Why Nikola Tesla Was a Better Inventor Than Edison

Updated on January 30, 2018
Sudhir Devapalan profile image

I am a front-end developer by profession, but I enjoy writing articles about anything mysterious, interesting, and fascinating.

When we think about great inventors, the first name that comes to mind is Edison. We have all learned about his great inventions which light up our world today. But there is someone who is far more talented and has contributed more to these discoveries than Edison. What if I told you that the real hero was a Serbian scientist called Nikola Tesla and that Edison was more of a business person than a scientist?

Early Life of Nikola Tesla:

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor and physicist who was born on July 10, 1856. When he was in school he became interested in demonstrations of electricity by his physics professor. He was capable of performing integral calculus in his head. He joined the Austrian Polytechnic and earned the highest grade possible. After his father's death, he found many letters which were sent to his father from his professors. They stated that unless he was removed from his school Tesla would die of overwork.

Tesla was upset when his father brushed aside his hard-won achievements. He lost interest in studying after he took up gambling. He lost all his scholarship money although he won it back. He was unprepared for his examinations and never graduated from University. In March 1879, Tesla suffered a nervous breakdown. In 1881, Tesla moved to Budapest to work in a Telegraph company.

Tesla and Edison:

Thomas Edison
Thomas Edison

In 1884, Tesla moved to the United States. He was invited by Edison's manager Charles Batchelor. He wanted Tesla to work on the Edison Machine Works based in New York. Tesla worked there for a year and impressed Edison with his diligence and creativity. The two worked together to improve Edison's inventions. But after several months they parted ways due to conflicting interests.

The fact was that Edison posed a challenge to Tesla to improve the design of his DC dynamos. He offered a reward of $50,000 for the same. After several months of research, Tesla produced an improved design. But when he asked for the reward money Edison refused to give him the money stating that it was a joke. He is reported to have said, "Tesla, you don’t understand our American humor". Tesla quit soon after this insult.

The Battle of the Currents:

Battle of the currents
Battle of the currents

After Tesla quit, he founded the Tesla Electric Light Company. He then patented his improved arc lighting using AC current. But his investors showed little interest in his ideas for AC motors and electricity transmission. This was due to the intense competition at that time. The investors then abandoned the company leaving Tesla penniless. He lost his existing patents as well as he assigned the patents to his company in exchange for stock.

He had to work in manual jobs to make a living. He even worked as a ditch digger for $2 a day. 1886 was a year of hardships for Tesla. This is what he wrote, "My high education in various branches of science, mechanics, and literature seemed to me like a mockery". But in late 1886, Tesla met Alfred S. Brown and New York attorney Charles F. Peck, who were experienced in setting up companies. They both agreed to fund Tesla for his research.

In 1887, Tesla developed an induction motor that ran on alternating current (AC). Edison was using Direct Current(DC) and promoting its usage as it was safer since it was at a lower voltage. Alternating current was gaining popularity as it can be transmitted over large distances. DC generators could transfer power only within a one-mile radius of the power source. This made alternating current the ideal power source. It had the potential to power facilities over large distances.

"If he had a needle to find in a haystack he would not stop to reason where it was most likely to be, but would proceed at once, with the feverish diligence of a bee, to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. ... I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor."

Westinghouse hired Tesla, licensed the patents for his AC motor and gave him his own lab. So the "Battle of the Currents" began between Tesla's Alternating Current and Edison's Direct Current. Although AC was better and more efficient, Edison was more adept at marketing his inventions. To do this he would do anything possible.

Edison wanted to prove that Tesla's Alternating Current was dangerous. He even arranged the public execution of a convicted New York murderer using an electric chair powered by Alternating Current. During the financial panic of 1890, there was a sudden shortage of cash for all companies. As the Tesla induction motor had been unsuccessful during this time, it was stuck in development.

Tesla's Many Achievements:

Wardenclyffe Tower
Wardenclyffe Tower

The discovery of Alternating Current is one of the many achievements of Tesla. This changed the way we transfer current. It is true that Edison won the battle of the currents but it was Tesla's AC which won the war. We continue to use Alternating Current even today. He even developed fluorescent bulbs a long time before neon lighting became famous.

We credit Marconi for inventing the Radio but it was Tesla who actually invented it a few years earlier. Tesla also the use of the Radio during a demonstrated in 1893. But, the US patent office reversed Tesla's patent and offered it to Marconi in 1904 to avoid having to pay royalties to Tesla.

The first primitive radar unit was built in 1934. But this was created based on the principles for frequency and power level devised by Tesla during in 1917. When Radar was first invented by him, it did not have any practical use and so it was dismissed. Tesla also invented the remote control. The first remote-controlled model boat demonstration was in 1898. Radio signals were used to control the boat's propeller, rudder, and running lights.

In 1895, Tesla designed the first AC hydroelectric power plant at Niagara Falls. He also invented the Tesla coil. The Tesla Coil is an electrical resonant transformer circuit in 1891. The electric motor was also invented by Tesla in 1930. But due to the economic crisis and the World War, this did not gain much interest as well.

Around 1900, Tesla started to work on a bold project to wirelessly transmit energy. This consisted of a large electrical tower for wireless communication and providing free electricity throughout the world. But there were many doubts about this project. Marconi, funded by Edison was making good progress in the field of radio technologies. Soon funds ran out and Tesla was bankrupt and the project was scrapped.

Tesla's Rewards:

Tesla
Tesla

Although Tesla was talented and made many breakthroughs, he could not use them. He was a scientist and not an entrepreneur. His inventions were also far ahead of his time. The world could not find any ways to use them now. Due to this, he had many of his patents stolen. In 1943, the Supreme court overturned Marconi’s patent on the radio after it was proven that it was initially invented by Tesla.

“I don't care that they stole my idea. I care that they don't have any of their own"

He also went up against Edison who was financially more settled and had more funds to work with. Edison was also a showman who knew how to market his inventions. Tesla could not compete with such abilities. His innovations led to major breakthroughs in science but had no direct practical uses.

In 1895, Tesla’s lab burned down which destroyed years of work. He did not marry and was working on his inventions till the end even as his health deteriorated. He had several mental breakdowns and suffered from hallucinations. Tesla died on January 7, 1943, bankrupt and penniless. His achievements were never appreciated during his day.

© 2017 Sudhir

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • biomechanics2018 profile image

      biomechanics2018 

      7 months ago

      In USA the people are clueless about Nikola Tesla, their brainwashed of Thomas Edison that didn't invent a thing, he was a con artist business person that bought or stole ideas and inventions from other people.

    • Sudhir Devapalan profile imageAUTHOR

      Sudhir 

      7 months ago from Chennai, India

      Ya very true and yet only a few people know about his achievements.

    • biomechanics2018 profile image

      biomechanics2018 

      7 months ago

      Good article, Tesla was the greatest genius and a man before his time. All of the present technology is due to Nikola Tesla inventions.

    • profile image

      Rishu shrivastav 

      7 months ago

      Respect for this man #sirnikolatesla

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)