Richard Munson

Tesla’s inventions transformed our world, and his visions have continued to inspire great minds for generations.

Nikola Tesla invented the radio, robots, and remote control. His electric induction motors run our appliances and factories, yet he has been largely overlooked by history. In Tesla, Richard Munson presents a comprehensive portrait of this farsighted and underappreciated mastermind.

When his first breakthrough — alternating current, the basis of the electric grid — pitted him against Thomas Edison’s direct-current empire, Tesla’s superior technology prevailed. Unfortunately, he had little business sense and could not capitalize on this success. His most advanced ideas went unrecognized for decades: forty years in the case of the radio patent, longer still for his ideas on laser beam technology. Although penniless during his later years, he never stopped imagining. In the early 1900s, he designed plans for cell phones, the Internet, death-ray weapons, and interstellar communications. His ideas have lived on to shape the modern economy.

Who was this genius? Drawing on letters, technical notebooks, and other primary sources, Munson pieces together the magnificently bizarre personal life and mental habits of the enigmatic inventor. Born during a lightning storm at midnight, Tesla died alone in a New York City hotel. He was an acute germaphobe who never shook hands and required nine napkins when he sat down to dinner. Strikingly handsome and impeccably dressed, he spoke eight languages and could recite entire books from memory. Yet Tesla’s most famous inventions were not the product of fastidiousness or linear thought but of a mind fueled by both the humanities and sciences: he conceived the induction motor while walking through a park and reciting Goethe’s Faust.

Tesla worked tirelessly to offer electric power to the world, to introduce automatons that would reduce life’s drudgery, and to develop machines that might one day abolish war. His story is a reminder that technology can transcend the marketplace and that profit is not the only motivation for invention. This clear, authoritative, and highly readable biography takes account of all phases of Tesla’s remarkable life.

Praise for Tesla: Inventor of the Modern

A lucid, expertly researched biography of the brilliant Nikola Tesla. (Readers) will absolutely enjoy (Munson’s) sympathetic, insightful portrait.”


Penetrating biography. … Munson makes vivid the genius’s eventful life. Munson makes vivid the genius’s eventful life, from his mother’s inspirational labour-saving inventions to his psychological complexity — and his estimable belief that technology should transcend the marketplace.’”


Brisk, entertaining….thoroughly researched….[a] generous, penetrating portrait.”

The Washington Independent Review of Books

Munson capably describes Tesla as a man before his time, often misunderstood because few shared his imagination and insight. Entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, and futurists will find this biography inspiring.”

Library Journal

Rich in historical and personal detail, Tesla tells the extraordinary story of the eccentric and enigmatic inventor whose genius transformed the global power industry.”

Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)

Celebratory, comprehensive profile. ….A well-written, insightful addition to the legacy of this still-underappreciated visionary genius.”


Superbly researched, entertaining; … electric, insightful, revelatory. It can only be hoped that Munson’s excellent insight will finally reveal the truth behind this marvelous maverick to the world.”

All About History

Tesla’s life was rich in fascinating incident and characters – and, above all, spectacle. … Munson tells the story engagingly. He manages to explain the important concepts and technical details clearly while keeping extraneous detail to a minimum.”

— Times (London) Literary Supplement (TLS)

A most interesting and often amusing book. … Gives us a detailed and vivid glimpse of the competitive world of electrical innovation at the end of the 19th century”

The Spectator (UK)

Clear, authoritative, and highly readable biography takes account of all phases of Tesla’s remarkable life.”

— Bookshop Santa Cruz (Staff Pick)

This book gives Tesla his proper due and provides insight into his genius and life.”