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BOOK REVIEW :: Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: The Biography of a Genius

Posted by Hex on January 22, 2010

This past Christmas, I was given a Barnes and Noble gift card and while perusing in my local branch for a book or two to consume, I wandered into the Science aisle, hoping for something to reintroduce myself to artificial intelligence or the like. With a two-tone bronze and black photo of a familiar scientist on the cover, the title Wizard enthralled me. Like the badge of honor it truly is, the book advertises on top that it’s “Highly Recommended by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.” I held in my hands Marc J. Seifer’s opus to the father of the Electrical Age and Wireless Technologies, The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius. It was love at first site.

At a price of $19.95, it seemed almost fated to be as I presented my $20 gift card. Pawing the book on the way to the bus stop, I anxiously skimmed the pages of the foreward by William H. Terbo, Honorary Chairman of the Tesla Memorial Society and grandnephew to the sorcerer himself. Bubbling with excitement, I was glued to every word of the glowing praise from kin of Tesla. Seifer’s preface tells the personal story of discovering who Tesla was and his shock of his previous ignorance of the inventor and his extensive works. Then as ignorant as he was in 1976, I launched myself into the universe of Tesla.

Seifer painted a marvelously unbiased portrait of Nikola Tesla and the world that changed around him, often due to his own innovations. He showed Tesla for all of his brilliant insights and his self-destructive neuroses. In Wizard we walk with Tesla from his modest beginnings as the son of a priest in the Slavic lands of Eastern Europe, through his educational tour of the continent, to America, where his original AC Polyphase system was to revolution the modern world, bringing light to everyone everywhere. Seifer perfectly captures the reoccurring theme of the plight of the iconoclast, Tesla’s brilliance is fought for the first of many times by not only his legendary rival, Thomas Edison, but practically the entirety of the contemporary electric world. I was at the edge of my seat as I read the chronicles of the two-front war: on one hand an established, yet now obsolete, group that backed DC feared Tesla and fought to silence him; while others coveted his discoveries and strove to pirate them as their own; yet somehow Tesla persevered with those in his corner that both saw his brilliance and wished to celebrate it. This is the first of many trials detailed in this brilliant tome.

Seifer palpably sculpts many historical characters which entered the life of Tesla including George Westinghouse, Thomas Edison, Mark Twain, John Muir, J. Pierpont Morgan, and many many more. With an amazing treatise that follows the gaunt wizard from an old world to a new, you truly get an understanding of not just Tesla and the world around him, but how he directly changed it, and even a touch o fhow mankind truly responds to revolutionary innovation.

This book captivated my attention through its entire scope. It was, in my opinion, a true success as a biography and tribute to a scientific genius that isn’t given the attention and celebration he truly deserves. I can’t wait to read it again! I heartily recommend this book to everyone. If you’re a history nut, you’ll be fascinated at the scientific marvels that a single man could devise. If you’re a science geek, this book will give you a stronger appreciation of the impact of not only innovation on the world, but the impact of the world on innovation. If you’re a Tesla fanboy, this should be paramount for your library. If you’re not familiar with Nikola Tesla, inventor, discoverer, dreamer, Father of the Electric and Wireless Ages, the archetypal mad scientist, and the inspiration for thousands, than this book is for you.

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