Tesla was fluent in French as well (which he was studying already at the Higher Real School in Rakovac, Croatia, from 1870-1973, when he was at the age of 13-17).

The question arises whether the sentences indicated below in red color were removed with respect to Tesla's unpreserved original text (resulting in My Inventions), or they were subsequently included (resulting in The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla). It seems to us that the former was the case. This is strongly indicated by Tesla's mentioning that he visited his friends in the English town of Watford in 1992. Why would anybody insert information about Tesla's visit to Waterford (a town in the vicinity of London) into Tesla's original text? It seems to us that this information was already contained in the original text.

It should be noted that the publishing house Kolmogorov - Smirnov in the USA was named after two distinguished Russian mathematicians, and there also exists the notion of "Kolmogorov-Smirnov test" in Statistics.


Editors Note, August 28, 1995

This text has been entered by John R.H. Penner from a small booklet found in a used bookstore for $2.50. The only form of date identification is the name of the original purchaser, Arthua Daine (?), dated April 29, 1978.

The book appears to be considerably older, made with typewriters, and then photocopied and stapled. The only other significant features of the booklet is that it contains four photocopied photographs of Tesla, and was originally forty pages long. I must apologise for the quality of the scans, but the originals were of very poor quality, and this is the best that could be obtained after touching-up in Photoshop.

The book has no Copyright identification, nor any means of contacting the publishers. As far as I am aware, this autobiography is no longer available in printed form anywhere.

In the interest of making this important text available to the wider public, I have retyped the entire text word-for-word as it originally appears into this electronic format. The only words which appear in this file, that are not in the original book are this Editors Note, and the Introduction. I have exactly maintained page numbers as they appear in the original – including the somewhat odd artifact of Chapter 1 starting on page two.

If anyone knows how to reach the original publisher, please contact me at the below address, so proper credit may be given where it is due.

John Roland Hans Penner
464 Scott Street
St. Catharines, Ontario
L2M 3W7, Canada
Phone: 905.646.3551
eMail: J.Penner@GEnie.GEIS.com [not valid any more, D.Ž.]

This file may be freely redistributed as long as it’s content is not modified in any way. It may not be sold or published for profit unless specifically authorised prior to publication by the express permission of Kolmogorov- Smirnov Publishing, or John R.H. Penner. Unless otherwise notified, this work is Copyright ©1995 by John R.H. Penner.

Chapter 2
My First Efforts At Invention

p. 9 [compare The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla with My Inventions (EE)]

My friend, the Hon. Chauncey M. Dupew, tells of an Englishman on whom he sprung one of his original anecdotes and who listened with a puzzled expression, but a year later, laughed out loud. I will frankly confess it took me longer than that to appreciate Johnson’s joke. Now, my well-being is simply the result of a careful and measured mode of living and perhaps the most astonishing thing is that three times in my youth I was rendered by illness a hopeless physical wreck and given up by physicians. MORE than this, through ignorance and lightheartedness, I got into all sorts of difficulties, dangers and scrapes from which I extricated myself as by enchantment. I was almost drowned, entombed, lost and frozen. I had hair-breadth escapes from mad dogs, hogs, and other wild animals. I passed through dreadful diseases and met with all kinds of odd mishaps and that I am whole and hearty today seems like a miracle. But as I recall these incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether accidental, but was indeed the work of divine power. An inventor’s endeavour is essentially life saving. Whether he harnesses forces, improves devices, or provides new comforts and conveniences, he is adding to the safety of our existence. He is also better qualified than the average individual to protect himself in peril, for he is observant and resourceful. If I had no other evidence that I was, in a measure, possessed of such qualities, I would find it in these personal experiences. The reader will be able to judge for himself if I mention one or two instances.

Chapter 5
The Magnifying Transmitter

p. 26 [compare The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla with My Inventions (EE)]

Upon regaining my health, I began to formulate plans for the resumption of work in America. Up to that time I never realised that I possessed any particular gift of discovery, but Lord Rayleigh, whom I always considered as an ideal man of science, had said so and if that was the case, I felt that I should concentrate on some big idea.

At this time, as at many other times in the past, my thoughts turned towards my Mother’s teaching. The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power. My Mother had taught me to seek all truth in the Bible; therefore I devoted the next few months to the study of this work.

