The astrological profiles of three inventive geniuses
Discover the astrological profiles of three inventors whose discoveries changed the world: Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace.
Flip a switch and a dark room is instantly showered with incandescent light powered by a dynamo thousands of miles away. Save a life with radiation treatment for a growth that could be deadly if untreated. Use a laptop to single-handedly perform tasks that would’ve taken scores of people to do in the past.
Although inventions like AC electricity, radiation treatment and usage, and early computers like the analytical engine involve many people, usually there’s one person who stands out as the genius behind the gadget. With each of the inventions mentioned above, their inspiration could be embodied in the lives and work of Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace respectively.
Yet, just as the Sun’s light casts shadows, you’ll see how each individual struggled through dark periods to share the light that became their legacy. Let’s explore how their history correlates to aspects of their birth chart.
Nikola Tesla: The makings of a dynamo
You could say some of Tesla’s success comes from his inability to take a joke.
When Nikola Tesla immigrated to the United States in 1884, he had already been hard at work installing a growing number of electric power utilities headed up by the Continental Edison Company in Paris, France, where he had gained practical experience in designing and building improved versions of generation dynamos and motors.
As a result, Tesla was convinced his expertise would be appreciated and duly compensated. This made it easy for him to believe Thomas Edison, or an Edison manager (there are differing versions of this tale), when he told Tesla he would be paid a $50,000 bonus to design 24 different types of standard machines.
Tesla’s preoccupation with power and energy seems apt as he has both Pluto and Uranus in Taurus in his first house.
When a persistent and obsessive Tesla had fulfilled his end of the bargain, he was reportedly told, “Tesla, you don’t understand our American humour.” Tesla probably didn’t grasp that the company didn’t have that kind of cash on hand — the equivalent of US$2 million today. Regardless, Tesla quit working for Edison and, in 1885, at 29 and during his first Saturn return, struck out on his own.
Tesla started Tesla Electric Light and Manufacturing. Unfortunately his company’s board changed the direction of the company within a year, leaving him penniless. He even lost ownership of his patents since he had given them to the company for stock equity. Tesla ended up digging ditches for Edison’s company for $2 a day. Of his hardship during this time he wrote, “My high education in various branches of science, mechanics and literature seemed to me like a mockery.”
In 1886, aged 30 and just coming out of his Saturn return, Tesla met new allies and investors and formed another company — also named after him. This company, with its fresh ideas and patents on alternating current, led to a licensing agreement that eventually made him independently wealthy by the time he was 33.
Unfortunately Tesla continued to have more ups and downs, including a fire in 1895 that set back many of his developing projects. Kicked out of a series of New York City hotels for delinquent rent and the mess associated with his obsessive-compulsive care for pigeons, Tesla died alone in 1943 at the New Yorker hotel.
Let’s explore Tesla’s astrology chart. Tesla’s preoccupation with power and energy seems apt as he has both Pluto and Uranus in Taurus in his first house.
Pluto, the planet of power and force, is close to his Taurus ascendant, and in a partile (exact) sextile to Saturn in Cancer. Not only was Tesla incredibly driven, as his prominent Pluto would suggest, he also wanted to find a way for the world to be energised more effectively and efficiently. With these aspects, it wasn’t enough for Tesla to innovate, he also wanted to improve.
Saturn is the ruler of his Midheaven (career) and Part of Fortune, and is in detriment in Cancer. This implies his noble aspirations would not always be straightforward or fully appreciated, and that patience and perseverance would be needed on his part.
The Moon’s potency is complicated by its conjunction to Mars, also in detriment in Libra, and the South Node in the 6th House. This speaks of the challenges Tesla had in his teens and how fastidious and controlling he was with his routines and work. It also creates a dynamic T-square pattern involving the Mars-Moon-South Node in Libra, Jupiter and the North Node in Aries, and Saturn, Venus and the Sun in Cancer. It’s known that Tesla didn’t sleep more than two hours a night, often working through the night. Despite his willingness to be without barriers to work, like sleeping regularly, he was extremely obsessed with his own routines and rituals.
Today, psychologists might diagnose Tesla with obsessive-compulsive disorder. He was always meticulously dressed and well-groomed and had a regimented and limited diet, mainly vegetarian with occasional meat, and a great love for whiskey. Tesla was also a germophobe, a condition possibly brought on by an illness that nearly killed him at 17 years of age. Many of these challenges can be seen by the pressure of the T-square pattern in his chart.
The variations in his career become clear when you consider that his Sun in Cancer is tightly opposed to his Midheaven — the career point. Tesla wasn’t just fascinated with energy; his chart indicates that he was steeped in it. Tesla found his way to safety and security, something the Sun in Cancer strongly desires, by working hard and observing various set rituals and ways of presentation.
Let’s come back to Tesla’s obsessive Pluto on his Taurus ascendant. Perhaps, for Tesla, electricity was a way to unleash the energy in his own tightly braided psychological wiring. Later in life Telsa risked and lost his fortune by trying to create a wireless means of transmitting energy and communication, perhaps mirroring his need to be free of his own wiring.
