‘The Prestige’ is a very enjoyable film that is set about a hundred years ago and features a battle of wits, romance, and magic between two brilliant magicians.
I’d assumed they had taken great liberties with the character of Nikola Tesla, played wonderfully by David Bowie. Tesla was an inventor of spectacular brilliance whose place in history has been somewhat eclipsed by his contemporary Thomas Edison.
Remarkably, the film has only taken a few liberties with the remarkable feats of Tesla. This actual photo of Tesla’s colorado “office” looks a lot like his Colorado Springs place in the film. (This is a double exposure – the guy was not sitting there at same time as the artificial lightning was created).
Tesla was decades – perhaps even a century – ahead of his time. His invention of alternating current revolutionized factory power during the industrial revolution. He also developed ways to transmit electricity wirelessly such that he illuminated light bulbs from a distance without wires (this idea is featured in another great scene in the film).
Despite his undisputed brilliance Tesla’s odd demeanor and immigrant status appears to have kept him from the later respect he deserved, and may have kept Tesla from other amazing inventions such as a particle beam weapon and unified field theory (Tesla challenged parts of Einstein’s vision of physical reality).
Tesla, one of the greatest geniuses of modern science, died in poverty.
Here is Tesla’s Autobiography.
A great many notables died broke.
Stephen Foster died with 38 cents in his pocket and had been cheated of millions of dollars in royalties.
Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime and that “sale” was to a close associate.
Mark Twain was one of three men to file a claim on what later became the richest silver strike in that Mining District but each of the three men thought the others were doing the requisite “proving work” that had to be done in ten days. When Mark Twain returned two hours after the ten day period had lapsed the claim had been sold at auction and he lost untold millions.
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