NIKOLA TESLA: “Our civilization will sink to a state like that which is found among the bees, ants and other insects – a state wherein the male is ruthlessly killed off.”
Famous Scientist Felt Unworthy of Woman as She Used To Be, and Now He Can’t Endure Her Trying to Outdo the Men
Galveston Daily News, Texas, page 23
August 10, 1924
WHEN a man who has made a name for himself deliberately chooses to remain a bachelor the world is naturally curious to know what the reasons were that impelled him to this choice.
Marriage has come to be considered the natural thing for every normal man, and when some pre-eminent man shows a firm determination to sidestep it everybody wonders whether his superior intelligence has revealed to him some fatal defects in the institution of matrimony which are not apparent to the average person.
But the public’s curiosity in this respect is seldom gratified. Most of the distinguished bachelors try to pass off their bachelorhood as a joke, saying that it is not a matter of choice, but because they have never been able to find a woman who would marry them. As a rule, they are singularly averse to giving any serious reasons for their failure to become husbands.
Nikola Tesla, the great scientist and inventor, is a striking exception to this rule. In a recent interview with a representative of this newspaper he frankly explains why he has never married and why he probably never will marry.
And in connection with his explanation he presents some ideas about woman’s freedom and what he thinks it is sure to lead to that will be read with interest by those who agree with him as well as by the many who will not.
[Caption: “In place of the soft voiced, gentle woman of my reverent worship,” says Mr. Tesla, “has come the woman who thinks that her chief success in life lies in making herself as much as possible like man–in dress, voice and actions, in sports and achievements of every kind”]
In the past the reason why Mr. Tesla never married was because his estimation of woman placed her on such a lofty pedestal that he could never bring himself to feel worthy of her. Now that she has, as he feels, stepped down from her pedestal and bartered all her noblest qualities for what is called her “freedom,” he is even more disinclined to matrimony than he was before.
Although of course Mr. Tesla is too gallant a gentleman to say it in so many words, his comments let it be inferred that he thinks the new woman almost as far beneath him as the one of other days was above him. According to his views, the sex has rushed from one extreme to another of quite a different kind, and in the plunge it has left for Mr. Tesla and other bachelors who think as he does no “happy medium” such as Josiah Allen’s wife used to declare one of the essentials to happiness.
[Caption: Ida Schnall, the all-around woman athlete, in a boxing bout with Willie Bradley–a sure indication, according to Mr. Tesla’s rather gloomy views, that our civilization is deteriorating]
“I had always thought of woman,” says Mr. Tesla, “as possessing those delicate qualities of mind and soul that made her in these respects far superior to man. I had put her on a lofty pedestal, figuratively speaking, and ranked her in certain important attributes considerably higher than man. I worshiped at the feet of the creature I had raised to this height, and, like every true worshiper, I felt myself unworthy of the object of my worship.
“But all this was in the past. Now the soft-voiced gentle woman of my reverent worship has all but vanished. In her place has come the woman who thinks that her chief success in life lies in making herself as much as possible like man–in dress, voice and actions, in sports and achievements of every kind.”
In those words the great electrical genius sums up the reasons for his bachelorhood.
Some who read them will urge that his view of womankind is distorted by the years he has spent in the laboratory, dealing with inanimate things and developing perhaps an abnormal shyness which acts as an insuperable barrier to marriage. Others will say that the very fact of his detachment from the ordinary routine of life makes him all the better qualified to point out its defects and to criticize the change for the worse which he believes new conditions have brought to womankind.
[Caption: Nikola Tesla, the electrical wizard whose discoveries paved the way for this radio age]
“Women,” says Mr. Tesla, “are becoming stronger than men, both physically and mentally.
“The world has experienced many tragedies, but to my mind the greatest tragedy of all is the present economic condition wherein women strive against men, and in many cases actually succeed in usurping their places in the professions and in industry. This growing tendency of women to overshadow the masculine is a sign of a deteriorating civilization.
“Woman’s determined competition with man in the business world is breaking down some of the best traditions–things which have proved the moving factors in the world’s slow but substantial progress.
“Practically all the great achievements of man until now have been inspired by his love and devotion to woman. Man has aspired to great things because some woman believed in him, because he wished to command her admiration and respect. For these reasons he has fought for her and risked his life and his all for her time and time again.
“Perhaps the male in human society is useless. I am frank to admit that I don’t know. If women are beginning to feel this way about it–and there is striking evidence at hand that they do–then we are entering upon the cruelest period of the world’s history.
