Tesla and Mark Twain

One of the best known photographs of Nikola Tesla is not a photograph of Nikola Tesla. Well, Tesla comes out, but behind, like behind the scenes; In the foreground, the image shows an elegantly dressed man, with a large mustache, holding a lit light bulb.

That man has gone down in history as Mark Twain. Although he came to this page because he was a friend of Tesla, it is worth remembering that Twain is one of the greatest authors of literature in the English language.

Mark Twain, born in 1835 and whose real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, began his writing career in the most common way at the time: publishing stories and travel notes in the press, most of them humorous. He already had several books and some fame when in 1876 he published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which took as its narrative material memories and characters from his childhood; one of them would later be the protagonist of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, published in 1884 and considered his masterpiece and one of the milestones of the Great American Novel.

Other books of his, such as the historical fable about The Prince and the Pauper or the narration of travels in time by A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, among others, have also been highly appreciated by many readers. As Katherine Krumme recounts in her wonderful article “Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla: Thunder and Lightning” (published in Engineering in 2000 and available on the Internet), the friendship between the writer and the inventor was so strong that it lasted beyond what to be expected: in 1943, when Twain had already been dead for 33 years, Tesla was still trying to get him some money to get him out of some trouble.

The bankruptcy trend was just one of the traits that brought them together; Another, perhaps the foundation of friendship, was mutual admiration: Tesla was as fond of Twain’s work as Twain was of Tesla’s experiments, including a certain vibrating platform whose laxative effects he is said to have tried.

It is appreciated that the photograph that has remained as a symbol of the relationship between the two was not taken during that visit by Twain to Tesla’s laboratory but in another, in 1894. Against the blurred background, the image dazzles us not only because of the incandescent light of the lamp but because of the more intense brilliance of the geniuses.