Since the steampunk community so often refers to the gentleman, I wanted to find out more about the esteemed Nikola Tesla besides information about the always-dramatic (and fun!) Tesla Coil.
Tesla was born on the 10th of July, 1856 in Croatia. After working in Europe on telegraphs and loudspeaker technology until 1884, he moved to the United States to work with Thomas Edison on direct current generators. Tesla reworked Edison's design to make it more efficient, for which Edison refused to pay him the agreed-upon amount, and Tesla resigned from the company.
In 1886, he started his own company in New York City, and invented many technologies that are familiar today, such as A/C current electricity, spark plugs (patented as "electric igniter"), and radio remote controlled vehicles.
Tesla had an eidetic memory. "While a person with photographic memory will precisely recall visual information, a person with eidetic memory is not limited to merely visual recall – theoretically they can recall other aspects of the event including sensory information that is visual, auditory, tactile, gustatory, and olfactory, as well as other dimensions."(from Wikipedia) He often would not draw his inventions much or at all before beginning construction; instead, he would visualize every aspect of them as needed throughout the process. The descriptions of his visions also seem to match how synesthetes describe their way of looking at the world.
Other facts about Nikola Tesla: along with his native tongue he also spoke Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin; he liked animals, especially pigeons, which he fed every day; he developed extreme OCD early in life, a disease which at that time was seen as partial insanity; later in life, he became vegetarian for both ethical and medical reasons, eating only honey, bread and vegetables.
In the 1890's, became friends with Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain). On an unrelated note, Tesla believed that his celibacy aided his scientific progress. Despite his sacrifice, Tesla never won the Nobel Prize (he was nominated in 1915 along with Edison, and neither won, supposedly because of their bitter dispute over the superiority of alternating vs. direct current). Tesla held more than 278 patents when he died on 7 January 1943 at age 86 alone at the New Yorker Hotel, $20,000 in debt.
Some modern tributes to Tesla/things named for him:
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Nikola Tesla Award (an award given for an outstanding contribution to the generation or utilization of electric power.)
the rock band Tesla
Tesla Motors, which makes electric cars
a crater on the moon
a street corner in Manhattan
a USPS stamp in 1983
the Nikola Tesla Museum
ZOMG Scents Tesla cologne
I hope you have enjoyed learning more about this fascinating historical figure!