An anecdote from the reception: Nikola Tesla and “the highest possible title”

Illustration, FakeNews Tragač

Original article (in Serbian) was published on 16/09/2023; Author: Ivan Subotić

What is the highest possible title a man can have? King? Emperor? Prime Minister, President? If we were to rely on stories from social networks, our famous scientist Nikola Tesla would answer this question with “being a Serb”.

In the tweet of the user @MAKSIMUSMAGNUS, which was seen by almost 50 thousand people by the time of this analysis, it is stated that in 1919 Tesla answered the question “What is your title?” to the receptionist in a Parisian hotel with “the highest possible”, and then explained that he is a “Serb” and that “dignity and obligation are higher than royalty”.

Look into the autobiography

The Twitter user who posted this short story states that it is an autobiographical record, that is, it originates from Tesla’s autobiography entitled “My Inventions”. He clarifies this in the comments, responding to other users who doubted the authenticity of the quote. In the comments, Maksimus also mentions that he believed the story because he saw it in several media, but he also admits that he did not check the authenticity of the quotes in the book itself. The editors of FN Tragac decided to do it for him and after looking into Tesla’s autobiography, they discovered that this story is not featured in it.

Paris is mentioned 10 times in Tesla’s autobiography “My Inventions”, but there is no hotel, receptionist or story about the highest possible title. According to the biography, Tesla stayed in Paris between 1883 and 1884, before he left Europe and headed to the United States. During those years, he travelled on business in other parts of France, as well as in Germany. According to his autobiography, Tesla stayed in Paris for a short time in 1892, before returning to his hometown for a while.

So, the record according to which Tesla spoke to the receptionist in a Parisian hotel in 1919 and spoke of his Serbian nationality as the highest title, definitely does not come from his autobiography. Also, 1919 was actually the year when his autobiography “My Inventions” was published, so it does not correspond to the period that Tesla spent in Paris according to the autobiography.

Where could a Twitter user come across this information?
As he explained in the comments, the Twitter user came across this information in the media. From time to time, it appears in a slightly modified form on social networks (1, 2). However, while some media also refer to Tesla’s autobiographical records (1, 2 ), others (1, 2) say that it is an anecdote that the scientist told his friend Mojo Medic during his stay in Belgrade and that he later passed it on to journalists.