The Cat Who Caused Sparks

During his lifetime, Nikola Tesla invented fluorescent lighting, the Tesla induction motor, the Tesla coil, and developed the alternating current (AC) electrical supply system that included a motor and transformer, and 3-phase electricity.

And a cat may have started it all.

Sparks generated when stroking his pet cat Macak led Nikola Tesla to investigate electricity. In a letter to a Miss Pola Fotich, Tesla wrote:

It happened that one day the cold was drier than ever before. People walking in the snow left a luminous trail behind them, and a snowball thrown against an obstacle gave a flare of light like a loaf of sugar cut with a knife. In the dusk of the evening, as I stroked Macak's back, I saw a miracle that made me speechless with amazement. Macak's back was a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks loud enough to be heard all over the house.

My father was a very learned man; he had an answer for every question. But this phenomenon was new even to him. "Well," he finally remarked, "this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see through the trees in a storm."

My mother seemed charmed. "Stop playing with this cat," she said. "He might start a fire." But I was thinking abstractedly. Is nature a gigantic cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded. Here I was, only three years old and already philosophizing.

However stupefying the first observation, something still more wonderful was to come. It was getting darker, and soon the candles were lighted. Macak took a few steps through the room. He shook his paws as though he were treading on wet ground. I looked at him attentively. Did I see something or was it an illusion? I strained my eyes and perceived distinctly that his body was surrounded by a halo like the aureola of a saint!

I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvelous night on my childish imagination. Day after day I have asked myself "what is electricity?" and found no answer.
Eighty years have gone by since that time and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it. ...

Source:  PBS

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