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The Wizard of Menlo Park

Today is the 171st birthday of Thomas Alva Edison. At Steampunk Desperado, we celebrate the birthday of Nikola Tesla, so it’s only fair we acknowledge his rival Edison as well. Edison has gotten some bad press in recent years as fans of Tesla have decried his treatment of the Serbian genius. But Edison’s domineering personality doesn’t negate his amazing achievements – over 1000 patents, including the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, motion pictures, fluoroscopy, the nickel-iron battery, etc.

Certainly, there may have been some professional jealousy between the two men. Their personalities and approaches to inventing couldn’t have been more different. Edison was obsessed with efficiency and profit and had numerous employees to help him pursue his ideas. Tesla worked alone or with a small staff, had lots of visionary ideas he didn’t finish, and was so unconcerned with money that he had financial problems in his later years. The two men were the yin and yang of the scientific revolution of the early Twentieth Century. Their rivalry, particularly regarding “the war of the currents” (AC power versus DC) was part of what drove technology forward.

Image Credits:

Edison photograph by Louis Bachrach, Brachrach Studios, U.S. Library of Congress

Light bulb photograph by Terren – Edison Light Bulb, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia commons

Edison phonograph by Norman Bruderhofer, Creative Commons

Film: Butterfly dance by Annabelle Whitford, public domain

Edison batteries, Photo by User:z22, Wikipedia

Fluoroscopy illustration from Popular Electricity Magazine, 1908

Power substation photograpy by Wintercity296, Wikipedia

Brass background from myfreetextures.com

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