Clio Logo

Nikola Tesla passed away at the age of 86 on January 7, 1943, during a stay at the Hotel New Yorker. At the time of his death, Tesla had incurred an incredible amount of debt. The cause of his death was coronary thrombosis caused by a blood clot. During his life, Tesla was a renowned inventor, engineer, and physicist. However, critics claimed that Tesla often exaggerated the potential of his inventions to help raise funds among investors. Still, he proved to be a talented inventor, but despite his talent and ambition, some of his ideas such as the smartphone and the death ray were impossible for him to complete. The hotel placed plaques honoring Tesla near the entrance of the New Yorker Hotel and on the door of the room in which he passed, room #3327.


  • A picture of the plaque on the Hotel New Yorker, which reads: "Here died, on January 7, 1943, at the age of 87, the great Yugoslav-American scientist-inventor, NIKOLA TESLA, whose discoveries in the field of alternating electric current advanced[..]"

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856. There is an interesting story concerning Tesla's birth. He was born as lightning struck, and the midwife of his birth said that "he'll be a child of the storm," but Tesla's mother replied, "No, of light," which would prove to be true in his future endeavors. In 1875, Tesla began attending an Austrian Polytechnic School and at first maintained perfect marks, but he began to do worse in classes partially due to intellectual disagreements with his professors and dropped out after his third year of classes.

In 1882, Tesla found himself obsessed with the puzzle of alternating current (A.C.). This obsession caused Tesla to have a nervous breakdown that almost caused his death. Shortly after his recovery, the answer to the puzzle came to him in a vision. He was sitting on a beach, watching the sunset and reciting Goethe's Faust. An idea came into his mind, and he drew a diagram of it in the sand. This idea provided improvements to the Edison generator in the form of an automatic regulator. A year after this, Tesla began advertising his A.C. motor to investors. Unfortunately, few understood the advantages of using an alternating current over the D.C (direct current) of Edison's designs. As a result, Tesla generated interest but not financial backing. In the summer of 1884, Tesla began working with Edison, who liked his intelligence but had no interest in the A.C. system. Nevertheless, Tesla had great success working with Edison, improving upon at least twenty of Edison's designs. 

The Tesla Electric Light Company began in 1885 when he was asked to improve the arc lighting system, but after this, he was forced out of Edison's company and now had to rely on his own name for business. Unfortunately, Tesla's company did not reach its full potential because Tesla prioritized research over development and theory over application. He spent too money coming up with brilliant ideas but didn't make the money back by putting the ideas to use. Though his income was unstable for years, his later research was eventually backed by tycoon J.P Morgan. This funding allowed him to finally get his own lab to operate in. It was in his Colorado Springs Laboratory that Tesla made several breakthroughs about wireless power transmission.

Once his research in Colorado Springs proved successful, he moved to New York to work on the most ambitious idea he had ever had - a tower that would be able to transmit power to any location from one singular point. This tower was known as the Wardenclyffe Tower. Morgan did not care for this project, so he terminated his role as an investor. Tesla went looking for new investors but couldn't convince any other investors to back his research. They either did not care for the project, for its cost, or did not believe in the technology. A famous example of this is Tesla claiming that he had built "Death Rays capable of destroying 10,000 airplanes at a distance of 250 miles."

This is what led to Nikola Tesla's unfortunate death in 1943. He was in New York City at the time to complete work on the Wardenclyffe Tower, but he was left penniless after failing to develop a good business model that was capable of getting people to support his work. His demise was believing in humanity and personal dreams in a society of capitalism and finances.

King, Gilbert. "The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and his Tower." Smithsonian. 2/4/13. Accessed Web, 5/19/17. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-rise-and-fall-of-nikola-tesla-and-his-tower-11074324/#CQhEWzzjpR5ZJ44c.99.