At first I was just going to make this article about Tesla’s health tips for intelligence inducing eating, but then I remembered a funny incident about his and Edison’s first encounter, involving this very topic. Obviously these two had sizzling appetites for invention, but what did they fuel up with themselves? Lettuce see these two super inventors weigh in on a battle of the currants! (Oof, sorry! :))
You probably have heard the story of Tesla coming to America to work for Edison, to bring his ideas of alternating current to the great American inventor, and we know how that ended (see image above!). But you probably haven’t heard of this horrific scenario. When Nikola did finally meet Edison, he met America’s crudeness personified.
Allegedly supposing from Tesla’s name and accent that he must be from Transylvania, and inferring a link to the popular legend of Dracula, Edison made a derogatory inquiry as to whether the “neophyte” had ever tasted human flesh?
Naturally Tesla said No, and enquired what did Edison prefer to eat in his diet? Edison quipped something to the effect of ‘Oh, you mean how does someone so smart like me eat?’ And proceeded to tell him he dined exclusively on Welsh rabbit, as that was the only food fit to revitalize a great mind after a day’s honest labor.
Being in his impressionable state, no doubt with an added bit of shock, Nikola tried this diet out for himself, much to his intestinal dismay. Perhaps he was as confused as anyone I was not knowing that Welsh rabbit actually has nothing to do with rabbits at all, and tried downing them with cheese. Apparently Welsh rarebit or rabbit, as it was originally spelled, is some variation of fried toast with a heavy cream sauce and melted cheese (vegan recipe?!), like a kind of crazy grilled cheese in gravy. Perhaps it was the cheese that got him in the end. I don’t know exactly at which point Tesla became vegetarian, perhaps he always was- but no doubt it was influenced by this trial and errors of dieting like this attempt to emulate his brutish boss.
Edison loved to pull a prank and get one over on everybody, friend or foe. It is said he once invited friends to a steak dinner, but served them pieces of leather that had been cut up and cooked in gravy. After his guests tried for a while to carve their food in vain, Edison admitted to the prank and ordered the cook to bring in real steaks.
One thing he seemed to have in common with Tesla was his general disinterest in food and meals as a pastime, for time was precious and best not wasted on such trivialities. Though married, Edison was by habit a permanent bachelor, and no doubt kept alive by the caring wife who prepared and delivered his meals at the laboratory for lunch, and made his dinners. Perhaps he should have taken his own eating advice more seriously. Despite preaching to his colleagues not to eat sugar, he was reprimanded by his colleague Burroughs for putting two heaping teaspoons of sugar in his three or four daily cups of coffee. ‘O Consistency, thy name is not Edison!’
“One likely explanation of the Wizard of Menlo Park’s ability to make a meal out of toast and a cup of hot milk or hot water was his between-meals habit of munching on chocolate-nut candy bars and drinking pop.” his sometimes camping companion, R.J.H. DeLoach told The Georgia Review. It seems that rich diet and sweet tooth did him in in the end. Thomas Edison died of complications of diabetes on October 18, 1931 at age 84.
Tesla vs. Edison on vegetarianism- Nikola, who truly was a permanent bachelor, was also a vegetarian in the main, for both health and moral reasons. Said Tesla in no uncertain terms-
“It is certainly preferable to raise vegetables, and I think, therefore, that vegetarianism is a commendable departure from the established barbarous habit. That we can subsist on plant food and perform our work even to advantage is not a theory, but a well-demonstrated fact. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength. There is no doubt that some plant food, such as oatmeal, is more economical than meat, and superior to it in regard to both mechanical and mental performance. Such food, moreover, taxes our digestive organs decidedly less, and, in making us more contented and sociable, produces an amount of good difficult to estimate. In view of these facts every effort should be made to stop the wanton and cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals.”
–THE PROBLEM OF INCREASING HUMAN ENERGY WITH SPECIAL REFERENCES TO THE HARNESSING OF THE SUN’S ENERGY. by Nikola Tesla, Century Illustrated Magazine, June 1900
There you have it, the genius Nikola’s testimonial for a vegetable based diet, replete with not only the facts but a great deal of compassion in his ever forward thinking manner! He was an ultra sensitive in tune to the knowledge and desires of the Universe, and this humble diet served him well. When no longer able to afford the fine fair at establishments like the New Yorker and Waldorf Astoria he had enjoyed in his star powered years, Nikola kept his meals simple on his own.
‘He lives chiefly on vegetables, cereals and milk. The menu includes onions, spinach, celery, carrots, lettuce, with potatoes occasionally. Whites of eggs and milk complete the diet. There is no meat on his vegetable plate. He never smokes or tastes tea, coffee, alcoholic beverages or any other stimulant.’
Indeed Tesla eschewed the use of caffeine and sweets unlike Mr. Edison, and kept himself relatively healthy for it. He never had any of the usual health and aging complaints of typical Americans stemming from overly sweet, fat riddled and meaty or processed food diets, like heart attacks or diabetes.
One odd dietary quirk both men swore by was drinking large quantities of milk. In Tesla’s case he used the excuse of it being one of his only available sources of protein- apparently he didn’t know about beans and rice or care to prepare them. In Edison’s case, he was drinking milk exclusively in his later days (as in not drinking -or- eating anything else!) following a fad that milk was a cure-all remedy to his ailments.
Perhaps if almond milk and tofu had been available back then, Nikola would have gone totally vegan. As it was, he lived for a long 86 years, the last 25-30 of those in poverty. Yet Tesla was in good shape for such a tireless genius who slept very little- and who, in spite of his devotion to humankind, had no one to love or care for him but a few devoted pigeons.
Spirit of Tesla- From Nikola Tesla Coloring Book
So who would you follow in the Tesla vs. Edison diet debate? What do geniuses eat today?