Serbia has protested to the European Union after one of its publications described inventor and electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla as a Croat.
Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic said on Saturday he has sent the protest note to Brussels after the EU’s Learning Corner site for children described Tesla as a “famous Croatian” who was one of the first people to discover X-ray imaging.
An ethnic Serb born in 1856 in the Austrian Empire in present-day Croatia, Tesla spent most of his life abroad, working in Budapest and Paris before emigrating to the U.S. in 1884 where he assumed American citizenship. He died in New York in 1943.
History books quote him as saying that he was proud of his Serb origin and his Croat homeland.
Tesla’s ethnicity has long been just one of many disputes and points of contention between neighboring Balkan rivals Serbia and Croatia, which once were both part of the Yugoslav federation that broke up in a civil war in the 1990s. Croatia is an EU member, while Serbia is seeking membership.
Tesla’s ashes are preserved in a gold-colored sphere in the Nikola Tesla museum in the Serbian capital. His sculptures are on display in both Belgrade and the Croatian capital, Zagreb.
Tesla is best known for developing the alternating current that helped safely distribute electricity at great distances, including from the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls in the mid-1890s. He experimented with X-ray and radio technology, working in rivalry with Thomas Edison. Car manufacturer Tesla is named after him.
Serbia’s culture minister has demanded an apology from the EU for the “fake” description of Tesla’s origins.