“Our civilization will sink to a state like that which is found among the bees, ants and other insects–a state wherein the male is ruthlessly killed off. In this matriarchal empire which will be established the female rules. As the female predominates, the males are at her mercy. The male is considered important only as a factor in the general scheme of the continuity of life.
“The tendency of women to push aside man, supplanting the old spirit of cooperation with him in all the affairs of life, is very disappointing to me.
“Woman’s independence and her cleverness in obtaining what she wants in the business world is breaking down man’s spirit of independence. The old fire he once experienced at being able to achieve something that would compel and hold a woman’s devotion is turning to ashes.
“Women don’t seem to want that sort of thing to-day. They appear to want to control and govern. They want man to look up to them, instead of their looking up to him.”
Mr. Tesla is not given to making statements that he cannot prove. His life’s work has been based on logic, not on guesses.
[Caption: Mrs. Davenport Engberg, the director of a symphony orchestra and a good example of the way women are entering fields that used to be exclusively men’s]
In voicing his gloomy views of modern life Mr. Tesla says his observations are not confined to the women of this country. Conditions abroad, he says, suggest that the same tendency is world-wide. Having always regarded woman as a super-being, he expresses great sadness over the change he thinks the last few years have brought in her.
“I am considering this question not merely from the standpoint of a man,” he points out. “I am thinking of the woman’s side of it.
“As we contemplate any change, we naturally take into consideration the results that may follow such an innovation. One of the results to my mind is quite a pathetic one. Woman, herself, is really the victim instead of, as she thinks, the victor. Contentment is absent from her life. She is ambitious, often far beyond her natural equipment, to attain the thing she wants. She too frequently forgets that all women cannot be prima donnas and motion picture stars.
“Woman’s discontent makes the life of the present day still more overstressed. The high pitch given to existence by people who are restless and dissatisfied because they fail to achieve things wholly out of proportion to the health and talent with which Nature has endowed them is a bad thing for the world.
“It seems to me that women are not particularly happy in this newly found freedom, in this new competition which they are waging so persistently against men in business and the professions and even in sport. The question that naturally arises is, whether the women themselves are the gainers or the losers.
“Discontent makes for cranks and unnatural people. There seems to be an uncommon number of them about to-day. This is one of the reasons I remain apart from the crowds. The public, or semi-public, character is the target for all sorts of attacks and unpleasant communications.
[Caption: A woman worker in a Michigan railroad machine shop]
“For example, I used to receive all sorts of strange notes, many of them letters from cranks threatening my life, because they had read about my experiments in manufacturing lightning bolts. They wrote that they believed I was using these lightning flashes to kill them!
“It seems to me that anything which adds to the great discontent which we observe on every side to-day must be a bad influence on our life. Women who keep themselves agitated by their tremendous ambition to beat man at his game are losing at the same time something that counts for more in the end, it seems to me, than the empty honors that success in business or one of the professions can ever give.
“The power of the true woman is so great that I believe if a beautiful woman–that is to say, one beautiful in spirit, in manner and in thought, in fact, beautiful in every respect, a sort of goddess–were to appear suddenly on earth, she could command the whole world. Her leadership, I believe, would be universally recognized.
“History has given us many examples of the wonderful influence exerted by unusual women. Among these have been the mothers of great men. But their influence lay not in their determination to outdo man, or even to compete with him.
“Perhaps because woman is a finer and more highly sensitized instrument she knows by instinct her power and understands that the extent of it lies in the high position she takes for herself. But the superior never descends to the level of the commonplace.”
These views of Nikola Tesla will be received with great interest, whether one agrees or not with his idea that woman in her new role is a sinister force that is going to pull down to ruin our whole social structure. He is generally recognized as one of the greatest mentalities of the present day.
[Caption: Renee Prahar, one of many women who are trying to outstrip the men in sculpture]
Twenty years ago Tesla astonished the world by flashing a wireless message clear around the globe. His experimental work paved the way for the radio age in which we are now living. Many scientists think it quite possible that one of his highly sensitized machines actually caught signals from Mars.
For several years past he has been living in comparative seclusion in the Colorado Rockies, devoting himself to the perfection of two or three inventions which he expects will revolutionize methods of transportation and communication. He is almost ready to explain to the world a way of transmitting electrical energy without the use of wires.
This will enable the energy from some great source of power like Niagara Falls to be quickly and economically transmitted to any desired part of the earth–and, perhaps, some day to Mars and other planets.
Some philosopher has said that it is as perilous for a man to say he will never marry as for a physician to try to predict the exact hour of a person’s death. Mr. Tesla is not an old man. Perhaps he will live long enough to find some woman who will be able to convince him that she has attained her new freedom without sacrificing any of the womanly qualities which he so greatly admires.