How Much Is Nikola Tesla’s Net Worth?

by Rosemarie Hardison
Nikola Tesla

Most of us were taught that Thomas Edison was the genius behind the invention of electricity, but what would you say if you learned that the true inventor was a man named Nikola Tesla?

Unlike Edison, Tesla’s life and achievements are overlooked in modern times, despite the fact that the world as it is now wouldn’t exist without his creations.

As such, this entry will feed your curiosity concerning this fascinating man. Today, I talk about Nikola Tesla net worth, personal life, and ironic death. Let’s get to it!

Who Was Nikola Tesla?

In short, Nikola Tesla was a man with great potential ever since he was young. He grew up to be not only an electrical engineer and a futurist, but also a physicist and inventor. His potential, simply put, was limitless.

That said, the public mainly knows Nikola Tesla for his creation, namely the alternating current (AC). Tesla’s design has been powering electrical supply systems ever since the May of 1888.

In other words, we owe modern life in all its glory and convenience to Nikola Tesla’s invention—not Edison. As you’ll later come to learn, Edison was simply the reason why Nikola pushed himself to work so hard on his AC creations.

The irony here, of course, is that Thomas Edison is still more associated with the invention of electricity than Tesla ever is.

What Was Nikola Tesla’s Net Worth?

Before his historic achievement of creating the AC current, Tesla had not one penny to his name. Following the physicist’s extensive work on the production, transmission, and application of electricity, Tesla’s net worth began to increase.

For more details about how Nikola managed to turn his life around and make use of his genius, skip ahead to the next section.

You’ll find there that Nikola managed to license his invention with help from the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. They offered him a great deal that resulted in Tesla’s company cashing in patent and royalty checks.

As such, Nikola was well on his way to becoming a millionaire–and he was! By the end of 1890, just two years after his creation was born, Nikola’s net worth was estimated to be one million dollars (the equivalent of $32.5 million today).

Impressive, I know! Interestingly though, and as I’ll later cover, Tesla terminated his contract with the company over some complications and ended up dying penniless. His net worth went from millions to a measly thousand dollars in his later years.

What Do We Know About Nikola Tesla?

Learning about Nikola’s life before his international fame is a fascinating feat. For starters, did you know Tesla was born into the Austrian Empire and was in fact, Siberian-American?

Not only that, but Nikola’s hometown was a rural village named Smiljan, and his parents were uneducated, simple people. Tesla’s father was an Eastern Orthodox priest (ironic, right?) and his mother was known for being handy with tools and appliances.

I won’t spill any more information and instead hop through the different stages of Tesla’s path that led to his stardom in the physics world.

Early Life

Nikola Tesla was born a middle child where he had an older brother and three sisters. His older brother died early, when Tesla was only five years old, following a horse-riding incident.

Throughout his education, Tesla had constantly shown promise. In addition to being rather inquisitive and capable, Nikola’s interest in physics began in high school and didn’t stop till his death.

Fun fact: Tesla was able to finish a four-year education in a swift three. After obtaining his degree, Nikola, unfortunately, contracted cholera and was told he would die. Miraculously, he did manage to recover.

However, Tesla’s brush with death made him rethink enrolling in the Austro-Hungarian Army. So, to avoid being forced into a life of war, Nikola ran to the mountains and instead, joined the Imperial-Royal Technical College in Graz.

The Physicist’s Daily Routine

During his 87 years of life, Tesla was known to be a quiet, antisocial person. He had a routine and he religiously stuck to it.

Nikola would wake up every day at nine in the morning and would work all day until 8:10 in the evening. At that point, he’d go eat dinner in his go-to restaurant or hotel. Once done, he’d resume his work till shortly before dusk, then retire for the night.

Among Tesla’s many talents was that he had an excellent photographic memory, much like his mother, and he also spoke eight different languages.

Nikola had a hobby of walking eight miles each day as well. He had a peculiar quirk of curling his toes regularly as he believed it stimulated his brain activity.

