Today is inventor Nikola Tesla’s 157th birthday.
The Serbian engineer, who moved to the U.S. at age 35, is considered one of the most important and most overlooked inventors of all time — as he lost the spotlight again and again in the 19th century to the flashier Thomas Edison. Indeed, his rivalry with Edison morphed into one of the most epic battles of all time.
Like so many brillant artists and inventors Tesla didn’t gain real acclaim until after his death at age 86: Many modern science and history enthusiasts have developed a fondness for him. The man behind the online comic The Oatmeal even raised money to buy the long-forgotten land where Tesla’s laboratory once stood and build a Tesla museum there. He ended up raising more than $1.3 million for the museum.
In honor of Tesla’s birthday, we’ve rounded up some the most important things that you may not realize Tesla invented.
1. The Remote Control
Tesla first demonstrated the remote control in 1898, when he showed off a radio-controlled boat in Madison Square Garden. Tesla reportedly hoped that remote-controlled weapons would someday be used by the government.
Tesla’s remote-controlled boat is considered to be one of the first robots. Tesla has been called “the father of robotics,” so you can thank and/or blame him for pretty much everything from R2D2 to Google’s self-driving cars.
3. Electric Motors
Ever wonder where the electric car company Tesla got it’s name? Nikola Tesla invented the AC motor in 1888. The Tesla Roadster’s motor is a direct descendant of Nikola Tesla’s original invention. Tesla was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame for that invention in 1975.
4. The Radio
Tesla’s invention of the radio was hotly debated in in early 20th century. Italian scientist Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have invented the radio, but he actually used technology that Tesla patented to make his first radio transmission in 1901. After much debate, the U.S. Supreme court eventually ruled in Tesla’s favor, recognizing him as the radio’s inventor in 1943. Unfortunately, this occurred months after Tesla’s death.
5. Neon Lighting