Tesla vs. Edison: The Struggle between Innovation and Enterprise
Both Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva were undoubtedly two of the most influential individuals of the current industrial world. Their works and discoveries brought about significant advances in science as well as their availability to numerous people throughout the world. In popular culture, Tesla is well known for his creation of the polyphase alternating current energy (AC) transmission system while Edison is famous for his light bulb as well as his staunch position for the direct current (DC) energy transmission system. There are a number of key differences between the two individuals. Tesla was a scientist whose work revolutionized industry while Edison was a skilled entrepreneur who was able to commercialize the works of talented individuals like Tesla. Nevertheless, both were visionaries whose works were so revolutionary that they are still in use today.
Nikola Tesla was a Serb born on July 10, 1856 in modern day Croatia. He was a mechanical and electrical engineer who worked at Continental Edison Company in France in 1882 where he focused on designing and improving electrical equipment. He then relocated to New York City to work for Edison at Edison Machine Works. He left ship he sailed to America with nothing much but recommendation from Charles Batchelor, a former employer, which read “I know two great men and you are one of them; the other is this young man,” referring to Tesla. Tesla then described the work he had done for Continental Edison Company, smoothly transitioning into a “description of his marvelous induction for alternating current, based upon his discovery of the rotating magnetic field” and how it would revolutionize the use of electricity . Edison responded angrily, considering what he said to be nonsense and dangerous. However, he offered Tesla a simple job of fixing the S.S. Oregon’s lighting plant. Tesla finished the task by
the next morning and Edison begrudgingly acknowledged his skill by silently remarking “that is a damn good man” .
Tesla’s skills were highly valued by Edison, who gave almost complete freedom in working on the design and fixing problems of the shop. Tesla quickly observed methods of improving the primitive Edison DC dynamos, an electrical generator. He even proposed a plan for redesigning the infrastructure and claimed that it would not only improve service but also save Edison a lot of money. The business mind-set of Edison brightened at hearing the latter; however, he realized that the project Tesla proposed would be a massive undertaking and time consuming. He remarked, “There’s fifty thousand dollars in it for you--if you can do it.” . Tesla worked for months, hardly sleeping, to redesign the twenty four dynamos completely in addition to installing automatic controls, using an original concept which was eventually patented. Upon finishing this arduous task, Tesla went to Edison to seek his $50,000 payment. Edison, undoubtedly surprised, said, “you don’t understand our American humor.” . Tesla felt cheated by a company that was renown for being stingy with funds and announced that he would resign. In an attempt to compromise, Edison offered to raise his salary by $10 of his current salary of $18 per week. Tesla promptly resigned on the spot.
Thomas Edison, like Tesla, was pioneer in his own right. He was born in Milan, Ohio on February 11, 1847. His mother had a very crucial role in his early development. After hearing that his teacher in school, Reverend Engle, had called him “addled”, his mother took it upon herself to teach him personally, constantly reminding him of his true potential. This was a huge motivating factor for Edison to eventually become the most prolific inventor in American history. Edison’s discovered his talents as an entrepreneur while he sold newspapers and candy on trains from Port Huron to Detroit. He also studied qualitative analysis as well as conducting...
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