Similarly, the bounds and rebounds of his career are evident in the birth, death and rebirth themes associated with Pluto. Tesla’s Sun directly opposing his MC reiterates this need to find ascendancy by plunging deeper into the depths of whatever kept him bound up. Tesla never maintained that level of freedom for long — possibly because he always saw yet another thing that tied him down until he surged out of his mortal coil.
The radioactive passion of Marie Curie
Marie Curie, originally Maria Salomea Sklodowska, had a series of powerful loves; for science, her husband and research partner Pierre Curie, her family, her homeland Poland, and a few men with whom her love never had a chance to bloom. Along with her partner, Pierre, Marie was a pioneer in research on radioactivity and the first and only person to win the Nobel Prize twice.
In classical astrology the Sun represents father.
Curie’s first love was science. Marie tried to make good on her childhood interest, but, in Poland, as a woman, she couldn’t enrol in a conventional college or university. Instead, she and her sister enrolled in the clandestine Floating University, a Polish patriotic institution of higher learning that admitted women. Marie took a job as a nanny in the home of wealthy relatives and promised her sister that she would financially aid her sister’s studies in Paris if she returned the favour two years later.
Marie kept her promise to her beloved sister and continued her studies in secret. At 24 years of age, shortly after her second Jupiter return, Marie accepted her sister’s invitation to live with her and study in Paris. There she would come to embrace her first love, and a new one.
Shortly after arriving in Paris, Marie found her own apartment and plunged into the study of physics, chemistry and mathematics at the University of Paris. Within three years, she had earned two degrees. In the spring of 1894, Marie met Pierre Curie. After working closely with her in a laboratory they shared, Pierre fell in love with Marie.
Marie and Pierre were married in July 1895 — at Marie’s Lunar Node opposition. The couple had children, and Marie went on to become the first woman to complete a doctorate degree in science.
Building off innovative research with x-rays and the discovery that minerals containing uranium also gave off “radioactive” rays, the Curies plunged deeper into this research and it became their shared life’s work.
It’s remarkable that Marie has the planet Uranus (for which the element Uranium is named) exactly opposite her Ascendant. With her partner Pierre, symbolised by Uranus in the seventh house of relationships, she not only created a new branch of science but found success for discoveries about an element named for a prominent planet in her chart!
Marie has the Sun in Scorpio trine Uranus in Cancer in the 7th House of Partnership and Collaboration. A perfect astrological expression for brilliant innovations with a partner.
The final dispositor of her chart is Mars in Scorpio, a strongly placed planet in his natural rulership. Mars is also the ruler of her Midheaven, Sun, and Venus-Saturn conjunction. Marie, through love, grit and dogged research, befitting of her Scorpio stellium, especially with Venus and Saturn conjoined, broke open a whole new world of possibilities.
The Curie’s were recognised for their efforts in 1903 with their first Nobel Prize. The award catapulted them to new heights, with Pierre securing a chairmanship of the Physics department (full professorship), and the promise of a new laboratory.
Unfortunately, the volatility suggested by Marie’s Uranus in the 7th house, along with the difficulty of a Venus-Saturn conjunction, would erupt again. On 19 April 1906, Pierre slipped while dashing across a wet street and fell in front of a horse-drawn wagon, which crushed his skull, killing him instantly. On that day, transiting Saturn in Pisces was conjoined to Marie’s South Node, trine her natal Uranus and sextile to her Ascendant.
Marie’s story doesn’t end there. Some measure of that Venus-Saturn conjunction in the 11th house, along with Uranus in the 7th House of Open Enemies, played out again in Marie’s life.
In 1911, as transiting Saturn in Taurus opposed her Sun and Midheaven, the French Academy of Sciences denied Marie entry into their elite membership by one or two votes. It’s rumoured she was barred from entry because she was a foreigner and an atheist. The French public’s xenophobia at the time fuelled erroneous speculation that Curie was Jewish.
There was one piece of gossip that proved devastatingly true for Marie. An affair with a former student of her husband’s came to light. Even though he was estranged from his wife and she a widow, the sensationalism of the scandal ruined her burgeoning relationship, and her last known attempt at a romantic partnership.
However, 1911 was not without its blessings. Marie received her second Nobel Prize, for her discovery of the chemical elements radium and polonium. From then on, Marie centred her attention exclusively on work and family, until, on 4 July 1934, Marie Curie died from aplastic anemia, a blood condition resulting from exposure to high levels of radiation. What she loved had ultimately killed her.
Ada Byron Lovelace: The fiery, Lady Fairy with her father’s spirit
Augusta Ada Byron was the only legitimate child of famed poet and politician Lord Byron and his wife Lady Anne Isabella Byron. Lord Byron separated from his wife and left for the Mediterranean a month after Ada was born. Lady Byron prevented Ada from having any relationship with her father, who died when she was eight years old. To crush any possibility that Ada would end up like her father, Lady Byron steeped Ada in an education devoted to mathematics and logic.
