From business partnership to bitter rivalry, the dynamic between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla is largely absent from history books. Yet the relationship between the two inventors is pivotal to the origins of electric power. Edison was primarily a businessman and tycoon, mass marketing low current DC power to the public.
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Tesla’s early efforts to expand Edison’s technology were met with resistance, necessitating the need for Tesla to break from Edison. Of the two men, Nikola Tesla was indisputably the more innovative and brilliant. His many experiments and inventions utilizing alternating current, wireless power, and radiology made an undeniable contribution to many of the technologies we use today. In addition, Tesla claimed to have invented wondrous machines that remain shrouded in mystery.
Nikola Tesla’s early work was involved mainly with alternating current, which he attempted to patent and market. He began as an employee of the European branch of the Edison Company, later immigrating to America when his brilliance was recognized by Edison’s engineers. However, after designing an arc light system for Edison for which he was not compensated, Tesla left the company in disgust, sparking the beginning of the rivalry between the two inventors. Tesla’s arc light design was never utilized by Edison, despite its efficiency and superiority over the existing incandescent street-lightingsystem.Tesla would strike out on his own, meeting varying degrees of success and failure over the years. His arc-lighting designs would be picked up by others, bringing him much-needed funding for his other ideas. Tesla’s main struggle would turn out to be his difficulty with successfully pitching and marketing his inventions and ideas.
While a genius on many levels, Nikola did not share Thomas Edison’s business acumen. But Tesla was the man with a vision for the future, even if that vision sometimes appeared fantastical and strange. His AC thermomagnetic motor wasa major breakthrough, which he was able to patent and market through the patronage of wealthy businessman Alfred Brown. Inventors across the world were eager to utilize AC power for its efficiency and simplicity. Tesla was able to convince the designers of the Niagara Falls generator to utilize hissingle phaseAC system instead of a lower voltage DC one. The ensuing years would see many of Tesla’s ideas implemented, though he was seldom given credit. While Edison secured his position as the so-called pioneer of electric power, Tesla continued to innovate and experiment.
His forays into wireless lighting and radio control were far ahead of his time. When hepublicallydemonstrated aradio controlledboat, many took his invention to be a hoax, powered by some trickery (Carlson 230). Tesla’s ability to awe and delight onlookers would continue throughout his life. He later claimed to have invented a thought projector and a particle beam weapon so deadly that it could end all war. Suspiciously, upon his death, many of Tesla’s papers, including those pertaining to the weapon, were seized by government agents. Many of Tesla’s ideas remain a mystery to this day. While both Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla contributed to the electric power we enjoy today, Tesla was by far the more brilliant and talented of the two. Tesla’s superiority is evidenced by his ability to think forward and implement wonderful new ideas.
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