Before I put a sketch on paper, the whole idea is worked out mentally. In my mind I change the construction, make improvements, and even operate the device. Without ever having drawn a sketch I can give the measurements of all parts to workmen, and when completed all these parts will fit, just as certainly as though I had made the actual drawings. It is immaterial to me whether I run my machine in my mind or test it in my shop. The inventions I have conceived in this way have always worked. In thirty years there has not been a single exception. My first electric motor, the vacuum wireless light, my turbine engine and many other devices have all been developed in exactly this way.
My conviction has grown so strong that I no longer look on this plan of energy or intelligence transmission as a mere theoretical possibility, but as a serious problem in electrical engineering, which must be carried out some day.
There were many days when [I] did not know where my next meal was coming from. But I was never afraid to work, I went where some men were digging a ditch ... [and] said I wanted to work. The boss looked at my good clothes and white hands and laughed to the others ... but he said, “All right. Spit on your hands. Get in the ditch.” And I worked harder than anybody. At the end of the day I had $2.
It is true that some of them have had to do with wireless telegraphy and that in addition to the tower and poles there is a hole dug in the ground. This is 150 feet deep and is used in these experiments. The people about there, had they been awake instead of asleep, at other times would have seen even stranger things. Some day, but not at this time, I shall make an announcement of something that I never once dreamed of.
I am being driven to the conclusion that Tesla was the greatest electrical inventor we have had on our roll of membership; in fact we might go as far as to say that he was the greatest inventor in the realm of electrical engineering.
What the result of these investigations will be the future will tell; but whatever they may be, and to whatever this principle may lead, I shall be sufficiently recompensed if later it will be admitted that I have contributed a share, however small, to the advancement of science.
My method is different. I do not rush into actual work. When I get a new idea, I start at once building it up in my imagination, and make improvements and operate the device in my mind. When I have gone so far as to embody everything in my invention, every possible improvement I can think of, and when I see no fault anywhere, I put into concrete form the final product of my brain.
...for if the potential be sufficiently high and if the terminals of the coils be maintained at the proper altitudes the action described will take place, and a current will be transmitted through the elevated air strata, which will encounter little and possibly even less resistance than if conveyed through a copper wire of a practicable size.
Now, I must tell you of a strange experience which bore fruit in my later life. We had a cold [snap] drier than even observed before. People walking in the snow left a luminous trail. [As I stroked] Mačak's back, [it became] a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks. My father remarked, this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see on the trees in a storm. My mother seemed alarmed. Stop playing with the cat, she said, he might start a fire. I was thinking abstractly. Is nature a cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded.
I cannot exaggerate the effect of this marvelous sight on my childish imagination. Day after day I asked myself what is electricity and found no answer. Eighty years have gone by since and I still ask the same question, unable to answer it.