One day, as I was roaming the mountains, I sought shelter from an approaching storm. The sky became overhung with heavy clouds, but somehow the rain was delayed until, all of a sudden, there was a lightening flash and a few moments after, a deluge. This observation set me thinking.

p. 27

It seemed a hopeless undertaking, but I made up my mind to try it and immediately on my return to the United States in the summer of 1892, after a short visit to my friends in Watford, England; work was begun which was to me all the more attractive, because a means of the same kind was necessary for the successful transmission of energy without wires.

At this time I made a further careful study of the Bible, and discovered the key in Revelation. The first gratifying result was obtained in the spring of the succeeding year, when I reaching a tension of about 100,000,000 volts — one hundred million volts — with my conical coil, which I figured was the voltage of a flash of lightening. Steady progress was made until the destruction of my laboratory by fire, in 1895, as may be judged from an article by T.C. Martin which appeared in the April number of the Century Magazine. This calamity set me back in many ways and most of that year had to be devoted to planning and reconstruction. However, as soon as circumstances permitted, I returned to the task.

Although I knew that higher electric-motive forces were attainable with apparatus of larger dimensions, I had an instinctive perception that the object could be accomplished by the proper design of a comparatively small and compact transformer. In carrying on tests with a secondary in the form of flat spiral, as illustrated in my patents, the absence of streamers surprised me, and it was not long before I discovered that this was due to the position of the turns and their mutual action. Profiting from this observation, I resorted to the use of a high tension conductor with turns of considerable diameter, sufficiently separated to keep down the distributed capacity, while at the same time preventing undue accumulation of the charge at any point. The application of this principle enabled me to produce pressures of over 100,000,000 volts, which was about the limit obtainable without risk of accident. A photograph of my transmitter built in my laboratory at Houston Street, was published in the Electrical Review of November, 1898.

Chapter 6
The Art of Telautomatics

p. 35 [compare The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla with My Inventions (EE)]

I have expressed myself in this regard fourteen years ago, when a combination of a few leading governments, a sort of Holy alliance, was advocated by the late Andrew Carnegie, who may be fairly considered as the father of this idea, having given to it more publicity and impetus than anybody else prior to the efforts of the President. While it can not be denied that such aspects might be of material advantage to some less fortunate peoples, it can not attain the chief objective sought. Peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment and merging of races, and we are still far from this blissful realisation, because few indeed, will admit the reality – that God made man in His image – in which case all earth men are alike. There is in fact but one race, of many colours. Christ is but one person, yet he is of all people, so why do some people think themselves better than some other people?

As I view the world of today, in the light of the gigantic struggle we have witnessed, I am filled with conviction that the interests of humanity would be best served if the United States remained true to its traditions, true to God whom it pretends to believe, and kept out of “entangling alliances.” Situated as it is, geographically remote from the theatres of impending conflicts, without incentive to territorial aggrandisement, with inexhaustible resources and immense population thoroughly imbued with the spirit of liberty and right, this country is placed in a unique and privileged position.

Here we provide a short description written by the first author, Mario Essert, dealing with the circumstances which led us to the treatment of the two versions of Tesla's autobiography. Translated from Croatian into English by Darko Žubrinić.

Na koncu svog mandata predstojnika „Zavoda za robotiku i automatizaciju proizvodnih sustava“, pozvao sam članove Zavoda na zajednički izlet u Smiljan, rodno mjesto Nikole Tesle. Bilo je to u svibnju 2018. godine. Jednodnevni izlet uključivao je posjet rodnoj kući hrvatskoga političara i književnika Ante Starčevića (1861.-1895.) u Velikom Žitniku, posjet muzeju Like grada Gospića i posjet Memorijalnom centru „Nikola Tesla“ u Smiljanu. Prvo smo posjetili 'rodnu kuću' Nikole Tesle ispred koje se nalazi kameno obilježje sa smjerokazima i udaljenostima u kilometrima zračne linije prema mjestima i gradovima u kojima je Nikola Tesla živio i radio. U prizemlju kuće, slikom i zvukom prikazan je životni put i genijalnost velikog izumitelja, a povijesna događanja koja prate njegov život utkani su u lentu vremena. Tu nam je voditeljica muzeja rekla kako Nikola Tesla, unatoč tomu što mu je otac bio pravoslavni svećenik (prota), nije bio religiozan. Istina je, rekla je, da je on imao nekakve vizije koje je pripisivao onostranosti, ali to nije bila vjera. Prilično me iznenadila ta izjava, jer o Teslinoj religioznosti nisam nikad razmišljao, a proučavao sam njegova otkrića još kao student na Elektrotehničkom fakultetu u Zagrebu (1973.-1977.).

