Nikola Tesla and the Science of ‘a Successful Paranoia’
This essay offers a psychoanalytic reading of Nikola Tesla’s remarkable text My Inventions, a series of articles published in 1919 for the Electrical Experimenter magazine, edited by Hugo Gernsback (Tesla, 2011). The paper argues that the famous ‘elementary phenomena’ described in these articles operate as proto-linguistic elements or enigmatic ‘signifiers’ that form the basis of his subsequent scientific inquiry. These articles demonstrate that unusually for a scientist, Tesla did not give up on the object cause of his knowledge nor on his own position as the subject of his inventions – indeed I argue that his inventions were the means by which Tesla created and realized himself as a subject. I discuss in particular two of Tesla’s inventions: the Rotating Magnetic Field, that is the basis for the AC induction motor, and the Magnifying Transmitter in the context of Tesla’s own accounts of their ‘psychological’ genesis. I will suggest that it was through these electrical inventions in particular that Tesla managed to design a form of subjectivation that enabled him to stabilize his schizophrenic symptoms and disclose the coherence and efficacy of knowledge and delusion. In so doing Tesla’s inventions perhaps point the way towards the delivery of science as ‘a successful paranoia’, in the terms of Jacques Lacan.
This is an Open Access journal. All material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) licence, unless otherwise stated.
Please read our Open Access, Copyright and Permissions policies for more information.