What I love about the autumn season in Belgrade, is not only the beautiful shades and colours that transform the city, but also how inviting the museums are. A few weeks ago, my friend and I visited two fascinating exhibitions in Belgrade – one was about the life and work of Nikola Tesla and the other about Mihajlo Pupin. At first I’m sure only a few would recognize these names, however, I assure you, keep reading… you will be amazed.
Let’s start with Mr. Nikola Tesla…have you ever noticed the inventor in the movie “The Prestige” who created the lightning box for Hugh Jackman’s disappearing act? That’s who I am referring to. The scientific world knows of Nikola Tesla as the “Master of Lightning” however, sadly the social world knows almost nothing of him. Having spent some time at the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, I was simply in awe of the great work of this humble gentleman – who despite creating key inventions used in today’s world has received such low recognition that we barely even know him. The same cannot be said for Thomas Edison and so it is my hope that with this post, I can contribute to spreading the word about his legacy.
Nikola Tesla was a Serbian mastermind whose inventions in both science and technology have contributed immensely to our world today. Some notable inventions include: the rotating magnetic field, a system of distribution for electrical motors and generators and the famous “Tesla Coil” which transmits high-voltage frequencies, to name a few. Having studied and worked throughout Europe, Tesla’s initial invention of the induction motor did not receive any visionary support and so his travels took him to America almost penniless, in hopes of realising his dreams.
Did you know that Tesla worked with Thomas Edison for 2 years? Indeed, however after their short partnership, the two separated due to conflicting scientific-business relations. With luck on his side, Tesla continued to develop and improve his patents and expand his inventions to include most notably: wireless radio waves, X-ray technology, and radar technology.
Tesla was way ahead of his time and that is not an exaggeration. Not only did he invent important pieces of technology but also made some remarkable predictions for our future including:
- Televisions & Mobile Phones
- Wi-Fi and Wireless Devices
- Environmental Protection
- Emphasis on health
- Management of Natural Resources
- Female Superiority
- Human Genetics
- Advanced airplanes and flying cars (yes, that is real)
As a guardian of the Tesla legacy, the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade holds over 160,000 original documents from Tesla’s collection as well as instruments, plans, drawings, books, technical exhibits and photographs. The tour guide offers demonstrations of his first hand inventions and most impressively, how the Tesla coil works.
Our second genius, Mihajlo Pupin was a Serbian physicist, mathematician, chemist, electrical engineer, and professor known most notably for his invention of long distance telephone communication. Yes, you read that correctly. This gentleman enabled us to use telecommunications across countries, connecting the entire world.
The Mihajlo Pupin exhibition is currently on display at the History Museum of Serbia until 20th February, and is launched to mark an important jubilee – 100 years since Pupin registered 7 patents crucial to today’s technology. Upon entering, we were greeted by a giant book laying in front of a large screen which served as a mirror – we wondered what we would see. As the curator turned the page to the book, Mihajlo Pupin appeared on the screen in front of us and welcomed us to his exhibition. It was just the first of many impressive stunts.
The entire museum is designed with the most innovative technology using colour, light and sound to provide interactive insight to the life and work of Mihajlo Pupin. We were able to witness x-ray versions of ourselves, see virtual recordings of our speech through an old telephone, and the most impressive – a swing which brought us closer to the stars.
From a young age, Mihajlo’s mother, Olimpijada, has always encouraged him to pursue education and seek greater knowledge stating “knowledge is a golden ladder over which we climb to heaven, knowledge is light which illuminates our path through this life and leads to a future of everlasting glory“.
His studies have taken him from Serbia to Prague, Budapest, Vienna and finally the United States where he spent the first 5 years as a manual labourer on an immigrant visa. Despite his work conditions, Pupin learned English, Greek and Latin while giving private lectures and expanding his knowledge, which led him to successfully enroll in Columbia University on full scholarship. His eagerness to learn and excel in the fields of physics, mathematics and electrical engineering, have led him to obtain high level degrees from several notable universities including: University of Berlin, University of Cambridge, Princeton University, George Washington University and University of Belgrade to name only a few ( in total he graduated with the highest honours from 18 universities worldwide).
A few of his notable achievements include:
- Being a founding board member of NASA (yes, the same NASA which launches expeditions to space)
- President of American Association for Advancement in Sciences
- President of American Institute of Electrical Engineers
- President of New York Academy of Sciences
- Serving as a Serbian diplomat during the negotiation of borders of Yugoslavia after WWI
- Contributing to the discovery of fluorescent screens to enhance X-rays for medical purposes
- Extending the range of long distance telephone calls – literally connecting the world today with telecommunications
- Sonar technology used in submarines
- The release of 34 patents for various forms of technology fully credited to his name
- Having a small lunar crater named in his honor
I am amazed at how destiny has led these two great minds who were brought
up in very simple upbringings during the late 19th century, travelling across the Atlantic Ocean with no more than 5 cents to their name, and now leaving us with legacies which have defined our future. At a time when the world remembers Serbia for the wars and crimes, it gives me no bigger pride to share the same heritage as these two masterminds.
Please have a look at these impressive documentaries which account the chronicles of Nikola Tesla’s and Mihajlo Pupin’s life, work and legacy to us today.
As human beings we constantly go through different stages in life where we doubt ourselves and it is comforting that history shows us we are not alone. What these masterminds have achieved at a time when only a few resources were available and conditions were poor, can certainly encourage us about our life paths.
As a finale to this post, I leave you with a little bit of encouragement from Tesla, to uplift you during your personal journeys:
“I have not failed, I have just found 100,000 ways that won’t work”
” I don’t really care if they stole my ideas; I care that they don’t have any of their own”
” The solution to your problems is not in destroying, but in mastering the machine”
Please click here for more images from our visit – a must see 🙂