Ta me misao snažno zaokupila dok smo u potkrovlju iste kuće gledali replike Teslinih izuma, a još više u ispitnoj stanici s eksperimentom visokofrekventnih struja. Ta ispitna stanica, izgrađena nedaleko od rodne kuće, replika je Teslinog laboratorija iz Colorado Springsa gdje je Tesla boravio 1899-1900. i istraživao bežični prijenos informacije i energije na daljinu, npr. bez vodiča je u to doba upalio 200 žarulja udaljenih 40 milja. Pitao sam se, koje su to 'onostrane vizije' koje su dovele do otkrića, a koja su i danas temelj mnogobrojnih tehnologija (radio prijemnik, televizija, mobitel), tehnologija kojima je Tesla zauvijek promijenio svijet? No, pravo me pitanje i to potpuno 'slučajno' obuzelo tek za vrijeme gledanja filma o Tesli. Nakon demonstracija u ispitnoj stanici voditeljica nas je dovela u konferencijsku dvoranu, koja služi i kao kino-dvorana. Tu nam je prikazan dokumentarac o Teslinom životu. Bilo je ugodno sjesti u fotelje nakon višesatnog hodanja, a to je i planirani završetak obilaska Centra.

Dokumentarac je snimila Hrvatska radio televizija (HTV 2) 2007. godine prema autobiografiji „Moji pronalasci“. Glas za film dao je glumac Rade Šerbeđija. Taj film koji traje 45:44min, počinje s autentičnim tonskim zapisom gradonačelnika New Yorka, gospodina Fiorello la Guardia-e s izvješćem o Teslinom preminuću: „U četvrtak navečer u našem gradu New Yorku, čovjek u dobi od 87 godina, preminuo je u svojoj skromnoj hotelskoj sobi. Njegovo ime je Nikola Tesla. Umro je u siromaštvu, a bio je jedan od najkorisnijih i najuspješnijih ljudi koji su ikad živjeli...“ . Film se nastavlja čitanjem rečenica iz Tesline autobiografije. I onda, neočekivano, čujem odlomak (iz 2. poglavlja Mojih pronalazaka) koji me duboko pogađa: „Preživio sam strašne bolesti i sreo se sa svim vrstama strašnih nezgoda, a još uvijek sam ostao hrabar i čitav, što je čudo. Ali, kad se sjetim, svih tih događaja, uvjeren sam da se nisam spasio slučajno.“ Bilo je to na 4:54min od početka filma. Kako to, pitao sam se, znanstvenik, koji nije religiozan, može biti 'uvjeren da se nije spasio slučajno'? Ta rečenica mi je jednostavno izgledala nezavršenom.

Jedva sam navečer dočekao trenutak mira da se upustim u istraživanje izvorâ. Za to sam imao i dobro pripravljenju literaturu, jer sam članove Zavoda darovao jednim CD-om na kojem je bilo puno sadržaja vezanih uz naš izlet, od hrvatske povijesti i Starčevića do literature o Tesli koju sam sabrao s interneta. Do potvrde svoje teze došao sam vrlo brzo. U knjizi „The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla“ ta je rečenica doista imala nastavak: „But as I recall these incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether accidental, but was indeed the work of divine power.“

Istodobno i neovisno od mene, moj kolega i prijatelj, doc. dr. sc. Tihomir Žilić, također je uočio razliku dviju autobiografija: jedna „Moji izumi“ nije spominjala Teslino čitanje Biblijske knjige Otkrivenja, dok je druga – „The strange life of Nikola Tesla“, imala sve dodatne odlomke. Usporedbom oba izvora uvidjeli smo da se odlomci u kojima se spominje Biblija, Bog ili bilo što vezano uz religioznost u toj knjizi ne spominju u 'službenoj' inačici autobiografije, u 'My inventions'. Je li prva knjiga nastala dodavanjem spornih odlomaka ili je 'službena' verzija cenzurirana?

