Before the car, was the man. Nikola Tesla, the famed inventor and namesake of the electric car company, would have celebrated his 164th birthday on July 10, so it’s a great time to learn about his scientific contributions and extraordinary life.

To celebrate, we are teaching kids all about Tesla and how to conduct a few electricity-based experiments of their own.

Who is Nikola Tesla and What Did He Do? 

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856 in the Austrian Empire (modern-day Croatia). As a child, Tesla was exceedingly intelligent; he studied German, math, and science. He was even able to perform complex calculations on his head, which led his teachers to accuse him of cheating.

He became fascinated with electricity in college, but never actually graduated. Instead, he dropped out and eventually began working for Edison Machine Works in New York City, an electric company founded by Thomas Edison.

He proved his worth there quickly, redesigning generators, developing lighting systems, and repairing installations. He soon struck out on his own, and immediately began working on a series of patents. He eventually patented the arc lighting system, the electric motor, and the improved generator. In 1887, Tesla founded the Tesla Electric Company (no relation to today’s car company) with the help of two investors, Alfred S. Brown and Charles F. Peck. In his Manhattan laboratory, Tesla developed and improved numerous electrical devices.

Many other companies and inventors  – sometimes even competitors – consulted Tesla for his help. He was always coming up with new ideas and conducting experiments. Even when they failed, he never gave up and always kept trying. Over the course of his life, Tesla made numerous contributions to the field of electricity, many of which we still use today.

A Few Facts About Electricity

What Are Some Electricity Experiments I Can Do?

Here are a few experiments you can do at home to understand the power of electricity:

Make batteries out of fruit

Make a light-up Science Bug necklace

Charge a balloon with static electricity (page 1)