BBC Horizon (1982) - The Mysterious Tesla
Though somewhat dated, this BBC Horizon special on Nikola Tesla (1856-1943) is worth watching despite a short interview about half way through with a guy who seems a bit cracked. Tesla was an enigma. Born in Serbia, he eventually became one of America's greatest electrical engineers and inventors (becoming a naturalized citizen in 1891) . An obsessive/compulsive, his many eccentricities left him isolated, with few friends and without the glorious legacy we've grown accustomed to with major scientific figures. He didn't commercialize his ideas, or even publish his work. He didn't associate with academics, but instead gave sensational interviews with journalists and speculated on the future of science for science fiction rags (ultimately getting labeled a "mad scientist"). From work on AC (a far better source of power for long distance transmission than Edison's DC) and the Tesla coil (think spark plug) to flourescents, wireless remote control over tuned (specific) frequencies, X-ray photography, a bladeless turbine (impeller-less pump), and the only recently re-visited concept of wireless transmission of electricity, Tesla was an inventor at least a century ahead of his time. Some of the parallels between the lives of Tesla and Leonardo DaVinci may be obvious.