Kolega Žilić dao si je truda proučavati i originalne tekstove iz uglednog časopisa „Electrical Experimenter“ iz 1919. godine, po kojima je i nastala 'službena' verzija „My inventions“. U njima se nisu nalazili sporni odlomci, ali pod neobičnim okolnostima. Umjesto njih stajali su naslovi koje su urednici časopisa dodali, a koji nisu Teslini. To još uvijek nije bio dokaz jesu li odlomci recenzirani ili su u drugoj knjizi dodani. Međutim, kolega Žilić našao je dio rečenice kojeg također nema u 'službenoj' verziji: „It seemed a hopeless undertaking, but I made up my mind to try it and immediately on my return to the United States in the summer of 1892, after a short visit to my friends in Watford, England; work was begun which was to me all the more attractive, because a means of the same kind was necessary for the successful transmission of energy without wires.“

Je li moguće da je neki 'vjerski fanatik', koji je želio načiniti Teslu 'religioznim' imao motiva i znanja napisati takvu rečenicu. Ili su moderatori časopisa i službene verzije autobiografije s dubokim uvjerenjem prosvjetiteljske brige da se čitatelji ne inficiraju „opijumom za narod“ izbacili sve odlomke, a usput i ovaj koji razrješuje tu zagonetku? Tesla je doista 1892. godine bio u Engleskoj, a noviji interview-i s Teslom govore tomu u prilog i njegovoj religioznosti: Tesla je bio vjernik, redovito se molio i čitao Bibliju, svetu Božju riječ. Štoviše, Biblija je po Teslinom ispovijesti bila rješenje (key) najvećeg otkrića modernoga doba (At this time I made a further careful study of the Bible, and discovered the key in Revelation.).

Near the end of my role of the head of the "Department of robotics and automation of production systems", I invited all the members of the Department on an excursion to Smiljan, the birthplace of Nikola Tesla. It was in May 2018. This one-day excursion included a visit to the birthplace of Croatian politician and writer Ante Starčević (1861-1895) in Veliki Žitnik, a visit to the Museum of Lika in the city of Gospić, and a visit to the Memorial center "Nikola Tesla" in Smiljan. We first payed a visit to the 'house of birth' of Nikola Tesla, in front of which was a stone signpost indicating distances in kilometers towards various places and cities where Nikola Tesla resided and worked. At the basement of the house, the life and ingenuity of the inventor was depicted with photos and sounds, while historical events accompanying his life path were imbedded into the timeline. The guide of the Museum told us that, even though his father was an orthodox priest (prota), he was not religious. It is true however, she said, that he had some visions that can be ascribed to transcendence, but this was not religious faith. I was rather surprised with this claim, since I never thought about Tesla's religiosity, and I studied his discoveries already as a student at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Zagreb (1973-1977).

This thought overwhelmed me strongly when in the attic of the same house we looked at replicas of Tesla's inventions, and even more when we looked at the test station exhibiting an experiment with high-frequency currents. This test station, built not far from his native house, was replica of Tesla's laboratory in Colorado Springs, where Tesla sojourned from 1899-1900, studying remote wireless transmission of information. For example, at that time, he was able to light up 200 bulbs at a distance of 40 miles. I asked myself, which 'transcendent visions' brought him to discoveries, which today are the basis of numerous technologies (radio receiver, television, mobile phones), i.e., technologies by which Tesla forever changed the world. But the right question obsessed me quite 'accidently' when I watched a film about Tesla. After demonstrations in the test station, the guide brought us to the conference hall, which served as a cinema hall as well. A documentary was shown to us describing Tesla's life. It was pleasant to sit in a chair after several hours of walking, and it was the end of our planned tour around the Center.

The documentary was shot by Croatian Radio Television (HTV 2) in 2007, according to the autobiography "My Inventions". Parts of the text were narrated by an actor Rade Šerbedžija. The duration of the film was 45:44 min, and it started with the authentic speech of Fiorello LaGuardia on the occasion of Tesla's death: "A last Thursday night, here in our city of New York, a man who was 87 years of age, died in his humble hotel room. His name was Nikola Tesla. He died in poverty, but he was one of the most useful and successful man who ever lived..." The film continued by reading the sentences from Tesla's autobiography. And then, quite unexpectedly, I heard a paragraph (from Chapter 2 of My Inventions) which deeply moved me: "I past through dreadful diseases and met with all kinds of odd mishaps and that I am hale and hearty today seems like a miracle. But as I recall these incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether accidental." It was at the 4:54 min from the beginning of the film. I asked myself: a scientist who is not religious, can be 'convinced that his preservation was not altogether accidental'? This sentence simply seemed to be incomplete.

