By making two remarkable electric cars and
becoming the first new American auto company to turn a profit in decades, Tesla Motors has made itself into a household name.
But why did founders Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning (CEO Elon Musk joined the company soon after it was incorporated) choose the name Tesla?
It’s an homage to Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), the Serbian inventor and engineer who created the induction motor and alternating-current (AC) power transmission.
According to an old post on the automaker’s website (archived here):
Without Tesla’s vision and brilliance, our car wouldn’t be possible. We’re confident that if he were alive today, Nikola Tesla would look over our 100 per cent electric car and nod his head with both understanding and approval.
CEO Elon Musk, who was not involved in the founding of the company, has told PBS he counts Thomas Edison, a Tesla rival, as a personal hero, along with Winston Churchill.
Musk does have love for Tesla, though, pledging last year to donate to a project to turn the inventor’s old lab into a museum, according to Jalopnik.
An inveterate inventor, Tesla filed more than 700 patents for everything from wireless communication to fluorescent lighting.
Some of his ideas never came to fruition, including a “death-beam.” In July 1934, he told the New York Times he had invented a way to “send concentrated beams of particles through the free air,” powerful enough to bring down 10,000 planes from 250 miles away, or kill millions of soldiers.
All in all, Tesla was a very cool dude. He hung out with Albert Einstein when they and other scientists took a tour of a wireless station in New Jersey, in 1921:
He considered sitting for portraits unlucky, and only did it once, according to the New York Times. The artist was Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy.
Here he is in a (non-Tesla) car with an unidentified woman:
Tesla died at the age of 87 in room 3327 of the New Yorker Hotel:
There’s a plaque there to honour him:
Be we guess the folks at Tesla Motors are right, and he’d be more impressed by a real invention named for him:
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