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Happy Birthday, Nikola Tesla!

A Serbian-American engineer and physicist born on July 10, 1856, Nikola Tesla is best known for inventing the first alternating current (AC) motor, plus developing AC generation/transmission technology. AC is when the electrical current frequently reverses direction, while direct current (DC) moves in one polarity of voltage or current. Tesla accumulated around 300 patents. The AC system he came up with and improved upon is our global standard to this day.

Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison’s names will be forever linked due to their many innovations in the lighting industry. Tesla was even one of Edison’s employees for about a year in 1884 after he immigrated to the US. Edison was impressed with his abilities, yet they battled over their preferences of AC versus DC. Edison vilified him as a “mad scientist” of sorts at the time, so Tesla’s accomplishments were more appreciated after he passed away in 1943.

Nikola Tesla Lab Photo
Nikola Tesla, in his lab with a Tesla coil.

Tesla was prolific in his inventions, but wasn’t as financially successful as Edison. He faced a few setbacks such as his lab burning down once, destroying years of notes and research. He worked with George Westinghouse (who invented the first AC power system) on a few projects, including some work with GE to install AC generators in Niagara Falls.

Happy birthday, Nikola Tesla!

Thomas Edison’s Contributions to Lighting

If playing a word association game, when you hear ‘Thomas Edison,’ you would be likely to say ‘inventor.’ With over 1,000 patents, he is known for his prolific work in a variety of areas including the phonograph, stock ticker, kinetograph, AND the incandescent lightbulb.

The 1870s were an exciting time for lighting as several inventors were working on ways to produce it. After seeing an arc light exhibit by Moses Farmer, Edison decided to create an incandescent lightbulb—much softer than arc lighting was. It took many years to finetune the bulb, and Edison also had to figure out to produce electricity on a larger scale, first debuting power to a mile area in Manhattan.

Edison used direct current (DC) in all of his systems, while a former employee of his, Nikola Tesla, preferred alternating current (AC). AC is when the electrical current frequently reverses direction, while DC moves in one polarity of voltage or current. Tesla was now working for George Westinghouse building an AC system. Edison and Tesla had a pretty public dispute on the matter, and Edison even staged some “accidents” to make AC less favorable. Both men were extremely talented, and their contributions to science are still relevant today.

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