Engineer dispute: Tesla vs Edison


The TeslaEdison engineer controversy is a popular topic of discussion among cultural circles, especially electric engineers, but which layman would not have heard of the greatest scientific conflict of the nineteenth century, which enthusiastically fueled the discussion of electrical safety and efficiency, and had become the greatest propaganda campaign of the time which raised dust.

The dispute:

 DC (direct current, Edison Electric Light Company) or AC (alternate current, Westinghouse Electric Company) should be the standard that provides the world’s electricity supply?

The root of the problem

Tesla, the engineer had been concerned with the problem of how to make the DC current more efficient or what other ways there are to make it possible to provide power: since the DC power could not be sent to long distances, so it would have been necessary to build a powerhouse at every residential district which is absurd.

In 1884, finally, the electrical engineer, physicist Tesla moved to New York in order to work at Edison’s firm as an electrical engineer. Tesla was a great admirer of Edison at that time. In 1885, Tesla told Edison that he could improve the currently inefficient engine and generator of the plant. Edison thought that Tesla’s ideas were “wonderful” and “very practical,” and seemingly offered him fifty thousand dollars (equivalent to about $ 1 million today) if he could do it. Tesla did the job, but Edison was not only a great inventor, but an extraordinary humorist as well. The $ 50,000 offer was just a joke, Tesla’s reward meant $ 10 payrise. Contrary to Edison, Tesla was not the typical businessman, he was a strange scientist and engineer. As capitalism in Edison’s blood, he exploited Tesla’s weakness. Tesla quitted the job in response.

The War of Currents

After Tesla quitted, he collected enough money to set up the Tesla Electric Light Company, where he patented his AC generators, wires, transformers and motors. He sold most of his patents to George Westinghouse, who was also Edison’s rival.

Edison and George Westinghouse / Tesla then got into a public conflict with eachother regarding the use of electricity, since Edison was the DC, while Tesla was on the alternate current party. It was the so-called War of the Currents.

To demonize the alternate current, Edison built upon people’s empathy. He chose an unusual and cruel method: he was trying to publicly demonstrate the dangers of the alternating current by killing stray dogs and circus elephants by electrocution.

Eventually, George Westinghouse built a power plant in the Niagara Falls to secure the power supply in New York, symbolizing the superiority of AC compared to Edison’s direct current, since alternate current is the state-of-the-art electrical power transmission. This was the end of the debate.

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