Czech Republic: A story of engineerial ingenuity

The Reference Frame examines the biography of ingenious Czech inventor and engineer Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), and discusses his role for the development of science and industry.


  • Nikola Tesla wasn’t Czech, but an ethnic Serb born in Croatia, raised in the Austrian Empire, a naturalized US citizen.

  • Dear Robert,

    Thank you for pointing this out to me! You are completely correct in this observation. Boy, didn’t I put my foot into it this time!

    Of course, Tesla was: ethnically
    (1) SERBIAN – although with a mother from
    (2) Kosovo – raised in current
    (3) Croatia, lived in what is now
    (4) Austria,
    (5) Hungary,
    (6) the Czech Repubic, and
    (7) Slovenia etc., if I am not mistaken, and I even think he made a stint in
    (8) Slovakia.

    By nationality Tesla was
    (9) Austro-Hungarian, before moving to the United States, where he became a naturalised
    (10) American citizen.

    Of course, it was not correct to call him a Czech, which may be explained by my erroneous conceptualisation of him as such, as what I believe were his formative years were spent in what is now the Czech Republic, and a famous Czech industry carries his name.

    So, in today’s terms, Tesla was certainly a Serb, although in his lifetime he belonged to the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Habsburg Empire – before becoming American, of course.

    As you probably know a lot more about Tesla than I do, I am sure that the above discussion wasn’t hard for you to follow, although I fear that it was almost incomprehensible for each and everyone who is not initiated into the niceties of the 19th century history of Central Europe and the Balkans.

    Finally, from the little I have gathered of Nikola Tesla’s personality, I cannot but wonder whether he would define himself as any of the above, whether he would reject all, or simply make up a very own eleventh nationality specific only to himself.

    Finally, please forgive me if I give any impression of being ironic or something similar. That was not my intention, and your correction was really both welcome and valuable.

    I guess, what I want to explain is how confused matters can become if we look back on history with today’s eyes, as nationality, ethnicty, and – above all – identity is something that may change over time, involve both the objective and the subjective, and still we often cannot tell what is what.

    So, I hope you can overlook my mistake, and perhaps even smile at how history and fate may change our steadfast perceptions of something people of other times would be equally sure was something completely different.



  • MojoNYC

    Nikola Tesla was SERBIAN. He was born in todays Croatia, town of Smiljan which those days was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He lived for a while in Budapest, Hungary. Moved to France for a while and then to the USA where he died.

    • Tomislav Patarčić

      Yep, Serb from Croatia but citizen of the world and true human being. If he was of any nationality at all, he was first human, then Serb and third … probably nothing.

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