Nikola Tesla versus Thomas Edison and the search for the truth

Nikola Tesla The search for the truth

The lives of Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, and the people they interacted with during their lifetimes, is an interesting story in defining a geek. Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison were two of the most prolific inventors of the twentieth century.

Tesla came to America looking for Edison and hoping to earn his respect, and show him his inventions in the field of AC (alternating current). The arrogant Edison brushed away Tesla as an intelligent man with ideas that weren't practical, because Edison favored the competing system DC (direct current).

Tesla, jilted by Edison, would go out on his own to prove his point. Years later Tesla would team up with Edison's rival, George Westinghouse, and together they would defeat Edison in a great science and technology feud known as The War of Currents.

In the battle of the two crazy mad scientists, Tesla would be the ultimate victor in the battle of good versus evil, defeating his rival, Edison. Much of what is said is exaggerated for the sake of a good story. The myths and legends grow stronger every day on the internet.

The search for the truth

Many history books and museums tell us Thomas Edison was greatest inventor of all times with a thousand different patents for a variety of inventions. Nikola Tesla has become a modern day cult hero on the Internet. In researching Nikola Tesla you will find many people who are fanatics in their extreme zeal to promote the legendary stories surrounding the legacy of Tesla, claiming Edison and others took credit for many inventions that were created by Tesla.

The goal of Geek History is to be fanatic at finding the truth. There are so many myths and legends about Tesla, we could write an entire chapter of debunking all the misinformation. For the sake of setting the record straight in the battle of Edison versus Tesla we though we needed to at least address some of the major points of misinformation and put some things into perspective.

The often quoted myth states that Tesla died in 1934 a broke and broken old man because Edison stole Tesla's ideas. The statement becomes the mantra to make Tesla the patron saint of geeks and a martyr. The statement perpetuates many myths about the life of Tesla being one of hardships and failures.

Nikola Tesla the legacy of the most interesting geek in the world

Nikola Tesla the most interesting geek in the worldWithout a doubt Nikola Tesla was one of the most interesting geeks that ever lived. The passion for Tesla by his fans and the stories about Tesla's scientific accomplishments has elevated Tesla to the status of mythological geek folk hero.

When the names of Edison and Tesla come together it appears that some people look at their relationship as a life long battle. Their great feud over the use of AC (alternating current) versus DC (direct current) known as the War of Currents lasted only about a decade. Tesla's career went on for many more years beyond his battles with Edison and the War of Currents.

Tesla's Early Days

At times the life story of Nikola Tesla flows like an epic science fiction saga. According to legend, the man known as the Master of Lightning was born at the stroke of midnight on July 10, 1856, during a lightning storm in a mountainous area of the Balkan Peninsula. The area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where Tesla grew up is the modern-day country of Croatia. Tesla's parents were Serbian, his father was an orthodox priest, his mother was an inventor of practical household gadgets.

The stories of Nikola Tesla growing up tell of a young man constantly craving knowledge. He had a powerful imagination and a photographic memory. Tesla was always the geek growing up, he learned to speak 8 languages and was known to recite books from memory. According to popular stories Nikola Tesla's dream to go to America one day also started when he was young. Upon seeing an engraving of Niagara Falls, Tesla told his uncle he would someday capture the energy of Niagara to produce electricity.

There is even a good story to explain how Tesla would go to college. Tesla's father expected young Nikola to follow in his foot steps and become a priest. Nikola was passionate about mathematics and science. At the age of 17 Nikola Tesla had a brush with death from Cholera. While on his death-bed from Cholera, Nikola was promised by his father he could go to college to study science if he survived. Nikola made an amazing recovery. He went on to study electrical engineering at the renowned Austrian Polytechnic School at Graz.

Internet and World Wide Web visionaries ponder surviving world war

Vannevar Bush World Wide Web visionaryThe old proverb necessity is the mother of invention is illustrated in the ideas of Internet and World Wide Web visionaries J.C.R. Licklider and Vannevar Bush. The difficult scenario that was the catalyst of their visionary ideas was surviving a war.

Vannevar Bush looks beyond World War II

Vannevar Bush was looking at the aftermath of World War II and looking at ways to make sure all the scientific data and lessons learned were not lost when he published an Atlantic Monthly article in 1945 titled "As We May Think." The article describes his theoretical machine called a "memex" that would be able to make links between documents. Many people point to "As We May Think" as the earliest published vision of the concept of hypertext.

Bush worked hard during entire life to strengthen the relationship between government, business, and the scientific community. In the 1930s, as the president of the Carnegie Institution Bush informally advised the government on scientific matters. In 1938 Vannevar Bush was appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. In 1940 Bush felt the country needed a new organization to conduct military research and proposed his plan to President Roosevelt. The National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) was created with Bush as the chairman. Vannevar Bush represented the overall scientific community as the first presidential science adviser. In 1941 the newly created Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) absorbed the NDRC. As director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, Bush oversaw much of the United States’ wartime scientific research including the Manhattan Project and the development of the atomic bomb.

Although Bush is most remembered for "As We May Think," another Bush article from 1945 entitled, "Science-The Endless Frontier" was equally influential. Bush outlined the importance of federally funded scientific research and called for a national research foundation. The National Science Foundation (NSF) was created in 1950 to support fundamental research and education in science and engineering.

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