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