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Tesla & Edison

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Tesla's City of Light
Tesla's City of Light

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Nikola Tesla

July 10, 1856 – January 7, 1943

Tesla light 


Thomas Alva Edison

February 11, 1847 – October 18, 1931

Edison light 


He was an important contributor to the birth of commercial electricity, and is best known for his many revolutionary developments in the field of electromagnetism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tesla's patents and theoretical work formed the basis of modern alternating current (AC) electric power systems, including the polyphase system of electrical distribution and the AC motor.

This work helped usher in the Second Industrial Revolution.

He pioneered modern electrical engineering and many of his discoveries were of groundbreaking importance.

Tesla contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar, and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics.

American inventor, scientist, and businessman.

Edison is considered one of the most prolific inventors in history, holding 1,093 US patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. He is credited with numerous inventions that contributed to mass communication and, in particular, telecommunications.

These included a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures. His advanced work in these fields was an outgrowth of his early career as a telegraph operator.

Edison originated the concept and implementation of electric-power generation and distribution to homes, businesses, and factories – a crucial development in the modern industrialized world. His first power station was on Manhattan Island, New York.

Both were involved in science, innovation, production and business. With different priorities.
When Tesla was the first priority of invention and science, then production and business.

When Edison vice versa: first profit, and business, then production, and at the end of innovation and science.

American joke


At age 28, Nikola Tesla arrived in New York City.


Tesla handed Edison his letter of recommendation: It read: "My Dear Edison: I know two great men and you are one of them. The other is this young man!"


Tesla proceeded to describe the engineering work he had done, and his plans for an alternating current motor.
Edison knew little of alternating current and did not care to learn more about it. In short, AC power sounded like competition to Edison. But there was something different about Tesla, and Edison immediately hired him to make improvements in his DC generation plants. Tesla claimed that Edison promised him $50,000 if he succeeded, perhaps thinking it an impossible undertaking. But the potential of so much money appealed mightily to the impoverished immigrant.
Both Tesla and Edison shared a common trait of genius in that neither of them seemed to need much sleep. Edison could go for days, taking occasional catnaps on a sofa in his office. Tesla claimed that his working hours at the Edison Machine Works were 10:30 a.m. till 5 a.m. the next day. Even into old age Tesla said he only slept two or three hours a night.
That's where the similarity ended. Tesla relied on moments of inspiration, perceiving the invention in his brain in precise detail before moving to the construction stage. Edison was a trial and error man who described invention as five percent inspiration and 95 percent perspiration. Edison was self-taught. Tesla had a formal European education.
It was only a matter of time until their differences would lead to conflict.
Several months after Edison employed him, Tesla announced that his work was successfully completed. When Tesla asked to be paid, however, Edison seemed astonished. He explained that the offer of $50,000 had been made in jest. "When you become a full-fledged American you will appreciate an American joke," Edison said.


Shocked and disgusted, Tesla immediately resigned.
Word began to spread that a foreigner of unusual talent was digging ditches to stay alive. Investors approached Tesla and asked him to develop an improved method for arc lighting. Although this was not the opportunity he had hoped for, the group was willing to finance the Tesla Electric Light Company. The proud new owner set to work and invented a unique arc lamp of beautiful design and efficiency. Unfortunately, all of the money earned went to the investors and all Tesla got was a stack of worthless stock certificates.
But his luck was about to change. Mr. A.K. Brown of the Western Union Company, agreed to invest in Tesla's idea for an AC motor. In a small laboratory just a short distance from Edison's office, Tesla quickly developed all the components for the system of AC power generation and transmission that is used universally throughout the world today. "The motors I build there," said Tesla, "were exactly as I imagined them. I made no attempt to improve the design, but merely reproduced the pictures as they appeared to my vision and the operation was always as I expected." The battle to produce his motor was over. But the struggle to introduce it commercially was only just beginning.


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War of currents

Current War 


Edison's true success, like that of his friend Henry Ford, was in his ability to maximize profits through establishment of mass-production systems and intellectual property rights.
George Westinghouse and Edison became adversaries because of Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution instead of the more easily transmitted alternating current (AC) system invented by Nikola Tesla and promoted by Westinghouse.
Unlike DC, AC could be stepped up to very high voltages with transformers, sent over thinner and cheaper wires, and stepped down again at the destination for distribution to users.
AC replaced DC in most instances of generation and power distribution, enormously extending the range and improving the efficiency of power distribution.

Edison's publicity campaign

Edison carried out a campaign to discourage the use of alternating current, including spreading disinformation on fatal AC accidents, publicly killing animals, and lobbying against the use of AC in state legislatures. Edison directed his technicians, primarily Arthur Kennelly and Harold P. Brown, to preside over several AC-driven killings of animals, primarily stray cats and dogs but also unwanted cattle and horses. Acting on these directives, they were to demonstrate to the press that alternating current was more dangerous than Edison's system of direct current. He also tried to popularize the term for being electrocuted as being "Westinghoused". Years after DC had lost the "war of the currents," in 1902, his film crew made a movie of the electrocution with high voltage AC, supervised by Edison employees, of Topsy, a Coney Island circus elephant which had recently killed three men.
Edison opposed capital punishment, but his desire to disparage the system of alternating current led to the invention of the electric chair. Harold P. Brown, who was being secretly paid by Edison, built the first electric chair for the state of New York to promote the idea that alternating current was deadlier than DC.
When the chair was first used, on August 6, 1890, the technicians on hand misjudged the voltage needed to kill the condemned prisoner, William Kemmler. The first jolt of electricity was not enough to kill Kemmler, and only left him badly injured. The procedure had to be repeated and a reporter on hand described it as "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging." George Westinghouse commented: "They would have done better using an axe."

Niagara Falls

In 1890, the Niagara Falls Power Company (NFPC) and its subsidiary Cataract Company formed the International Niagara Commission composed of experts, to analyze proposals to harness Niagara Falls to generate electricity.
In 1893, NFPC was finally convinced by George Forbes to award the contract to Westinghouse , and to reject General Electric and Edison's proposal. Work began in 1893 on the Niagara Falls generation project: power was to be generated and transmitted as alternating current, at a frequency of 25 Hz to minimize impedance losses in transmission (changed to 60 Hz in the 1950s).
Some doubted that the system would generate enough electricity to power industry in Buffalo. Tesla was sure it would work, saying that Niagara Falls could power the entire eastern United States
On November 16, 1896, electrical power was transmitted to industries in Buffalo from the hydroelectric generators at the Edward Dean Adams Station at Niagara Falls. The generators were built by Westinghouse Electric Corporation using Tesla's AC system patent.

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