“They’re different inventors, but you can’t say one is greater, because American society needs some Edisons and it needs some Teslas” - W. Bernard Carlson “Tesla: inventor of the Electrical Age”. Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were both brilliant Inventors, but lead drastically different lives. Their personalities and inventions clashed against each other while also moving through live differently than the other.
From their very different Personalities and thinking, to their Personal life both inventors were very different but also to some point the same. This similarity is seen in their ideas of delivering power also known as Alternating current (AC) and Direct current (DC)
Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, had similar upbringings with events such as illnesses that changed their lives or dropping out of schooling. At a young age Edison caught scarlet fever that damaged his hearing thus his mother ended up pulling him from school due to his teacher calling him “addled” due to his hearing loss. While Tesla caught cholera and was forced to be bedridden for nine months, during this time Tesla’s father promised to send him to the best engineering school if he was able to recover. Both events of illness changed the future for both Tesla and Edison.
While one would think that Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla would be amazing in school but it turns out both of them dropped out of school, with Edison dropping out of highschool and Tesla dropping out of university. Surprisingly both didn’t feel the need to sleep as much as people should have, which would’ve been useful in schooling if they stayed.
While there are Similarities in their upbringings, in their adulthood is where the differences between the two begin to show. Overall the biggest differences lay in their personalities and thinking, at the beginning of their partnership they both thought somewhat good of one another. Edison thought Tesla was a little odd with his ideas, while Tesla looked up to Edison. Their morals also crashed against one another, Edison’s political views were non-violent while Tesla wanted to eliminate those he saw as undesirables such as criminals and the mentally ill. Even though that would make himself an undesirable.
This difference between the two doesn’t stop just at morals, but continues to the way they would invent and experiment. Edison was more a sketcher and a repairer while Tesla had an eidetic memory, he could easily picture images and objects in his mind. This difference between thinking cause Edison to think of Tesla’s ideas as “utterly impractical.”, which then overtime damaged their partnership. This also ties into the different ways of experiments between the two. Edison’s idea of inventions was to relentless do experiments. While Tesla would rather think about what to do before going on with physical designs.
These differences in experiments eventually led to the current war, or Alternating current (AC) vs Direct current (DC). Both Edison and Tesla wanted an invention to supply cities with power easily, Edison saw his invention (DC) as godlike compared to Tesla’s pity idea. Thus Edison launched a campaign to sabotage Tesla’s invention (AC) even though Tesla’s invention turned out to be the better one.
The main difference between AC and DC is that DC if sourced from a battery the electrons flow in one direction and that one direction ONLY, while with AC if the direction of the current goes a different way it does not stop or cancel itself out. Edison tried to argue that Tesla’s AC had very high and dangerous voltages that could kill people, what he left out was that both AC and DC had very high and dangerous voltages that could kill people, he tried to brand his lesser invention as safer and better compared to Tesla’s invention. Tesla knew that his AC had high and dangerous voltages, but Tesla used a transformer that would let people convert the voltage up or down so that the AC wouldn’t have a dangerous high voltage level when it went to cites and or consumers.
Edison and Tesla’s personal lives, thinking and inventions were different but at the core they had their similarities. Even though they had more differences than similarities their similarities showed up in their inventions. Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were both brilliant Inventors, their lives had differences and similarities. personalities canceled out each others much like when a Direct Current goes a different way. In the end they walked different roads only to lead right back to their rivalry.