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Another eccentric physicist in the papers

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Tesla’s twilight years

By Hamish Johnston

You just can’t pick up the papers these days without coming across an eccentric physicist.

Now it’s Nikola Tesla, who is the hero of a book that has just been short-listed for this year’s Orange Prize for Fiction.

The Invention of Everything Else by Samantha Hunt is a fictional account of Tesla’s twilight years in New York City.

Tesla was one of the most famous inventors at the turn of the last century. He was a pioneer in wireless communications and the wireless transmission of energy. And of course, the SI unit of magnetic field strength is name after him.

He had many strange ways — apparently he only stayed in a hotel room if its number was a multiple of three — and neglected to secure the rights to many of his inventions. As a result, he lived out his later years in poverty and obscurity.

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