Who are you? A Tesla or an Edison?

Yes of course! The exact question you need to ask yourself before proceeding through this article. Well, you might still haven’t figured it out, but I can assure you at the end of the article you’ll take a side. Without any further ado, we’ll find out more about the captioned personalities and how they can be used to define ourselves.

Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and a futurist who is best known for the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system. He was born and raised in the Austrian Empire and later emigrated to the United States. He studied engineering and physics in the 1870s without receiving a degree and gained practical experience at Continental Edison in the electric power industry.

Tesla designed mechanical oscillators/generators, electrical discharge tubes, and early X-ray imaging process. He was the first person to build a wireless boat for exhibition purpose. Tesla pursued his ideas for distribution of light and electricity without wired connections. Later, it was considered as the foundation stone of wireless communication. Tesla attempted to bring his ideas into practical use by building up the Wardenclyffe Tower project, an intercontinental wireless communication and power transmitter, but fell short of money before he could complete it.

Tesla lived a tough life. Having spent most of his money, Tesla lived in a series of New York hotels, leaving behind unpaid bills. He died in New York City in January 1943. Tesla’s work buried with his death, until the General Conference on Weights and Measures named the SI unit of magnetic flux density in his honor in 1960.

Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman who has been recognized as the America’s greatest inventor. He worked as a telegraph operator at the initial stage of his career, which inspired some of his earliest inventions. In 1876, he established his first laboratory facility in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where many of his early inventions were developed.  He invented devices in fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording and motion pictures. Phonograph, motion picture camera, and long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, was a huge step forward in the modern industrialized world. Furthermore, he established the first industrial research laboratory. In addition, Edison established a botanic laboratory in Florida in collaboration with businessmen Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, and a laboratory in, New Jersey that featured the world’s first film studio, the Black Maria. He died in 1931 of the complications of diabetes.

Tesla & Edison were not the first to invent the light bulb, in fact it was a Canadian by the name of Matthew Evans created and patented the DC (Direct Current) light bulb five years before he sold his patent to Thomas Edison in 1979. Tesla’s nemesis and former boss, Thomas Edison, waged a “War of Currents” in the 1880s over whose electrical system would power the world — Tesla’s alternating-current (AC) system or Edison’s rival direct-current (DC) electric power. After all these still people debate over who was the better inventor, Tesla or Edison?1

Figure 1 Nicola Tesla (left) and Thomas Edison (right)

“They’re different inventors, but you can’t really say one is greater, because American society needs some Edisons and it needs some Teslas” said W. Bernard Carlson, the author of Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age” (Princeton Press, 2013).

Tesla had an eidetic memory, which meant he could very precisely recall images and objects. This enabled him to accurately visualize intricate 3D objects, and as a result, he could build working prototypes using few preliminary drawings. In contrast, Edison was more of a sketcher and a tinkerer. However, Edison held 1093 patents, while Tesla managed to obtain less than 300.

Einstein was once asked how it felt to be the smartest person alive. Einstein’s reply was “I don’t know you’ll have to ask tesla”

Though the light bulb, the phonograph and moving pictures are recognized as Edison’s most important inventions, other people were already working on similar technologies. Therefore, some thought that even if Edison hadn’t invented the light bulb someone else will create it. Once Edison dismissed Tesla’s electrical power transmission through AC current. Moreover, Edison invented items that have a higher monetary value and he was obsessed of the marketing process to earn more money. Critics state that Edison tried to stole ideas from Tesla and develop them to gain more financial value.

Tesla also spent years working on a system designed to wirelessly transmit voices, images and moving pictures making him a futurist, and the true father of radio, telephone, cell phones and television. On the other hand, his ideas were often more disruptive technologies that could not be marketed. As a result of this he was bankrupted later in his life for not meeting the required market demand.

Tesla was tall and thin with a dashing moustache and an impeccable sense of style. He wore neatly and was a charismatic person. By contrast, Edison was known to be a bit of a slob. He was criticized when he gave instructions on how to build the electric chair. Similarly, both Tesla and Edison were committed hard workers. Once Tesla worked for 84 hours straight without getting a break.  Meanwhile Edison was well known for his 999 attempts on inventing the light bulb. Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Tesla was a Christian and there were proof on tesla’s beliefs regarding the connection between electrons and souls. However, Edison was an atheist. Although, Edison hadn’t much of a social life he was a good practitioner in teamwork. Tesla was a strict and a noble person. His intentions on providing free electricity through wireless network earned him a great amount of respect. Edison married twice and had six children, but Tesla remained unmarried, reasoning that personal relationships will intervene his career.

In conclusion, Edison was an innovative inventor who identified the significance of economical value. According to scientists, Edison invented the modern concept of innovation. On the other side of the coin, Tesla was a true genius from birth and to be precise he was a futurist. Finally, from their starkly different personalities to their lasting legacies, a timely question arises. WHO ARE YOU? A TESLA OR AN EDISON?


Written by –

Rtr. Sithum Gammanage

Member 2019/20

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