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Tesla was born to Serbian parents in the village of Smiljan, Austrian Empire near the town of Gospić, in the territory of modern-day Croatia. His baptismal certificate reports that he was born on 28 June (N.S. 10 July), 1856, to Father Milutin Tesla, a priest in the Serbian Orthodox Church.[7] His paternal origin is thought to be either of one of the local Serb clans in the Tara valley or from the Herzegovinian noble Pavle Orlović.[8] His mother, Đuka, daughter of a Serbian Orthodox Church priest, came from a family domiciled in Lika and Banija, but with deeper origins to Kosovo. She was talented in making home craft tools and memorized many Serbian epic poems, but never learned to read.[9]

Nikola was the fourth of five children, having one older brother (Dane, who was killed in a horse-riding accident when Nikola was five) and three sisters (Milka, Angelina and Marica).[10] His family moved to Gospić in 1862. Tesla attended school at Higher Real Gymnasium in Karlovac.[11] He finished a four-year term in the span of three years.[12]

Tesla went on to study electrical engineering at the Austrian Polytechnic in Graz (1875). While there, he studied the uses of alternating current. Some sources say he received Baccalaureate degrees from the university at Graz.[13][14][15] However, the university says that he did not receive a degree and did not continue beyond the first semester of his third year, during which he stopped attending lectures.[16][17][18][19] In December 1878, Tesla left Graz and broke all relations with his family. His friends thought that he had drowned in the Mur River. He went to Marburg, (today's Maribor, in Slovenia), where he was first employed as an assistant engineer for a year. He suffered a nervous breakdown during this time. Tesla was later persuaded by his father to attend the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague, which he attended for the summer term of 1880. Here, he was influenced by Ernst Mach. However, after his father died, he left the university, having completed only one term.[20]

Tesla engaged in reading many works, memorizing complete books, supposedly having a photographic memory.[21] Tesla related in his autobiography that he experienced detailed moments of inspiration. During his early life, Tesla was stricken with illness time and time again. He suffered a peculiar affliction in which blinding flashes of light would appear before his eyes, often accompanied by visions. Much of the time the visions were linked to a word or idea he might have come across, at other times they would provide the solution to a particular problem he had been encountering; just by hearing the name of an item, he would be able to envision it in realistic detail. Modern-day synesthetes report similar symptoms. Tesla would visualize an invention in his mind with extreme precision, including all dimensions, before moving to the construction stage; a technique sometimes known as picture thinking. He typically did not make drawings by hand, instead just conceiving all ideas with his mind. Tesla also often had flashbacks to events that had happened previously in his life; these began during his childhood.[21]

In 1880, he moved to Budapest to work under Tivadar Puskás in a telegraph company,[22] the National Telephone Company. There, he met Nebojša Petrović, a young, Serbian inventor who lived in Austria. Although their encounter was brief, they did work on a project together using twin turbines to create continual power. On the opening of the telephone exchange in Budapest, 1881, Tesla became the chief electrician to the company, and was later engineer for the country's first telephone system. He also developed a device that, according to some, was a telephone repeater or amplifier, but according to others could have been the first loudspeaker.[23]

Links:

www.teslasociety.com
www.biography.com
www.pbs.org