Category Archives: Nikola Tesla

You May Live To See Man-Made Horrors Beyond Your Comprehension

Nikola Tesla? Apocryphal?

tesla08Dear Quote Investigator: Nikola Tesla was a brilliant inventor and showman with a science fictional mystique. The following ominous quotation is attributed to him:

You may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.

Would you please help to find a solid citation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a 1947 “Esquire” magazine profile of Nikola Tesla titled “Ahead of His Time” by Dick Holdsworth. The quotation was spoken by the inventor during a demonstration held in New York: 1

At the first Electrical Exhibition held in the old Madison Square Garden in 1898 the inventor astonished spectators as he controlled by radio remote control an iron rowboat, which floated in a large tank of water in the center of the arena.

Tesla successfully operated a propeller attached to an electric motor, and he guided the small boat through intricate movements with a rudder. The observer’s reactions to the remarkable display were influenced by a mysterious event that occurred in February 1898. An explosion ripped through the warship USS Maine while it was docked in Havana Harbor and it quickly sank. Unsurprisingly, an unnamed military man observing Tesla’s demonstration envisioned the watercraft as a potential weapon, Emphasis added by QI: 2

“Why, with your radio boat—loaded with dynamite—we would have any enemy navy in the world at the bottom in no time,” exclaimed an admiral who saw the demonstration.

“With this principle,” replied Nikola Tesla more prophetically than he knew, “you may live to see man-made horrors beyond your comprehension.”

Tesla’s words were reportedly spoken forty-nine years before the “Esquire” article appeared in 1947, and Tesla himself died four years before publication in 1943. Thus, the credibility of this ascriptional evidence is reduced. Perhaps future researchers will be able to build on this lead.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

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Notes:

  1. 1947 October, Esquire, Volume 28, Number 4, Ahead of His Time by Dick Holdsworth, Start Page 124, Quote Page 125, Column 1, Esquire Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)
  2. 1947 October, Esquire, Volume 28, Number 4, Ahead of His Time by Dick Holdsworth, Start Page 124, Quote Page 125, Column 1, Esquire Inc., New York. (Verified on microfilm)