SMILJAN, Croatia, 11 July 2006 – Croatia marked on Monday 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 Serb, a son of Croatia and a citizen of the world,” Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.
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 and representatives of Croatian Serbs.
The officials emphasised that Tesla symbolised 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 the scientist’s statement that he was equally proud of his Serb origin and Croatian homeland.
“There were not many individuals from this region who reached the top by their vision and ideas, but those who did are our joint treasure,” Tadic said.
“Both Serbia and Croatia had many great moments in the history as well as great men who marked our joint past.”
“Those men testify to both our joint history and big opportunities,” he added.
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.
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.
Though he made the cover of Time magazine in 1931, Tesla died alone and impoverished in a New York hotel 12 years later at the age of 86. It is said that his brilliance was not matched by an equal business acumen.