Ada showed remarkable aptitude in mathematics, yet, she also seemed to embrace her absent father’s fanciful poetical spirit. Ada believed that intuition and imagination were essential to apply mathematical and scientific concepts correctly and effectively. She came to think of her work as “poetical science” and described herself as “an Analyst (& Metaphysician).” Ada’s astrological chart affirms much of this.
How Lord Byron stayed a shadowy yet prominent figure in Ada’s life can easily be attributed to her Sun-Neptune conjunction in the 9th house of Philosophy and Unfamiliar people and places. In classical astrology the Sun represents father. There’s little indication that Ada travelled much beyond England’s borders in her short life, but her distant father may have acted as an inspiration (Neptune) for her own poetry and visions.
Much of Ada’s vision and foresight comes from her fiery ninth house.
Astrologically, what might attest to her prowess with math and science is her dignified Saturn in Aquarius, the ruler of her career point, the Midheaven (MC). Methodical Saturn sextiles her Moon and Ascendant in Aries, and her Mercury-Uranus conjunction in Sagittarius. Ada had an inventive yet disciplined mind and likely enjoyed a complex mental challenge, especially one that was math related.
Though her mother, signified by her MC, (which is square her Moon), tried to erase Lord Byron from Ada’s memory, Ada kept her father and his inclinations close to her heart. The placement of the Moon, ruler of the fourth house of father, so prominently near her Ascendant shows he was never far from her thoughts. Ada has the Moon in independent Aries. She was determined to be her own person and to honour her father’s gifts to her. At her death, Ada insisted that she be interred next to her father.
The square between her MC and Moon might not only indicate Lady Byron’s obsession with controlling her daughter’s life for fear of Ada ending up like her father, but it can also testify to how mother and daughter were, in fact, very distant from each other. Most of Ada’s child-rearing duties were left to Ada’s doting maternal grandmother and other observers.
Ada was a favourite of the English Royal Court and became well known for her cultured manner, charm and brilliant mind. At 17, one other brilliant mind she attracted was Charles Babbage. She and Babbage came to develop a profound relationship, engaging in long walks and discussions about mathematics, science, and anything else that streaked across their minds. So impressed was Babbage by Ada that he dubbed her “the Enchantress of Number” and “Lady Fairy” — for her attempts to construct mechanical wings to fly like a fairy when she was just 12 years old. Eventually, Babbage showed Ada a prototype of a Difference Engine, an automatic calculator for advanced mathematical functions. She was fascinated with the machine.
When Babbage proposed a new type of machine, an Analytical Engine, Ada would dive headlong into research on it. It is her translation of an Italian mathematician’s article on this machine for which Ada is most well-known. She not only translated the article, she added her own notes. In those notes (three times longer than the original article), Ada described “how codes could be created for the device to handle letters and symbols along with numbers. She also theorised a method for the engine to repeat a series of instructions, a process known as looping that computer programs use today.1” A pioneering Aries Moon and Ascendant, indeed!
Ada saw more potential for the device beyond mere calculation abilities than even Babbage envisioned for it. Her analysis in these notes “anticipated the implications of modern computer one hundred years before they were realised.2” Much of Ada’s vision and foresight comes from her fiery ninth house, and especially from her Sun-Neptune conjunction in Sagittarius. This conjunction did bring other costs, besides her mysterious and absent father.
At 20, Ada married William King, a man nearly 11 years her senior, and birthed three children with him by the time she was 24. King became Lord of Lovelace and, by marriage, Ada became Lady Lovelace.
Ada’s historical bouts with illness became more complicated when she contracted cholera at 21 years of age. After her recovery, she continued to suffer with asthma and digestive issues. Doctors prescribed painkillers and her personality began to change. She experienced mood swings and hallucinations. One possible challenge for someone with a Sun-Neptune conjunction is drug addiction, delusions, and wild schemes. Ada had come to embrace some dimension of the life her mother had feared for her.
Her addiction might explain some of the scandal that materialised in Ada’s life. Ada gambled on horses — almost a cliché for a woman with the Sun in the sign of the Centaur. At 35, during her third Jupiter return, Ada’s love of math led to her forming a gambling syndicate with male friends to create a mathematical model for successful big bets. When the plot spectacularly failed, leaving Ada deep in debt, she had to confess her secret to her husband.
With Venus and Jupiter in tight-lipped Scorpio in her eighth house, Ada had still more secrets to share. At 36, while bedridden with uterine cancer, she confessed something to her husband on August 30 that prompted him to abandon her bedside and never speak to her again. She would take that secret to her grave, dying almost three months later on 27 November 1852.
Each of these inventors was driven by a love of and deep fascination with their fields of endeavour. It would be nearly impossible to separate any of the wondrous threads of their lives, like their inventions, from any of their difficulties or challenges without pulling apart the whole tapestry of who they are and what they have given humanity.
Perhaps the true secret of their genius isn’t so much about what went wrong in their lives or what could have been avoided but rather is about what they did right by unapologetically loving what they loved. Even if the cost for that love shortened their lives or levelled the parabolic curve of their successes. That love can inspire us all, through their lives and through the legacy of their inventions.