During his early education and subsequent college schooling, several unique qualities began to manifest themselves in Tesla. One of the most noted of these was his eidetic, or photographic memory. At a young age, he began to have random bouts of blank vision and white lights accosting his mind and eyesight. It was during these times that he claimed to see vivid visions of imaginary things. Occasionally, these images were so vivid that he enlisted his sisters to help him distinguish reality from imagination.
With this amazing ability, he saw not only imaginary things, but also inventions of which he was theorizing. He described the ability to conceive an idea, and then construct working, three-dimensional models within his mind's vision. He used these mental models to experiment, tinker and calculate with, ultimately arriving at the point where a perfect working model could be constructed, all using the models which he had retained in his mind. I imagine that most of us wish we had the "problem" of a photographic memory!
These abilities would play a major role in the rest of his life. During the same period in which he developed these special abilities, he began to fixate on one particular concept. We know it today as alternating current electricity, but during Tesla's early life, it had been written off as an impossibility. Direct current electricity was the form adopted by the early electrical pioneers and they believed unflinchingly that alternating current was useless and uncontrollable. Tesla, however, believed that alternating current (AC) could be harnessed and used to produce much more than direct current (DC) would ever be possible of producing. This early AC idea in Tesla's mind became a driving force in his education and early life.
The new avenue of schooling proved to be short lived for Tesla. His father had died, forcing Nikola to earn his own living. At the suggestion of a family friend, he moved once again, this time to Budapest. The year was 1881.
Assorted odd jobs and sporadic employment left Tesla with spare time, time that he spent in theory and invention. Some of his jobs allowed him to gain practical experience in electricity, experience which he put to good use. Every spare moment was spent in tinkering with his AC theories; unfortunately, Tesla pushed himself too hard and suffered a physical breakdown. His passion for life proved to be his salvation, as he recovered from his lapse and emerged with as much energy as before.
Here another of Tesla's marvelous abilities comes to the fore. He described an epiphany that led him to realize his dream of a practical AC application. Similarly to incidents of his youth, Tesla said that the revolutionary principles were fully envisioned by him in a single instant while walking through the park with his friend. Where he stood, Tesla knelt and drew a diagram of his vision in the dirt pathway. History would prove that Tesla had discovered the theory behind the rotating magnetic field, an invention that would prove integral in electric development.
After envisioning his sought after breakthrough, Tesla feverishly set out to make those visions reality. He was able to construct working models of many various motors that utilized his newly discovered principles and as any young inventor would, he set out to find the people with the money.
Tesla's quest for funding and recognition led him to Paris, the center of fashion. He was not interested in fashion though, but rather in a European offshoot of a famously American inventor's company. Edison Continental was Thomas Edison's mission to spread his influence overseas from his iconic enclave, Menlo Park, New Jersey. By aligning himself with Edison Continental, Tesla hoped to first of all secure gainful employment and then boost his reputation within the company so he could present the leaders with is new ideas and inventions.
He was hired by the company to assist with their endeavors in and around Paris. This job was extremely beneficial for the young Tesla, as he gained hands-on experience with power, lighting and wiring various buildings in France. Having bolstered his reputation with the American-based company, Tesla approached them with his ideas and a working model he had labored to build during his scarce spare time.
Some debate exists as to what exactly Edison Continental's response was. The debates could occupy a large space, so suffice it to say that Tesla was referred in some manner to take his ideas to the big man himself, Mr. Thomas Edison, The Wizard of Menlo Park. Tesla was not wealthy in the least and he only secured his passage through the aid of his family back home, but secured it he did. Just as aspiring men and women have for several hundred years, Nikola Tesla, native of Croatia and rising mind in electrical theory circles, departed for the New World in the spring of 1884. He endured a theft and a hard journey, but he debarked in New York City with all that he needed to change the world safely lodged within the repositories of his mind.