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Nikola Tesla Really Fricking Loved Pigeons

Nikola Tesla had a reputation for being one of the craaaaziest people in the history of science, but that’s an insultingly reductive take on a man whose genius was thwarted every step of the way. Tesla was sabotaged by his rivals, pursued by the government and even had all of his work burnt to a crisp. And while he didn’t possess the necessary social skills to hug away his sadness and frustration, he did have many non-human friends to turn to: pigeons, in particular the heartbreaking romance he struck up with one special bird.

Nikola Tesla
Well, at least it wasn’t a seagull.

Tesla spent much of his adult life living in New York City, where he lived out of a small hotel room — because getting someone else to change his sheets gave him more time to science (also, people like Edison kept him quite poor). At the stroke of midnight, he would walk down to the New York Public Library, and feed the multitudes of pigeons waiting for him. But when this arrangement became unfeasible (or he just felt lazy), he would simply fling open the windows of whatever hotel was staying at, fling seed around the room, and invite the birds inside.

Unsurprisingly, the hotels didn’t like this. His devotion to his pigeons cost Tesla tenancy at the St. Regis, the Hotel Pennsylvania, and the Hotel Governor Clinton. When he moved into the New Yorker, the hotel toyed with evicting him for his bird-feeding shenanigans, but decided against it when they realized that the bad publicity would cost them more than the warehouse of bleach they would need to clean his room every day.

Nikola Tesla
“And these free Tesla coils have increased staff productivity by 400 percent!”

Towards the end of his life, Tesla retreated more and more into his homeless lady shtick. After he was knocked down by a taxi and rendered unable to walk, he was so afraid that his beloved pigeons would go hungry he would dispatch Western Union couriers to his usual haunt to dump out his birdseed, continually haranguing them by telephone until it was done.

It gets a lot sadder when you learn that Tesla actually fell in love with one of these birds, a beautiful all-white specimen that could, allegedly, find him wherever he was in the city. That’s not us being hyperbolic when we talk about love, either. As he described it, “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.” When the bird became sick, Tesla stopped going to work at his lab just to tend to her. And when she died, he lost all will to live, even turning his back on his scientific pursuits.

via PBS
“Nikola Tesla died in his hotel room on January 7, 1943, surrounded by his loved ones. And their poop.”

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