This is a file to straighten out misconception and
disinformation that has occurred over the years, about how
supposedly "great" Edison was, and how Nikola Tesla was
brushed under the capitalist power rug.
Edison was a thief, employing all kinds of people for their brains, he stole their inventions, their ideas, so much so, that it is unclear today what Edison actually invented, and what was stolen from others.
The Edison Electric Institute was formed to perpetuate the notion that Edison was the inventor of record, and to make sure that school textbooks, etc., only mentioned HIM in connection with these many inventions. Much like Bell Labs does today.
Nikola Tesla was pretty much always a genius, after having made many improvements in the electric trolleys, and trains in his country, he came to America, sought employment, and eventually ended up working for Edison.
Edison had contracted with New York City to build Direct Current (D.C.) power plants every square mile or so, so as to power the lights that he supposedly invented. Street lights, hotel lighting etc. Having trenches dug throughout the city to lay the cables, copper, and as big around as a man's bicep, he told Tesla that if Tesla could save him money by redesigning certain aspects of the installation, that he would give Tesla a percentage of the savings. A verbal agreement. After approximately a year, Tesla went to Edison's office and showed him the savings that had occurred ($100,000 or so, which in those days was quite a piece of change) as a direct result of his (Tesla's) engineering, and Edison pretended ignorance of any agreement. Tesla quit. From that point on, the two men were enemies.
Tesla invented useable Alternating Current (A.C.) that we all use today, in a world where Edison and others already had a huge investment in D.C. power.
Tesla proselytized A.C. power and had some success building A.C. power plants, and providing A.C. power to various entities. One of these was Sing Sing prison, in upstate New York. Tesla provided A.C. power for the "electric chair" there. Edison had big articles printed in the New York newspapers, saying that A.C. power was dangerous "killing" power, and in general, gave a bad name to Tesla.
To contradict this jab, Tesla set out on his own positive marketing campaign, appearing at the 1880? World Exposition in Chicago passing high frequency "dangerous" A.C. power over his body to power light bulbs in front of the public. Shooting huge, long sparks from his "Tesla coil", and touching them, etc. "Proving" that A.C. power was safe for public consumption.
The advantage of A.C. power was that you could send it a long distance through reasonably sized wires with little loss, and if you touched the wires together, "shorted them", you got a lot of sparks, and only the place where they were touching melted until the two wires weren't touching anymore.
D.C. power, on the other hand, needed huge cables to go
any distance at all, while using power, the cables heated
up. When shorted, the cables melted all the way back to the
power house, streets had to be dug up again and new cables
laid. If a short occurred in a single light, it usually
started a fire, and burned down the hotel or destroyed
whatever it was in contact with! This was quite profitable
for those in the D.C. power business, and quite good for
those into ditch digging, construction, etc.
Tesla invented 2-phase, and 3-phase Alternating Current. He figured motors turned in a circle, so alternately driving separate, 180 degree, sections of the surrounding armature would build up less heat, and use less electricity. He was right.
1929 came, the stock market crashed, bankers, lawyers, everyone who had lost their wealth and hadn't jumped out a window, sought work, many as common laborers if lucky, for a dollar a day. Tesla found himself digging ditches in the company of broke but influential ex-Wall-streeters. During the short lunch period, he would tell his buddies about phased A.C. electricity, and how it was efficient, etc. Along about 1932, he was working at a small generator rebuilding shop in New York, and one of the bankers that he used to dig ditches with, found him, and took him to Mr. Westinghouse, to whom he told his stories. Westinghouse bought 19 patents outright, and gave Tesla a dollar per horsepower for any electric motor produced by Westinghouse using the Tesla 3-phase system.
Tesla finally had the money with which to start building his laboratories, and conducting the experiments with free earth energy. The idea that really made him unpopular.
Something free, that the masters of war and business couldn't control? They couldn't have that! So, the day after Tesla died in 1943, his huge laboratory on Long Island mysteriously burned down, no records saved, and the remnants were bulldozed the day after that to further eradicate any equipment still left. So much for "free energy".
Updated November 2013