From the Mental Floss library:
He harnessed the power of Niagara Falls, was fluent in eight languages, and was absolutely repulsed by … pearls?
No one may have walked that fine line between genius and insanity as precariously as Nicola Tesla.
Born in Croatia in 1856, Tesla was an eccentric almost from birth. He saw blinding flashes of light and suffered from hallucinations. For a time, he developed a sort of sensory overload, where the ticking of his pocket watch was painfully loud to him, and the sound of a fly landing on a table produced a deafening thud. But Tesla also had visions of brilliance, and often created an entire prototype of one of his inventions in his head before committing so much as a preliminary sketch to paper.
Tesla immigrated to America and got a job working with his idol, Thomas Edison. The two eventually had a falling out, and Tesla took his ideas for alternating current to George Westinghouse. Given a free rein to develop his invention, he was able to light up the entire Chicago World’s Fair with his new electrical system. Next he won the contract to install the first AC power system at Niagara Falls, where he transmitted power to Buffalo, New York, some 22 miles away.
Tesla would eventually be awarded more than 700 patents, including those for the fluorescent light, wireless radio communication, and the well-known device that bore his name ? the Tesla coil. But he was also difficult to work with (he forbade female employees from wearing pearls since he found them revolting), and suffered from what today would be called obsessive compulsive disorder. He frightened off more than one investor when he confided that he regularly communicated with aliens, and he would only stay in hotel suites that had room numbers divisible by three. It’s little wonder that many of the “Superman” comic books of the 1940s featured a mad scientist by the name of Tesla.