Nikola Tesla vs. Thomas Edison

September 4, 2009

teslaedisonWhile Nikola Tesla has slowly been getting more of the recognition he deserves he may never be fully given the credit he is due. Thomas Edison on the other hand is treated like a modern-day demi-god with little reason to back that up. Let's examine the facts in a scientific manner of which Tesla would approve (Edison wouldn't care how we do it because we aren't going to be making any money during this showdown).

Okay, so first, who invented electricity? Well, no one did. It's a naturally occurring phenomenon which can only be discovered and then harnessed.

So which one of them discovered it? Neither. It's isn't really known who discovered electricity. There is evidence that there was at least some knowledge of it back to Greece in 600 BCE. - NO! It was no Benjamin Franklin.

What did these two do? They were inventors who found ways to harness and use electricity. Not all their inventions were strictly involving electricity, however.

One important point, is that we can't be sure what all that Edison was given credit for was actually his own work. Edison owned a large laboratory employing numerous other inventors. If one of his employees made an incredible break through his work became the "intellectual property" of Edison. It is impossible to know what all he even had a hand in inventing himself.

Let's start with the light bulb. One of the most used and useful inventions of modern times. So that's one point Edison, right? Nope.  Edison did NOT invent the light bulb as a matter of fact I'd have to list about 20 different people to fully answer this question.  But Edison does get credit for making the longest lasting incandescent light bulb used in homes today. So that's half a point.

Edison did invent the phonograph and the motion picture camera.  He also brought electricity to the homes of Americans with the first power station on Manhattan. Of course, he was also the ass that pushed for electricity to be a paid service rather than something that was free. Oh yeah, the free thing- that was what Tesla was trying to do. Tesla instead wanted to place large Tesla coils about which would be used to release electricity into the air so that people could harness it and use it for free. With Tesla there'd be no outlets, no plugs, no cords and no electric bill. Of course, not being able to make money that way his funding from JP Morgan was pulled.  Even though, Edison won this round in the real world I think it is easy to see that we'd be better off if Tesla had his way.

A more obvious win for Tesla however was the battle between AC and DC. Edison was hell bent on powering the country with the weaker DC which would have required substations every two miles. While Tesla insisted that AC was far superior.  Edison, the big baby, was afraid of AC calling it the "current of death" and went about trying to prove this by cruelly electrocuting elephants in his smear campaign.  As you can tell by the lack of substations cluttering up your neighborhood; Tesla won this important battle.


Tesla invented the AC induction motor which is used in a wide variety of industrial machines and household appliances throughout the world. It is often credited with being a large factor in the launching of the Industrial Revolution.

Tesla also invented the first radio, which lead to huge advances in the use of radio waves and radio wave technology. He also dabbled in robotics and invented the "death ray".

Sadly, many of Tesla's inventions never made it into the mainstream and those that did haven't been properly credited to him. Whereas, Edison is incorrectly thought to have invented nearly everything. Edison clearly played the game better with his rich and powerful friends and allies that helped propel him into the forefront while Tesla was more eccentric and a loner.  However, it is clear that Tesla made far more wide reaching and world changing discoveries and inventions than Edison.

Aside from all that two main factors give Tesla the undisputed edge; he was much better looking and he had a rockin' 80's hair band named after him so that's an automatic win right there!

Another one of the ludicrous tales we are taught growing up. As a child in school, I'm not sure that I had ever heard the name Nikola Tesla. It was only as an adult and started doing some research on my own that I found out what an amazing, and interesting person Tesla was. His inventions have changed the lives of virtually every person on the planet, from radio, to the electricity used to power it and much more, almost no one alive could say they have never benefited from Tesla's work. Next time you're traveling on an airline, or crest a hill on a night road trip and see the vast amount of city lights below think as I do, and stop for a minute to realize that no one has or probably ever will change the face of the entire globe as Nikola Tesla has.



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