Nikola’s Life as an Immigrant

Another interesting fact is that Nikola, with all his brilliance, didn’t finish his college education. He dropped out and experienced a few years of turmoil, where he gambled continuously.

Deciding that Austria was no longer serving him well, Nikola decided to leave for Budapest. In 1881, he managed to land a job as a chief electrician.

Soon after, Tesla moved again and headed to Paris this time. There he landed the opportunity of a lifetime as he got hired by the Continental Edison Company, otherwise known as Thomas Edison’s company.

Nikola proved himself an indispensable asset to the company. In fact, one of his peers, namely Charles Batchelor recognized Tesla’s skills right away. As a result, Batchelor took Tesla with him to the New York company branch.

Tesla’s Fallout with Thomas Edison

Tesla’s employment under Thomas Edison didn’t last longer than six months. Their creative differences and life-long rivalry are what changed the course of physics for decades to come.

The fallout between both geniuses began when Edison promised a bonus of $50,000 (which makes up $1.5 million today) to the first person who improved on Edison’s direct current (DC) electric system.

Tesla managed to achieve this in under two months and yet Edison refused to give him the bonus afterward. Thomas claimed it was simply a joke and made up for it by offering Nikola a raise instead.

Refusing to be part of such a twisted standard, Nikola quit the same day and went on an independent path to found the Tesla Electric Light & Manufacturing company.

Founding the Tesla Electric Company

The idea behind the Tesla Electric Company was to spread Nikola’s AC electrical system. Because it was significantly faster, quicker, and more efficient than Edison’s DC creation, Tesla’s invention was becoming increasingly popular.

By the end of the 1880s, more and more homes and businesses were installing AC generators. Tesla then met with the head of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company who, as I mentioned before, decided to license Tesla’s technology.

As a result, George Westinghouse, the manager of the company, agreed to give Tesla a monthly salary of what’s now about $65,000. Westinghouse offered Tesla 150 stock shares as well as $1.9 million to earn his creation’s patent.

Of course, had Nikola Tesla not terminated his contract with the company, he would have ended up being the first billionaire as well as the richest person in the world during that time. Plus, Nikola’s descendants would have presently benefited from these royalty checks too.

The Heartfelt Tesla and Westinghouse Partnership

The partnership between George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla slowly bloomed into a wonderful friendship. Westinghouse believed in Tesla more than the latter did, and as such, funded most of his inventions.

Tesla also blew up the fortune he made off Westinghouse checks by spending the money on multiple failed experiments. What made matters worse was that the War of Currents between Edison and Tesla was far from over too.

As a result, much money went into proving that Tesla was the better inventor and that his AC invention was more efficient. In the end, Westinghouse’s company went bankrupt and George had to beg Tesla to rescind his loyalties so the company doesn’t run out of business.

Choosing friendship over wealth, Nikola tore up his contract with Westinghouse, claiming he was simply grateful for George’s supporting role in his life and that was Tesla’s way of saving the company.

How Was Nikola Tesla’s Death Ironic?

Much like any true scientist, Nikola Tesla cared more about his invention than about how much profit he could gain from it. It seemed that it didn’t matter to him where the money went—owing to the fact that he spent it all on physics.

By throwing away that Westinghouse contract, Tesla was simultaneously throwing away millions and millions of dollars. To give you a rough idea, his patents were presently valued at over $390 million.

Rather, and in a truly ironic fashion, Tesla was destined to die alone and without a penny to his name. He was said to have lost his mind towards the end, too.

In Summary

Nikola Tesla net worth varied throughout his lifetime. As a Siberian-American inventor, he had a rocky start, but his AC invention made him popular by the 1880s. As a result, Tesla ended up with a net worth that exceeded a million dollars.

Friendship, threats of bankruptcy, and competitive rivalry came in the way of Tesla’s wealth, though. In the end, he died pennilessly and had a final net worth of only $1000.

Featured image source: Pinterest

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