I have hardly awaited a moment of relaxation, in order to study the sources. I had a well-prepared literature, since for all the members of the Department I provided a gift in the form of a CD containing numerous sources related to our excursion, from Croatian history and Starčević to Tesla, collected from Internet. I arrived at the confirmation of my conjecture very soon. In the book "The Strange Life of Nikola Tesla", this sentence had a different continuation: „But as I recall these incidents to my mind I feel convinced that my preservation was not altogether accidental, but was indeed the work of divine power.“

Simultaneously and independently of me, my colleague and friend, Tihomir Žilić, Assistant Professor, also noticed a difference between the two autobiographies: "My Inventions" did not mention Tesla's reading of the Bible book of Revelations, while the other autobiography - „The strange life of Nikola Tesla“, contained all the additional parts. Comparing these two sources, we became aware of the parts in which the Bible, God, or anything related to religiosity was mentioned, did not appear in the 'official' version of the autobiography 'My inventions'. Was the first book obtained by adding the sentences in question, or rather the 'official' version was censored?

My colleague Mr. Žilić, made an effort in studying the original texts from a prestigious journal „Electrical Experimenter“ from 1919, on the basis of which the 'official' version of My Inventions was created. It did not contain the parts in question, but under the strange circumstances. These parts were replaced with the titles added by the editors of the journal, and which were not Tesla's. This still does not prove that the parts in question were censored in one book or added to the other. However, Mr. Žilić discovered a part of a sentence which does not exist in the 'official' version: „It seemed a hopeless undertaking, but I made up my mind to try it and immediately on my return to the United States in the summer of 1892, after a short visit to my friends in Watford, England; work was begun which was to me all the more attractive, because a means of the same kind was necessary for the successful transmission of energy without wires.“

Would it be possible for a 'religious fanatic', wishing to make Tesla 'religious', to have motivation and knowledge to write such a sentence? Or the moderators of the journal and of the official version of the autobiography, with their deep conviction about the enlightenment care that the readers not to be infected with the "opium for the people", removed all the parts in question, and in passing removed also this one which resolves the riddle? Tesla was indeed in England in 1892, and more recent interviews with Tesla confirm his religiosity: Tesla was a believer, he prayed regularly and read the Bible, the holy God's word. Moreover, the Bible was, according to Tesla's own confession, a key of the greatest discovery of the modern era (At this time I made a further careful study of the Bible, and discovered the key in Revelation.).

We also provide an important testimony of Ivan Meštrović (1883-1962), distinguished Croatian artist (translated from Croatian into English by Darko Žubrinić).

Ivan Meštrović, znameniti hrvatski kipar, o Teslinom je idealizmu zapisao sljedeće:
Njegov ideal i svi njegovi napori bili su usmjereni na to, da koristi napretku čovječanstva. Iza toga je skrenuo u mistiku i pripovjedao mi, kako se još od mladosti prije spavanja, klečeći na golim koljenima, molio Bogu. Kad sam ga upitao, kakve molitve moli, odgovorio mi je:

- One, koje sam u djetinjstvu molio. Ali, da, tako sam se molio sve do svoje pedesete godine. Od toga se doba molim drugačije, nu to je svejedno, suština je ista, i ja se molim Bogu svakoga dana.

Ivan Meštrović: Uspomene na političke ljude i dogadjaje, Buenos Aires, 1961., Knjižnica Hrvatske revije. (str. 191-193); ili Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 1969. (str. 169-170)

Ivan Meštrović, distinguished Croatian sculptor, wrote the following about Tesla's idealism:
His ideal and all his efforts were directed towards the advancement of Mankind. After that, he turned to mysticism and recounted to me, that he was since his youth praying to God before going to sleep, kneeling on bare knees. When I asked him, which prayers does he pray, he answered to me:

- Those, that I prayed since my childhood. But, yes, I prayed so until my fifties. Since then, I pray differently, but the essence is the same, and I pray to God every day.

Ivan Meštrović: Uspomene na političke ljude i dogadjaje (Reminiscences of Political People and Events), Buenos Aires, 1961., Knjižnica Hrvatske revije. (pp. 191-193); or Matica hrvatska, Zagreb 1969 (pp. 169-170)

Čitatelja upućujemo na knjigu [Filipi, str. 137-144], gdje će naći još neke dodatne usporedbe dviju Teslinih autobiografija, u odjeljku Krivotvorine u “Mojim pronalascima”. 137-142