Misty Stroud, PhD
CHM 151; CRN 25017
1 March 2013
Tesla vs. Edison
Everyone knows who Thomas Edison is, and many attribute the “invention of electricity” to Edison, but this is simply not accurate. The truth is, while Thomas Edison did patent and market DC, or direct current, electricity, he did not “invent” electricity, and as a matter of fact, much of his work was actually basically stolen from other scientists, among them, one brilliant scientist, Nikola Tesla. We are all taught about Edison in school, but never once was I taught about the genius scientist who deserves much credit for many inventions, concepts, and ideas, most of which are credited to others, Nikola Tesla.
Nikola Tesla was an Austrian born Serbian scientist who emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 28 after having attended the Austrian Polytechnic School in Graz and, subsequently, moved to Budapest, where he went to work for the Central Telephone Exchange. It was during this time that Tesla invented the induction motor, which would soon revolutionize the world! After the invention of the induction motor, Tesla went to work for several electric companies in Paris and Strasburg, having been hired to improve their DC generating power facilities, during which time he tried to interest these European companies and investors in his induction motor utilizing AC current, but none were interested, so Nikola Tesla decided that he would move to the U.S. to meet and work with his hero, the greatest electrical engineer in the world, in his opinion, Thomas Edison.
Upon arriving in the U.S. with 4 cents in his pocket, some mathematical calculations, a drawing for a conceptual “flying machine”, and a letter of reference for Edison from one of his European business associates, Charles Batchelor, that read, “ My Dear Edison: I know two great men and you are one of them. The other is this young man!” Tesla gave Edison this letter, and also described for him the work he had done in Europe, as well as his plans for a new alternating current (AC current) motor (the induction motor). Edison's work was with direct current electricity (DC current), and he was notoriously stubborn and dismissive regarding AC current. The two types of electrical current differ a bit in that direct current (DC) is electricity that flows in a constant direction, and/or possesses a voltage with a constant polarity. It is the kind of electricity that is made by a battery, with definite positive and negative terminals, or the kind of charge generated by rubbing certain types of material against each other, and DC is used in almost all electronics. AC, or alternating current, electricity changes polarity or direction over time. In the U.S. 60 Hertz is the standard, meaning that the current change consists of 60 oscillations per second, this means that every 1/120th of a second the direction in which the current is flowing is switched. In most other countries the standard for AC is 50 Hertz.
One of the major differences in the abilities of the two types of current is that AC is good for long distance transmission of electricity while DC is able to only transmit short distances and even at that it gets very hot so in order to utilize DC current to wire homes, there needed to basically be a power station with generators on every block, and even this was not really effective in getting a good electrical flow to homes and businesses. AC was a much safer and more cost efficient option for providing power to entire cities. At the time that Tesla went to work for Edison, Edison was very actively marketing his DC power and had a lot invested in it, the threat of Tesla's AC power was a very real one, and Edison knew this. There was a lot at stake financially, and in terms of recognition and prestige, and Edison did everything he could to discredit Tesla.
The dismissive attitude of Edison, along with great fundamental differences in what was the more...