Nikola Tesla emigrated to the United States from Croatia and became a US citizen when he was 35. Thomas Edison understood Tesla's genius and hired him to redesign his direct current (DC) generators. After completion, Edison refused to pay Tesla for his work. Tesla then partnered with George Westinghouse and continued his work with Alternating Current (AC). Edison saw AC as a direct threat to his DC technology. Thus the War of the Currents began.
Direct Current had multiple problems including that it had a maximum travel of about two miles which means that substations had to be used to continue its flow. Alternating current on the other hand could go for thousands of miles. Instead of conceding to this superior technology (which Edison is quoted as one of his regrets at the end of his life). Due to AC's superior abilities for what they were trying to accomplish along with several successes by Tesla and Westinghouse such as the illumination of the 1983 World's Fair in Chicago or the first hydroelectric system at Niagra Falls, AC ultimately won. In addition to the alternating current which you plug your computer into, Tesla is responsible for the radio, wireless communication, the modern electric motor, neon, basic laser technology, remote control, and much much more.
However Tesla never achieved the financial success that Edison had. His abilities not only drew enemies like Thomas Edison but also financial giants like JP Morgan Chase who personally made sure that no bank would lend money to him once he found out that Tesla's goal was to develop free electricity to everyone. In the end, Tesla died impoverished.
Why does he win the title of animal lover? Beyond being vegetarian due to the animal slaughter practices of the day, he cared for several pigeons and one in particular. John O'Neil wrote the following in his biography of Nikola Tesla:
" -Yes, I loved that pigeon, I loved her as a man loves a woman, and
she loved me. If the pigeon became ill, he would nurse her back to
health and as long as she needed him and he could have her, nothing else
mattered and there was purpose in his life.
One night as he was lying in bed, she flew in through the window and
he knew right away that she had something important to tell him - she
- And then, as I got her message, there came a light from her eyes -
powerful beams of light. Yes, it was a real light, a powerful, dazzling,
blinding light, a light more intense than I had ever produced by the
most powerful lamps in my laboratory – Tesla told his biographer.
After the dove`s death, something disappeared from Tesla`s life. He knew his life`s work was done for good." - John O''Neil
While some may see this as extreme, I think that many animal lovers can appreciate the strength of the human-animal bond. When I lost my pet Effany, I remember reading this and being touched that someone else might understood at how important she was in my life. Effany was in my life for every full year that I was in clinical practice and her loss was a factor in leaving private practice.
This site is dedicated to animals however so for more information on Tesla, I would direct you to the books and documentaries on his incredible life.
If you are interested in learning more about Tesla, you may click to the right to go to Amazon and view a biography about him. While I have read much about him, I would like to state, that I have not yet read this book. I have added a list of books that I have read and enjoyed onto the Amazon store.
Thomas Edison's Smear Campaign against Nikola Tesla
Topsy the Elephant, one of the test subjects of Edison't Electric Chair
Thomas Edison Electrocutes Animals to Discredit Tesla
Thomas Edison spread false information about the dangers of AC versus
the safety of DC. His focus was that AC uses tens of thousands of volts
instead of hundreds of volts. Neither were without risks;
DC was responsible for numerous child deaths as well as house fires at
Beyond false accusations, Thomas Edison thought that actions and visuals
were the best way to discredit Tesla. One "visual" that he used was to publicly electrocute an elephant. The elephant was named Topsy and was a victim of human evil and greed. She was born in 1975 and lived at Coney Island's Luna Park. She lived under the severe animal abuse of her trainer who thought it fun to feed her lit cigarettes. After 28 years of abuse she ended up killing three people. Instead of humanely euthanizing her (or finding other better alternatives), Edison asked that she be killed with alternating current to demonstrate its dangers. So in front of 1500 people and a camera, Topsy was electrocuted to death on January 4, 1903. Despite this, Edison later adopted AC current. To the right is the movie that he filmed of her death and distributed for as many people as he could get to watch. Viewer Warning: despite its low resolution, it is a very difficult video to watch.
Beyond Topsy, Edison had his employees, one named Harold P. Brown to publicly electrocute dogs, cats, cattle and horses to death using alternating current as a method to imprint upon people's minds the dangers of AC. Edison even went so far as to secretly pay Harold P Brown to construct the first electric chair for human execution. (http://inventors.about.com/od/hstartinventions/a/Electric_Chair.htm) What goes to show the true character about Edison is that the reason he paid Mr Brown to construct it was to defend his DC power which his financial institution was based upon and the reason he did it secretly was that he was officially against capital punishment. When it came to ranking money versus his values, mammon always won out for Edison.
Topsy the Elephant
Topsy the Elephant after electrocution demonstration to discredit Tesla
greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its
animals are treated" ~Gandhi (1869-1948)
Perhaps this quote can be directed to the greatness and moral progress of individuals as well. If so, Tesla would be judged well in his treatment of both man and animal. Edison would be judged well by his treatment of money. In the evaluation of greatness should we listen to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi or to John Pierpont Morgan?
Obviously the paths of kindness to animals and intellectual genius do not go hand in hand however with this being such a... err, "current" topic; I thought that their views on how they treated and viewed other living organisms was relevant.