The family name Tesla is an occupational name, coming from the name of a tool used for whittling the wood. Nikola Tesla himself used to say that his surname came from a characteristic that all his family members had – rather wide and extended central upper teeth, looking like a whittle axe.

Nikola Tesla is the greatest Serbian genius of all times and one of the famous world inventors and scientists in the field of physics, electrical engineering and radio engineering. He was born in 1856 in the village of Smiljane near Gospić in Lika, in a Serbian priest’s family. He died in 1943 in New York, USA.

His alternating electric current system resulted in a much easier and more effective power transmission over distance. He left more than seven hundred inventions, and many would say that he was the man who “invented the twentieth century”. It would be hard to imagine our modern civilisation without his achievements. Tesla is another word for the Serbian contribution to the progress of civilisation and culture. As he never thought about finances, he died poor and forgotten when he was 87. Neither did he take care about protecting his patents. Only after his death it was proven that the radio and X-rays, the significant breakthroughs of our civilisation, were his inventions, although others took the laurels instead of him. A good part of his huge heritage has not yet been investigated in full.

Tesla’s relatives managed to bring to Belgrade a part of what was left behind him. The Nikola Tesla Archives in Belgrade keeps a complete documentation about his patents, around 1,600 pages of his manuscripts and about 1,000 photographs. The collection is valued as an outstanding cultural treasure of this country. The museum also keeps his remains (an urn with his ashes). The memory of Nikola Tesla today is a heritage the both the Serbs and the Americans share. Serbian nation gave birth to his genius and America gave him the necessary conditions for his full development. His monuments stand at several places in Belgrade, in other cities in Serbia, but also in New York and at the Niagara Falls, and in some two dozen major US universities, then in Russia, Japan, Australia, Croatia, Czech Republic and Hungary. An international unit of measure bears his name – T (tesla), a unit of magnetic flux density (relation between a magnetic field and electric charge); also an asteroid – 2244 Tesla. The Electrical Engineering Institute “Nikola Tesla” was established in Serbia in 1936, when the scientist was still living and active.

Several thousand people went to his funeral in the States and the mayor of New York gave his eulogy. Nikola Tesla was placed among the „100 Greatest Americans“.

The Nikola Tesla Day, 10 July, today is celebrated in more than half of the United States of America. Such an honour bestowed to a Serbian genius by the greatest world power has never been given to any other American scientist in any field.

Nikola Tesla on one of his visits to Belgrade in 1892:

“… If am fortunate to realise at least some of my ideas, the whole humanity will benefit. If my hopes come true, my sweetest thought will be that it is a deed of a Serb.”


Tesla’s reply to the Society of Yugoslav Engineers and Architects after receiving  their greetings for his 80th birthday:

“I am proud that I come from a nation of peasants and valiant people who in their perpetual struggle for ideals and European culture indebted Europe and earned honour and respect of the whole world, of the USA in particular.”