Historical Figures You Didn’t Realize Were Friends 

  • JFK with Frank Sinatra
JFK with Frank Sinatra
Credit: Consolidated News Pictures/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

Muhammad Ali once said, “Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” Like Ali and his own best pal, photographer   Howard Bingham, some friendships in history have been formed by figures with wildly different backgrounds and career choices. The following friendships are as surprising as they were genuine — though they were not all long-lasting. From Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla to Hunter S. Thompson and Pat Buchanan, here are five unlikely bonds between notable figures you never knew were friends. 

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Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla

A friendship between the famed writer Mark Twain and inventor Nikola Tesla might, on the surface, seem unlikely. And yet, before the two met, they already shared some significant interests. Tesla had once been bedridden for nine months with a severe bout of cholera, during which time he read some of Twain’s earlier works. He later described them as “unlike anything I had ever read before and so captivating as to make me utterly forget my hopeless state.” Twain, meanwhile, was fascinated by technological innovations and, in particular, electricity. When the two men eventually met in the 1890s, they became friends and spent a lot of time together in Tesla’s lab and elsewhere. One famous account tells of Twain’s participation in an experiment involving an electromechanical oscillator, which Tesla believed might be therapeutic. But when Twain sat on the vibrating plate, it served as something of a laxative, forcing the acclaimed author to run for the bathroom. 

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