Nikola Tesla was born on July 9, 1856, in Smiljan, a village in rural Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He was the son of a Serbian Orthodox priest who was a notable preacher, and a clever and inventive, though uneducated mother. Tesla was the second son in a family of two boys and three girls. His brilliant twelve-year-old brother, Dane, died accidentally when Nikola was five years old.
Tesla grew up a keenly imaginative child becoming fluent in six languages and developing a fascination for mechanical contraptions. A science prodigy, he was destined for the family occupations of priesthood or the military, but was able, during a childhood illness, to get permission to pursue his dreams in science. He described his adventurous imaginings to be much more than dreams; instead, they were highly detailed visualizations with a dash of intuition added.
Between the age of ten and fourteen Tesla attended school in the town of Gospic, graduating as a brilliant student who had taught himself as much outside the classroom as he had learned inside. During the following three years at college in Carlstadt, Tesla discovered his lifetime passion: the science of electricity. His announcement of this choice was resisted by his parents but decisions delayed when Tesla succumbed to the cholera epidemic in his hometown. He was dangerously ill and restricted for a year, and when he recovered, his father permitted his son's engineering ambitions to go forward.