Croatia marks 150th anniversary of inventor's birth
A newly erected monument of scientist Nikola Tesla stands in his native village of Smiljan. Croatia has marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, one of the pioneers of modern electrical engineering, who won fame in the United States as one of the world's greatest inventors.(AFP/Hrvoje Polan)
by Zeljka Bilandzija
Mon Jul 10, 12:34 PM ET
SMILJAN, Croatia (AFP) - Croatia has marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, one of the pioneers of modern electrical engineering, who won fame in the United States as one of the world's greatest inventors.
"I am happy that we are here today to celebrate Tesla, a Croatian Serb, a son of Croatia and a citizen of the world," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said Monday.
He spoke at a ceremony held just near the house where the scientist, an ethnic Serb, was born in 1856 in the south-central village of Smiljan while Croatia was a part of the old Austro-Hungarian empire.
The event was attended along with several hundred people by Prime Minister Ivo Sanader, Mesic's Serbian counterpart Boris Tadic, other officials, foreign diplomats and representatives of Croatian Serbs.
The officials emphasized that Tesla symbolized Croatia's and Serbia's shared past before the bloody break-up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
They said his anniversary could be an occasion for further boosting of trust between the two countries, citing notably the scientist's statement that he was equally proud of his Serb origin and Croatian homeland.
Ties between Croatia and Serbia have been gradually improving since Zagreb's 1991-1995 war of independence from the former Yugoslavia. During the war Belgrade politically and militarily backed Serb rebels who fought Zagreb forces. "I am happy that this ceremony is an opportunity to show that Croat-Serb relations are definitely entering a normal phase," Mesic emphasized.
In Smiljan, the officials opened a Tesla memorial complex, including his restored childhood house.
It has been turned into a museum with exhibits focusing on the early years and first inventions of the gifted child, who defied his father's wish that he follow in his footsteps and become a priest. The complex also includes a multimedia centre connected to the Niagara Falls power plant in the United States, which was designed by the inventor. Later in the day a monument to the scientist which was destroyed at the outbreak of the 1991-1995 war was to be unveiled in the nearby town of Gospic. The Croatian government late last year declared 2006 "The Year of Nikola Tesla."
The US ambassador to Croatia and US President George W. Bush's envoy for the occasion, Robert Bradtke, recalled a message sent by Bush to Mesic in May to mark Tesla's anniversary. "Nikola Tesla is a proof that real greatness surpasses national borders and differences," Bradtke said in the Croatian language, quoting comments made by Bush. At the age of 28, Tesla moved to the United States where his genius blossomed as he churned out a vast of array of inventions, the most famous of which was the alternating current (AC) motor, used the world over today.
A pioneer in the days when electricity was changing everyday life, Tesla was touted last year as one of the 100 greatest Americans by the Discovery Channel, the US cable television science and nature network. He patented more than 700 inventions over the years, including wireless communication, remote control and fluorescent lighting. Though he made the cover of Time magazine in 1931, Tesla, by then a naturalised American who saw himself as a citizen of the world, died alone in a New York hotel 12 years later at the age of 86.