10 things you may not know about Tesla

-March 15, 2013

Twain in Tesla lab with Tesla in the background

8. Hyper polyglot

Engineers have their own language. Add in the other eight languages Tesla spoke – Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin – and the polyglot was more of a hyper polyglot (one who can speak more than six languages with fluency) with a high degree of proficiency.

The jury is still out on what makes someone able to learn multiple languages and use them fluently: One theory claims that a spike in testosterone levels while in the uterus can increase brain asymmetry and allow for such learning. Others theories suggest that becoming a polyglot has nothing to do with such factors and is actually just about hard work and the right type of motivation, which any adult, but especially one of Tesla’s high intelligence, can apply.

9. Celebrity friends
Tesla often refused social engagements, preferring the company of his work to dinner-party chit chat. But he did have a few close friends, many of whom were writers (perhaps as a hyper polyglot he appreciated those whose stills leaned toward words) and some of whom also happened to be famous.

Among them was Mark Twain. Each was a fan of the other’s work before meeting. Notably, Twain, whose word was near gold at the time, described Tesla’s induction-motor invention as "the most valuable patent since the telephone” before they became acquainted.

Tesla and Twain spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s lab and elsewhere. When Tesla described his mechanical oscillator that produced alternating currents as a device that could be therapeutic, Twain even helped Tesla test it.

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