Two of the greatest inventors in American history are Thomas Edison and Nikolas Tesla. However, they had not achieved their success on their own. Many argue that the rivalry between them had pushed them to create technology which we still use today. Without the extraordinary relationship between the two, Tesla and Edison would not have accomplished the level of success both of them had. In the beginning, the men had great respect for each other. Tesla had left Serbia for New York so he could work for Edison.
He had a strong admiration for Edison’s accomplishment of the lightbulb, and Edison had said that Tesla was one of his hardest working assistants. However, despite their initial reverence and similar ambitions, the men were known as polar opposites. Tesla had always been a heavy thinker and contemplated through his experiments while Edison’s work was hands-on.
It is believed that their differences in styles led to high tension between the two, and after a misunderstanding with money, the two went separate ways as Tesla swore to make his own company. (Tesla, Nikola. My Inventions: The Autobiography of Nikola Tesla. D’Alto, Nick. Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC? ) One of the strongest disputes between Edison and Tesla was if direct current systems (DC) or and alternating current systems (AC) were better. Edison strongly believed his DC system, which had accompanied the invention of the lightbulb, was the safer and stronger. On the other hand, Tesla argued that his adaptation of Edison’s DC system was far superior because the current could travel a much further distance.
This disagreement was another factor which led to the separation of inventors, and their rivalry is what led to the war of currents. (D’Alto, Nick. Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC? Wolf, Gene. The War of Currents. ) The war of currents was a period of development across the United States when electricity was being established. Inventors fought over if DC or AC systems should be used to spread electricity across the country. The dispute went on for years until Tesla was commissioned to harness the power of Niagara Falls.
He was hired to make two generators to create power for cities miles away. Using his alternating current system, Tesla was successfully able to channel electricity twenty-two miles away to the city of Buffalo. Around this time was when the war was considered over and about 80% of America was powered by AC systems. (Wolf, Gene. The War of Currents. Oberkircher, Fred. Lee, Kirby. Rediscovering Tesla) However, Tesla’s victories did not go without resistance. Edison made multiple efforts to disgrace AC voltages. He had made many public statements claiming it was not safe and could potentially burn houses down.
Edison even made a show of electrocuting an elephant to show the lethality of alternating currents. Surprisingly, Edison’s display led to the use of electric chairs as a form of punishment from the federal government. (D’Alto, Nick. Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC? Wolf, Gene. The War of Currents) The growing feud between the two scientists not only helped America develop with the spread of electricity, but it also led to a large amount of progress in various technologies.
Whenever Edison would create a new invention, Tesla would create something as well and vice versa. When Edison invented the telegraph, Tesla invented the world’s most powerful steam engine of its time. When Tesla created usable neon lights, Edison created the first movie studio. The two inventors had created multiple brilliant inventions; however, their rivalry did also hinder their potentials. Tesla had invented a turbine which could have been used in some of Edison’s inventions.
However, the two’s distrust for each other prevented them from cooperating, and their relationship remained strictly competitive. (D’Alto, Nick. Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC? ) Out of all of the inventions which came from the competitions, one of the most important was Tesla’s electric coil. The Tesla coil is able to create a high level voltage and frequency, and Tesla believed that if he could refine the coil enough, he could create revolutionary effects never seen before.
While the coil did not create the sunlight he wished to produce, it was able to ionize argon and neon to create neon lights (Fred. Lee, Kirby. Rediscovering Tesla) Unfortunately, despite the innovations from their competitive discoveries, only Edison had become famous. Even in his life, Tesla did not shame the fame and fortune which Edison had earned. When Tesla was recognized finally recognized by an engineering society, the award he had won was the Edison Prize, and ultimately he refused. In the meantime, Edison had been busy taking pictures with big names such as Henry Ford or the Wright brothers.
Edison’s inventions led to him being a rich millionaire while Tesla died poor and alone. (Gerry, Tom. Thomas Edison: The Wizard Lives. D’Alto, Nick. Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC) A common dispute between scientists today is which of the two inventors was more successful of the two. Tesla’s creation of the alternating current is currently what is used for most electrical systems still today, and his other inventions have been extraordinary and revolutionary.
On the other hand, Edison has also created revolutionary inventions but still remains a common household name to this day. Tesla and Edison’s competitive relationship is what drove the other forward, and through their rivalry they were both able to achieve greater accomplishments. Nick D’Alto sums up Edison and Tesla’s relationship when he stated, “Today, when you turn on Thomas Edison’s fantastic invention, the lightbulb, Nikola Tesla’s remarkable AC power makes the bulb glow. ” (Edison, Tesla, and the battle of the currents: should electricity be AC or DC)